The lines at Nazca may not have been made by space aliens, but they’re no less otherworldly for that. Etched into the red sands of the coastal desert south of Lima sometime between 900 B.C. and 600 A.D., these world-famous geoglyphs are so strongly associated with Peru that they were incorporated into the country’s official logo back in 2011.
The marketers knew what they were doing. Looking down on the lines from a chartered flight, the monkey, lizard, condor, hummingbird, spider, and other forms take on an uncanny sublimity. Were they a kind of vast agricultural calendar? Or walkways between sacred sites in the desert? Or vestiges of a huge fertility cult, aimed at coaxing life out of the bone-dry waste around them? Archaeologists continue to be mystified.
Meanwhile, not all of Peru’s southern coast is barren. Some 300 miles away, near the sleepy town of Ica, you’ll find a lush vineyard country that’s responsible for Peru’s most famous wines, as well as pisco, the country’s national liquor. You can sample these local products in the city’s many bodegas, as well as in its quaint bars and restaurants.
Finally, for those who like adventure sports, the nearby oasis of Huacachina is a gem hidden amidst the sands. Here a swarm of international visitors enjoys sandboarding, dune-buggy racing, and swimming in a watering hole that’s a huge getaway destination for limeños in the summer. Further proof of the marvels concealed within Peru’s surprisingly fertile southern desert.
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