2,700 feet (68 meters) soaring above Earth, the six explorers – passengers and pilots – were embarking on a quest to connect to an ancient civilization lost long ago.
Peering out the airplane window at the distinct shapes of the Nazca Lines, you are transcended 2,000 years into the past – gazing below at history itself.
This barren land in southwestern Peru contains nothing for miles, allowing for no distraction except for the faint sound of the small plane creaking from the blowing wind, which provided the only reference point to the present year.
My flight back to the United States was roughly 48-hours away, and I was determined to fit in one last extraordinary adventure.
Not that Peru is short on adventures, quite the opposite. Between activities such as four days of trekking through Salkantay Pass to Machu Picchu, sand-boarding in a desert oasis, and exploring one of the largest canyons in the world (twice the size of the Grand Canyon!), I had my fill of adventures in Peru.
The possible drive to fulfill this need of witnessing the Nazca Lines might have come in large part from my supportive mother, who had been incessantly talking about the awe-inspiring Nazca Lines since she found that I was going to be going to Peru.
Like my curious mother, the Nazca Lines struck an unwavering a cord in me.
Perhaps it was my Anthropology studies at University, or perhaps it was reminiscent of my 4th grade project of the petroglyphs in Lake Tahoe, or perhaps and more likely - it’s my sheer fascination of human history and behavior.
The Nazca Lines in Peru are ancient drawings of various animals, plants, and geometric shapes carved into the Earth some 2,000 years ago, pre-dating the Incan empire.
There are more than one thousand drawings in total, including 70 pictorial representations of plants and animals, 300 geometric designs of triangles, circles, spirals, etc. and more than 800 lines.
Many of the pictorial representations measure up to 1,200 feet (370 meters) – the size of the Empire State Building! The straight lines are much larger, some extending for 30 miles.
This archaeological site comprised of 75,000 hectares – that’s about 56,818 American football fields!
UNESCO describes the Nazca Lines as, “the most outstanding group of geoglyphs anywhere in the world and are unmatched in its extent, magnitude, quantity, size, diversity and ancient tradition to any similar work in the world.”
Incredible is an understatement.
For scale, below you can see a spiral caved into the Earth next to a road, and massive 18-wheeler truck which pales in comparison to the spiral.
From Lima, the Nazca Lines are 270 miles (440 km) and 7 hours south in one of the driest areas on Earth, the Rio Grande de Nazca river basin. This region is so dry; it receives less than one inch of year each year, undoubtedly a major reason for it’s lasting presence.
The Nazca Lines provide a rare window into the lives and culture of the ancient Nazcan people, pre-hispanic society which flourished on the Peruvian coast between the 8th century BCE and the 8th century CE.
Although these lines were discovered 80 years ago, and added to the list of UNESCO World Heritages Sites in 1994, the creation and significance of the Nazca Lines still remain an absolute mystery today.
It’s hard to tell the gravity of size and impressive detail through photos, but it's a start. You'll just have to experience them for yourselves.
Let us know - have you heard about these ancient drawings before, and is this something you're interested in seeing while traveling Peru?
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