A Nazca Lines flight is easily one of the most thrilling things you can do in Peru. I took one with my friends the first time I visited Peru: we boarded the flight unsure what to expect, and actually a bit afraid of having to get on a tiny plane (who’s not afraid of those?) and while we all disembarked with a good dose of nausea (more about that later!) we still found it an incredible experience.
The Nazca Lines are mysterious, and the landscape where they are set if breathtaking – even more so when you see it from above.
I shall warn you: flying above the Nazca Lines is not cheap. Yet, it is so worth that even if you are traveling on a budget, you should consider saving for it.
In this post, I will share some concise information about the Nazca Lines, and everything you should know about Nazca flights – including tips on how to book your flight, how to pick the best company, and what you can actually expect from your flight.
Visiting Nazca? Make sure to read my post The Best Things To Do In Nazca.
What Are The Nazca Lines?
The Nazca Lines are one of Peru’s most famous attractions and for a good reason. These enormous geoglyphs were carved out of the soil in the Nazca Desert sometime between 500 BC and 500 AD.
Their creators made them by removing the top layer of stony surface to reveal a yellow-ish gray soil below. The “lines” themselves vary between 30 cm and 1.8 meters, and they cover a total area of 450 square kilometers.
Though they’re called lines, they actually depict zoomorphic creatures, humans, trees, and plants, as well as geometric patterns. Curiously they are much better viewed from above, or from hills across the valley. While we may know the general idea of when they were created, and how, we don’t know much about why they were created.
There are a few theories subject to scholarly debate, but the general consensus seems to be that the Nazca Lines were created for religious reasons.
We are able to see the lines today thanks to the climate of the Nazca region: it’s a very dry plateau, and almost windless. In fact, the Nazca Desert is one of the driest deserts on Earth, and has a year-round temperature of 25°C (77°F).
The Nazca Lines were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, but still more have been discovered in recent years, further adding to the intrigue. In 2019, the discovery of 143 new glyphs was announced, and a cat-shaped glyph was discovered in 2020 (you can thank drones for these new additions to the Lines).
Do You Need To Take A Nazca Lines Flight?
While you can see the Nazca Lines from afar on the ground, one of the best ways to see these unique creations is by taking to the skies. You would be seeing them the way they were intended to be seen – or so theories would suggest. That’s because the Nazca Lines are believed to have been created in such a scale so that deities can see them from the sky.
So, naturally, many people take a flight over the Nazca Lines to better appreciate these wonders of the ancient world. But that’s not the only way to see them (more about this at the end of this post).
What will you see on a Nazca Lines flight?
When you’re up in the air, you’ll be able to see a lot of different shapes of the Nazca Lines. The knowledgeable pilots might even explain different stories behind the geoglyphs that you see. They will go above the lines in circle, and tilt the plane to the left and to the right, pointing out in which directions you should be looking – “A la izquierda, El Mono!” (The Monkey to the left!); “A la derecha, El Astronauta!” (The Astronaut on your right!).
At first, the lines might just seem like a collection of strange-looking lines, but they’ll soon start to reveal themselves as the flight unfolds. Specifically, you’ll get to see the Astronaut, the Monkey, the Hummingbird and the Condor.
Before the flight you also get to watch a video about the Nazca Lines, meaning that you’ll have some last-minute insight into what you’re about to see from the sky.
Taking A Nazca Lines Flight
As with many tourist sights in Peru, there are many different companies offering their services to take a Nazca Lines flight and see the Nazca Lines in all their glory. It’s truly the best way to appreciate their sheer immensity and is by far the most popular way to take in the full scale of the Lines.
Where do Nazca Lines flights depart?
First things first, you don’t just rock up to the Nazca Lines, charter a plane and take off there and then. You’ll need to plan a little further in advance in order to book your flight and have a smooth journey. In fact, if time is a constraint, you need to book well in advance because flights may sell out quite fast and you may not even find one for the day you intend to visit.
Nazca’s airport is María Reiche Aerodrome – named after the prominent German-born Peruvian researcher of the Nazca Lines. It is the main base of operations for flights taking off to tour the skies above the Nazca Lines.
If you’re in Lima, it may be a little difficult to do the whole trip to Nazca and flight in one day (though there are companies that offer the guided trip). The journey from Lima to Nazca alone takes around 6.5 hours, and so it is best to stay the night in Nazca and take the flight above the Lines the next day.
You can book your flight over the Nazca lines here.
Some people actually do opt to take a flight from Pisco Airport. Though lengthier, this option means you’ll be in the air for one hour 40 minutes, and so you’ll get to see different glyphs, from different angles, some more close-up – and the “standard” lines you see on flights from Nazca. Needless to say, this is also a much more expensive option. Alas Peruanas is one of the company offering flights from Pisco.
What does a Nazca Lines flight cost?
There’s a long list of companies that operate flights over the Nazca Lines, and the costs vary depending on which one you choose to use.
A flight that’s around 35 minutes will cost approximately $100 USD.
From Pisco, prices also vary, but they will be around $300 USD.
Also if you are traveling from Lima, there are options open to you. For example, you could travel independently to Nazca and then book your flight there; or you could opt for a two-day tour using a well-trusted company such as PeruHop, but these can be expensive. There even are day trips from Lima to Nazca that include flights over the Nazca Lines, but this entails a full day of traveling and the day trip can last 17 hours! Research is always a must when it comes to tours such as this.
How do I pick a safe airline?
Choosing a reputable airline is very, very important when it comes to booking your flight over the Nazca Lines. You may be hesitant to book a flight after you’ve heard about what’s happened here: people have been injured, and in 2010, 13 people were killed in accidents.
