Gigantic figures engraved on the surface of the desert draw visitors to Nazca - figures representing plants, animals, birds and a variety of geometric shapes. These are the mysterious Nazca lines, situated 250 miles (400 km) south of Lima on the flatlands at the foot of the Andes.
"Mysterious" is the right word. What we know about them is very little. These strange markings were simply made - the dark stones were taken from the top, piled up on either side of the lines exposing the lighter soil underneath containing gypsum, and so the lines were formed.
The pilots fly you over the designs, circling each one twice to give passengers on both sides a good view. It is difficult to take in the scale of these figures - the lizard is 600 feet (180 meters) long and the monkey with its elaborately curled tail is 300 feet (90 meters) in length. It is interesting to note that monkeys were known to those living in the desert coastal region, which evidences trade between these people and those from the forest.
The only alternative to flying over the lines is the mirador observation tower from which three of the figures are visible, described as an "oblique" view! But it's not a viable option - you really must take the flight.
Visitors are, quite properly, banned from walking across the lines, as you only need to consider the nature of their construction to realise how easily they would be destroyed by multitudes of feet.
So you are left to form your own opinion on the purpose of the lines. On balance, we favoured the idea that the lines were sacred paths, walked as a processional route, with ritual offerings being made. Most of the animals and birds depicted are identified with water cults or fertility. The importance of water, the mainstay of their agriculture and therefore their economy, resulted in the lines and shapes being directed at water sources (mountains, rivers, the ocean). And we believe that they are constructed to be viewed from the air because they are to be surveyed by the gods on the mountain tops.