Giant Sketchpad: The Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines were discovered by the Western world in 1927, but created around 300BC. They lie in the rocky Pampa San Jose near the desert town of Nazca.

History Facts

Where: Pampa San Jose, Peru
History: Giant symbols carved in the desert floor perplexing people as to their creation and meaning
Go there for: Spectacular ariel art

What’s it About

The Nazca Lines were discovered by the Western world in 1927, but created around 300BC. They lie in the rocky Pampa San Jose near the desert town of Nazca. Huge drawings up to 1000ft long representing animals, insects and a variety of geometrical shapes, the Nazca Lines still challenge scientists. Scattered over about 300 miles in just a small corner of the desert on an arid plateau around the city of Nazca, the most famous symbols are those of insects and man – a spider, a monkey, a whale, a snake, a lizard, a flower, a man and 18 bird shapes, including the hummingbird and the condor. The Nazcans were a race that preceeded the infamous Incans.


There are a lot of theories on who, why and for what reason the Lines were constructed; some claim they were strips prepared for aliens, others believe they were religion-based sacrifices to the Gods. The lines are made by removing the dark pebbles in the desert to reveal the soft yellow sands beneath. The arid and windless conditions of the South American desert mean that the lines have been remarkably preserved for many centuries, in other parts of the world they would have been destroy in a matter of years. The fact that the ‘giant sketchpad’ art can only be fully appreciated from the air has led some people to believe that the Nazcans were capable of flight. Perhaps their art was best appreciated by the birds.

The most famous explanation is that of Ms Maria Reiche, who believed the Lines were a kind of a huge astronomic calendar of that period. Maria Reiche dedicated her life to this research, moved to the area until her death in 1998, and was held responsible for the conservation of the Nazca Lines. Thanks to her, the Nazca Lines are now one of the most important attractions in Peru, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Visiting Nazca

The Nazca Lines can be viewed from an observatory “mirador”, but best way to view this amazing work of art is by plane. It costs around $60 US for a plane hire.



Andean Travel Web
Useful travel information to put you in touch with the best tour operators and hotels in Peru.

Mystic Place: Nazca Lines
Photos and info on the history of Nazca lines and a chance to have your say

By Villy Ioannou

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