The government has since cracked down and enforced rules and restrictions on airlines, across various aspects of the flight operations. Of the 14 companies that once operated flights, only four passed.
There are more now, and the number of incidents has dropped significantly. However, it is still important to select the company you fly with wisely.
The best thing to do is make sure that you read reviews.This is a good way to see what sort of reputation a company has.
If you pre-book your flight, ask for the registration number of the plane you’ll be traveling in. You can then type this into the Aviation Safety Network website to find a short history of the aircraft.
How long does a Nazca Lines flight take?
Flights over the Nazca Lines usually take around 30 to 40 minutes. However, this can vary depending on what company you use; generally speaking, the cheaper the flight, the shorter it will be.
Although flights leave regularly throughout the day, you should be prepared for delays. It’s a good idea to get earlier flights (i.e. pre-lunchtime) so you don’t get backed up on the schedule. Weather conditions can also alter flight times and delay flights outright.
What is the plane like?
Small! You won’t be stepping into a big jet to buzz around the skies above Nazca. These are light aircraft, small propeller planes. These seat no more than 12 passengers (it was 8 of us, including the pilot, when I did it!), and it’s very “cozy” inside. You will be seated according to weight, but there’s just one seat on either side of the aisle meaning everyone has a window to gaze out of.
When you arrive at the airport, you’ll check in and pay for your flight. And then you’ll be put on a scale. This may seem unusual – but don’t freak out! This is just to make sure that your weight can be taken into consideration to equally distribute each passenger across the plane.
When you take off, you’ll be able to meet the pilot – it’s a small plane, after all – who will give you some instructions and guidance.
Will the flight make you sick?
Well, maybe, but it’s likely. Even if you’ve never been airsick before, there’s a chance you could really feel it on this flight – it definitely happened to me! It just really depends on how good you are with motion sickness.
While the flight is fun, and you get to see the Nazca Lines in all their glory, part of seeing everything from the correct angles means going around in circles.
The turns – think hard lefts and sharp rights – can also be quite intense and cause some people to feel nauseous. Don’t be surprised if people are actually sick on your flight! Even if you have a robust stomach, the flight can feel like you’re being thrown around on a crazy rollercoaster.
A good way to combat this is to take a motion sickness tablet before you travel. Nobody wants this amazing experience ruined by feeling crappy. If you do really feel sick, there are sick bags on the flight.
Another good tip (that you’ll probably be told) is to keep your eyes on the horizon. This helps to keep your brain and body in alignment, but it’s not always a foolproof method. It’s a good idea to bring along some tissue and water with you, so you can at least freshen up a bit and try to enjoy the rest of the flight.
Then again, all this twisting and turning is all so you can get the best views of the ancient Nazca Lines. Finally – interestingly enough, the landing is actually very smooth! In fact, much smoother than your regular landing on a commercial airlines flight.
You can book your flight over the Nazca lines here.
Other things to consider for your Nazca Lines flight
Although flying around above the Nazca Lines is a great way to see this ancient wonder, there’s more to think about than just the cost – or if you’ll get airsick.
Though Peru’s high season coincides with its winter – or dry season – which runs from May through October, the best time of year to see the Nazca Lines is different. High season for the Nazca Lines is actually the summer: December to March. There’s less moisture, and the temperatures are good.
However, given the stable weather conditions of the Nazca Lines, they’re a year-round destination.
That said, flights can be delayed or canceled due to weather. If there is mist or excessive cloud coverage, the flights may be rescheduled for another time in the day.
To get the best price, and to allow yourself time to look for a reputable airline, it is a good idea to pre-book your flight. However, some people do report that they have snagged themselves a bargain flight ticket simply by turning up on the day rather than booking in advance. Be aware, however, that this gives you less of a chance to fully review the airline you’ll be traveling with.
What do you need to bring for your Nazca Lines flight?
You will need to bring:
- Your passport – This is mandatory for all tours, no exceptions.
- Money – For the departure tax, paid in addition to the cost of the tour. It costs 50 Peruvian Soles (around $13 USD). Don’t worry, it’s official, and you’ll be given a receipt once you’ve paid it.
You will want to bring:
- Camera – Make sure there’s enough space to snap all the pics you want!
- Motion sickness tablets – So that you don’t get sick on the flight
- Tissues – Just in case you get sick!
- Sunglasses/cap – To protect from the gleaming sun
- Water – Keep hydrated and freshen up in case of air sickness
- Snacks – You may be waiting around for a while, and no one likes waiting around on an empty stomach! I actually recommend to eat things like a bit of bread or saltines as they will help prevent motion sickness.
Can you see the lines from the ground?
Yes! If you’re traveling on a tight budget, or you aren’t keen on flying, don’t worry – you can still see the Nazca Lines from the ground. The Nazca Lines Observation Tower is a 13-meter (42 foot) tower that provides a pretty good vantage point of some of the Lines. You can also hike to the top of nearby hills.
Of course, you won’t be able to see the full images, or scale of the glyphs, but you do get good views of the landscape, and this would have been how the people who created them would have seen them. So it gives you a good sense of what their creators were dealing with when making this incredible set of glyphs.
There are tours of Nazca that include a stop at the Observation Tower and a trip to other sights in the area including a look-out point and a museum. They costs around 143 Peruvian Soles (about $35 USD). You can book a land tour of the Nazca Lines here.
Are you visiting Peru soon? Make sure to read these posts:
- The Best Things To Know Before Visiting Peru
- The Best Things To Do In Peru
- The Best Things To Do In Lima
- Where To Stay In Lima
- The Best Day Trips From Lima
- A Short Guide To Paracas
- A Guide To Visiting The Islas Ballestas