The bus ride from Cusco to Lima is 23 hours so, being the hardy well-seasoned travellers that we are, we immediately started looking for places to stop along the way. The obvious choice was Nazca, exactly halfway between the two and a chance to see the world famous Nazca lines – you know, those ones of monkey’s, condors, hummingbirds etc drawn by unknown people or things at an unknown time in a desert, only visible by air. There was one catch, we had essentially blown our ‘treats budget’ on our extravagant trip to the Amazon so this, combined with Chris’ fear of non-regulated air industries, meant we would get to Nazca and not actually fly over the lines. Was it going to be worth it? In the end, I decided that as I had bought a Peru T-shirt in Arequipa with a picture of a condor and the word ‘Nazca’ on it, we had to go.
So…. what follows is how to spend a day in Nazca without actually flying over the lines:
We arrived on a very hot morning (we are definitely not in the Andes anymore!) and were greeted with a very welcome cup of coffee at the lovely Hostel Nasca Trails. There was no time for the usual post-night-bus-nap as we only had one day and had to get the most out of this dusty little town. Our first stop had to be to try and see these lines.
1. Visit the Mirador
If you’re not getting in a plane the only way to see some of the lines is at the mirador – a metal staircase in the middle of the desert. Buses leave that way out of town about every half hour. Just buy a ticket to “el mirador” (10 soles / £2.50) and after 30 minutes of driving you will be dropped off in the middle of the desert next to a metal staircase. Entry up the staircase is 2 soles (£0.50) per person and from here you can see two of the lines: 1) The Tree and 2) The Hands. Sure, they are not the most impressive of all of the Nazca lines but at least you get to see some of them in real life. The mirador is also the sight of The Lizard but sadly the Peruvian government built the freeway across it so it cannot be seen. (I was assured by the mirrador man that the freeway was built long before they knew of the existence of the lines.)
You get back to Nazca by hailing down a bus passing in the other direction. To pass the time, an optional activity it to walk 1km back towards town and climb a little hill for a view of the desert. Chris is never one to turn down walks, especially when they involve hills, so that is what we did. A word of warning to any like-minded individuals. This is the desert. It is baking hot at midday and there is absolutely no shade. It took us 20 minutes to walk to the hill, 10 minutes to explore the hill and 25 minutes of waiting for a bus on the side of the road (when we eventually gave up and accepted a lift from a passing van). At times, I believed I was getting a taste of what being ‘lost in the desert’ would feel like. Looking back, I think I would have rather waited in the shade of the mirador!
2. Relax around the pool at Nazca Lines Hotel
Once you have made it back from your desert adventure, there really is not much else to do in the town itself (until the evening). We would recommend taking a stroll to Nazca Lines Hotel where for only 25 soles (£6.25) you can have access to their lovely refreshing swimming pool, get a sandwich of your choice (including chicken mayonnaise – yum!) and a cool drink. For an extra 5 soles (£1.25) you can even hire a nice big fluffy towel. There. Afternoon sorted.
3. Visit the Planetarium
Having tragically missed out on the star gazing in the Atacama desert due to bad weather we were excited to see that Nasca had its own little planetarium in the parking lot of the same Nazca Lines Hotel. The English tour starts at 7pm and costs 20 Soles (£5). We had low expectations (because we were in the middle of a well-lit city and because we were in a parking lot) but it turned out to be really excellent. The presentation is about half an hour and takes you through Maria Reiche’s theory of how the Nazca lines were created in line with the stars. Afterwards we got a chance to play with the telescope and saw Jupiter, Saturn and our own beautiful moon.