Over half a million people travel each year to see the Peruvian wonder that is Machu Picchu. Far fewer have experienced the mysterious beauty of the Nazca Lines, which locals consider to be just as significant.
Located in the arid, coastal region of southern Peru, the Nazca Lines are a collection of over 1,000 large-scale geoglyph etchings in the ground. When seen from an aerial view, they make up an astounding collection of straight lines stretching for miles, beautiful geometric shapes, human figures, plants, and animals. While some are as small as 16ft long, many are at least the size of a sports field, with the largest stretching to 1,200 feet - about as long as the Empire State Building.
These etchings were created sometime between 200 B.C and 500 A.D by the Nazca. They were virtually unknown to the outside world until a century ago. Researchers believe the Nazca first created the designs on canvas, then used grids made with ropes and stakes to recreate the drawings to scale on the ground while being directed by someone in a high place. The pathway-like lines were created by removing the darker, blackish-red stones that covered the land, thereby exposing the white sandy rock beneath.
Many have believed that the formations refer to astrology or alien life. Recent research concludes that ritual ceremonies to encourage rainfall and fertility were held at some of these sites and that many lines led to natural sources of water used for irrigation.
A simple YouTube search will amaze you, but just like the Grand Canyon, there is nothing quite like being there yourself. Tourists can look from an observation tower, or even better, take an hour-long plane ride overhead.