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Getting to and from The Nasca Lines

By Air

The best way to see the lines is from a small plane. These depart from the Aérodromo Maria Reiche de Nasca, located a few kilometers from town (Carretera Panamericana Sur, Km 447. Tel: 523-665). Tour agencies act as brokers for flights. In the low season, flyovers begin at $90, and in the high, $150, plus $8 tasa aérea (airport tax, paid at the airport). Flights may also be taken from Ica and even Lima, though these are more expensive. It is possible to get last-minute seats on a flight, especially in the low season. Some tour companies also do helicopter fly-overs.

Be aware that the planes fly in a zig-zag and with steep banking from side to side in order to obtain the best possible views of the lines. As a result, they can be airsick-inducing, so take the proper precautions.

The fly-overs, however, are not without risk. On average, there is one fatal accident plus an emergency landing per year. After a 2010 crash that killed six tourists and the pilot, the Peruvian government grounded all planes. Most aircraft was 25-35 years old, and only seven of 48 planes passed safety inspections. Four companies were given clearance to operate: Aéro Diana, Alas Peruanas, Aéro Paracas and Travel Two. Despite safety measures being implemented to prevent more accidents, another occurred within six months.

Besides mechanical failures, other causes are overworked pilots and downdrafts from the surrounding hills. In addition, because of the steep banks planes make maneuvering over the lines for optimal viewing, fuel cannot to reach the motor, thus causing the engine to stall.

Several embassies have issued warnings about the flights. Tourists’ concern about the situation has had its impact: Elizabeth Scarpati Cáceres, President of Nasca’s Chamber of Tourism, stated that in 2008, 400 tourists per day flew over the lines; in 2012, fewer than 100 per day were taking the excursion. Overall tourism to Nasca is down 40 percent.

Planes are only supposed to take off when weather and air current conditions allow. If you feel any uncertainty about the conditions or plane, it is best to cancel and not be pushed into going up.

By Land

Though not as spectacular as the flights, you can still get a taste of the lines from a hill and mirador (observation tower) located along the Pan-American Highway, north of Nasca city. Some agencies offer tours to these. To get there on your own, take a bus heading for Ica or other northern destination and hop off at the Cerro (there is no roadside sign, so inform the driver; $1.50). The look-out tower is one kilometer (0.6 mi) up the road, on the same side of the highway.

20 Jun 2012

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