It was in the 1920s- when commercial airlines began flying over Peru- that the Nazca lines became known to the world.
Since then, they have inspired the most fantastic explanations, as well as educated ones. It's believed they were built by the Nazca people, but why and how is still unknown.
Swiss writer Erich Von Daniken for instance claimed in "Chariots of the Gods"(1968) they were evidence that Earth had been visited by extraterrestrial.
Scientific study began in the 1940s, when German mathematician and astronomer Maria Reiche arrived to Peru.
She devoted her whole life to the study of Nazca lines and lived in the area till her death in 1998. She was also known as the Lady of the Lines.
Maria Reiche believed they were a sophisticated astronomical calendar.
However, in the late 1960s, astronomer Gerald Hawkins concluded that there was no correlation between the lines and the stars.
Few years ago, archaeologists have uncovered the lost city of the line-builders: Cahuachi. The Cahuachi site (370 acres in extension) lies 75 km. inland from the coast of Peru, on the Peruvian Pampa, south of the Nazca lines.
It was build 2000 years ago and abandoned 500 years later. According to Italian archaeologist Giuseppe Orefici and his team, Cahuachi was a place dedicated to ritual and ceremony, a city of priests. He claims that the lines were sacred walks between Cahuachi and Ventilla, a big urban settlement in the other side of the Pampa, and vital sources of water.
He's found evidence of two major natural disasters that occurred between 300 and 350 AD.: a huge flood and an earthquake, that marked the fall of the ceremonial center and motivated to be abandoned shortly after.
Nazca lines are the most outstanding geoglyphs in the world.
Lines and figures appear in an area of over 300 square miles and their patterns are only clearly visible from the air.
On the basis of ceramic evidence, the animal figures (i.e. the monkey with a curved tail, the humming bird, the astronaut..) were found to be the oldest. Straight lines and geometric designs were constructed later.
They were created by removing black colored rocks and topsoil to uncover the light colored sand bellow. Being one of the most arid places in the world - with an average rainfall of 20 mm. a year, plus little wind, they have been preserved for over 2000 years.
They are located 400km south of Lima, in the Nazca province, between the town of Nazca and Palpa.
A flight over the Nazca lines costs around $50 from Ica or Nazca, on a Cessna, and lasts for about an hour.
It's best to do it in the morning - try to skip breakfast as the ride could be airsick-inducing.
You could establish your base camp in the town of Ica and combine the visit with the Paracas Natural Reserve and Ballestas Islands as well as Huacachina Oasis...and how about Chincha and Cañete while you are at it?..
Then you can continue to Arequipa (8 hours by bus) or Cuzco (12 hours).
South America is a unique experience that will never cease to amaze you...
From Lima to Nazca you will have to take a bus as there aren't commercial passenger flights between the two cities. Nazca has a small airport for small aircrafts only.
There are daily buses that cover the 466 km distance in about 6 hours.