We had a fantastic time taking in the magnificent and mysterious Nazca lines, and now rank it as one of the 'must-do' things in Peru, if not South America.
However, with the flights costing much more than an average tour in South America (around $100 USD per person), you want to make sure you get your money's worth and enjoy the experience to its fullest.
Here are our tips to help you do just that.
#1 take anti-nausea meds
We both definitely have more robust stomachs these days, but this flight can feel a little like being in a fighter plane if you're not used to it! Hard lefts and rights are apparently essential to getting the best view, but can make even the most seasoned traveller a little queasy.
If you have a history of motion sickness, or are a little worried that nausea could ruin your flight, pop a pill before taking to the skies. And, if this doesn't work, there are still sick bags available...
#2 leave your camera behind
We know this probably sounds crazy coming from a couple of photographers but, trust us, you'll appreciate the Lines much more with your own eyes than through a lens. You're only in the air for around thirty minutes and, in this time, will zip over about fifteen shapes etched into the desert.
Some of these can be pretty difficult to spot (despite the pilot's running narrative) and your time over each is fleeting. If you're fumbling about trying to find them, get your camera primed, re-find them and finally take a few photos, the flight will be over before you know it and the experience will not have been so special. Taking photos is also the quickest way to make the nausea worse (we say this from experience!).
Plus, unless you've got a zoom lens on a very decent camera, your photos aren't going to be that great anyway. Sure, maybe take a couple photos throughout the flight for the memory but, believe us, you'll enjoy it so much more if you put the camera away.
#3 try and get an early flight
Whilst the Nazca lines will be impressive at any time of day, pilots that fly regularly state that visibility is better and turbulence lower if you take your flight between 7 a.m. and 10.30 a.m.
There are flights leaving continually, so getting an early one shouldn't be too difficult; just ensure you state this preference when booking with a company.
#4 make sure you fly with a reputable company
This is probably the most important point to make - fly safe.
In the last 10 years, there have been a worryingly high number of plane crashes, across a variety of airlines. The Peruvian government have slowly imposed stricter controls and safeguards but you should still consider your company carefully.
This is why we chose to go with Movil Air. Their fleet is composed of the most recent generation of Cesnas, made in 2012 and 2013, they have a superb flight record, and certification that guarantees safety standards, quality, technology and service. At every point along the way, from arrival at the airport to disembarking the plane, our safety appeared paramount.
#5 book your flight in advance to avoid cowboys
There are two considerations here, namely, supply and demand.
Most people are only visiting Nazca for one or two nights with the sole purpose of flying over the lines. Given there are thankfully now higher entry barriers for flight companies as a result of previously loose safety records and the subsequent tragedies, high demand may outstrip supply and make it difficult to get a seat with the company you want at short notice. Therefore, if you know the dates you'll arrive in Nazca, it's advisable to book your place in advance with your preferred company.
Budget backpackers may have heard from a few sources that you can secure a better price should you book your flight the night before, or even on the day of flight, rather than months in advance. And this is true.
However, be aware that this hugely increases your chance of a) only being able to fly with less reputable operators and b) realising the truism of 'if the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is'.
Even if you choose to book last minute, we highly recommend you do research before hand and be happy that you know which companies you trust with your safety. This post by World Nomads Insurance has some excellent tips and checks to go through to ensure you're picking a safer airline.
If you've followed our site for a while, you know we often try to do things on our own or always try to save a little money. However, for Nazca, neither of us wanted to fly unless we were guaranteed to be going with one of the more reputable companies.
#6 don't forget the departure tax
A 50 soles/$16/£10 departure tax must be paid in addition to your flight and you personally have to pay this when you arrive at the airport. This is an official tax, separate to the cost of your tour, and you will be supplied with a receipt. Don't forget to bring your passport with you for this!
Also, as the majority of flights are in 2-4 person planes, strict weight restrictions are in operation. Try to only take the essentials with you on your flight.
#7 be prepared to wait around at the airport
If you're told your flight takes off at 9.30 a.m., don't be surprised if you're still kicking your heels at 10 a.m. For all companies, take-off schedules seem to be a little loose in interpretation and it's a common sight to see a number of frustrated passengers waiting in the small airport.
Also, be aware that weather will play its part in determining your departure. If the region is suffering from mist, fog or cloudy skies, it's likely that your company will defer your flight time - at the last minute - until the afternoon, when skies should have cleared and visibility improved.
Remember, patience is a virtue!
#8 just do it!
We cannot recommend highly enough the experience that we had that day. The Lines really are one of history's most enduring and impressive mysteries and to be given the chance to view them from above is not an experience you are likely to forget.
As we've said before, many people come to Peru for Machu Picchu, but we left with the Nazca Lines etched in our mind.
Want to read more about our experience flying over the Nazca Lines and see some great photos?
Check out this article!