The best-known lines are found in the desert 20km north of Nazca, and by far the best way to appreciate them is to get a bird’s-eye view from a sobrevuelo (overflight). Prices for a standard 30-minute flight taking in 12 of the figures are normally around US$90 but can rise and fall depending on demand. Extended flights taking in more of the lines and including detours to other archaeological sites in the area including the Cantallo Aqueducts are also offered.
During high-season its a good idea to reserve flights well in advance – either online or through an agency – as they can get booked out. In low season it's possible to just turn up at the airport and shop around.
Bad publicity wracked the Nazca Lines in 2010 when two small aircraft carrying tourists on sobrevuelos (overflights) crashed within eight months of each other causing a total of 13 fatalities. The crashes followed an equally catastrophic 2008 accident that killed five French tourists, along with another incident when a plane was forced to make an emergency landing on the Panamericana Sur in 2009.
In reaction to the incidents some changes have been made. All planes now fly with two pilots, more thorough safety inspections have been implemented, and prices have gone up to ensure that companies don’t cut corners with poorly maintained aircraft or over-filled flights.
Nonetheless, it still pays to put safety before price when choosing your overflight company. Question anyone who offers prices significantly lower than the other companies and don’t be afraid to probe companies on their safety records and flight policies. Aeroparacas is one of the better airline companies. Other longstanding operators include Aerodiana and Alas Peruanas. Some countries, including the UK, still place warnings about overflights on their foreign office websites.
If you do opt for a flight, bear in mind that, because the small aircraft bank left and right, it can be a stomach-churning experience, so motion-sickness sufferers should consider taking medication. Looking at the horizon may help mild nausea. It's generally best to fly in the morning when there is less wind.
Most airline companies use Aeroporto Maria Reiche Neuman, 4km southwest of Nazca, although you can also depart from Pisco and Ica if you are not keen on the long bus ride down to Nazca. On top of the tour fee the airport in Nazca normally charges a departure tax of S30.
Most outlying sights can be visited on tours from Nazca, although individual travelers or pairs may have to wait a day or two before the agency finds enough people who are also interested in going.