This seems like an easy plan to book so you would think, but travel through the standard agencies that I’ve inquired with, are mostly geared up for the usual tourist routes and/or trips that start and end in Lima. Take for example the Nazca lines tour; turns out that the best way for me to get there in a short space of time, involves an early morning bus from Lima to Nazca, a mid-afternoon arrival and half of the following day for the fly-over of the lines, before hopping on a lunchtime bus to Arequipa.
There are of course alternatives if you have both the time and money, although flying, isn’t one of those options. Currently there are no scheduled flights to Nazca, with the nearest inbound flights arriving at Ica, where you can take a charter flight over the lines as part of a tour package. This is not a bad idea if you just want a flight over the lines, but I also wanted to visit the Chauchilla cemetery, which is located 28k to the South of Nazca.
Looking at the tour operators, there were a couple of choices by private coach that terminated in Nazca, and also covered the Ballestas Islands. While most people will take this option, it didn’t fit into my schedule for getting to Arequipa and ultimately, I cut the Ballestas Island excursion and just booked a bus from Lima to Nazca. While I have no doubt the coastal relief and the expanse of the reservation are a spectacular sight, it’s not something I can’t live without and in the toss-up between that and Chauchilla cemetery, it came out the loser. For those interested, the tour package from Lima to Nazca (and back) varied between $300 and $600, which included a three day excursion with Ballestas Islands, accommodation, coach tickets and flight over the Nazca lines.
The final reservations were done through Hotel Oro Viejo, with whom we will be staying with overnight. Always check with the hotel to see what they recommend, as they can often supply much better guides and suggestions than the tour operators. In this case the rates were favourable, with the Chauchilla cemetery costing just $20 per person for an all inclusive tour, and currently $65 for the Nazca flight. The reason I say currently, is that the flights look to be standardised and capped for the tourist season at this price, and they are unsure as to whether the cost will go up (or down) by time we arrive in September.
It’s becoming increasingly evident on this trip that when you’re travelling on a budget and can’t afford to fly everywhere internally, the buses do offer good alternatives but also languish the itinerary, as it often takes a day to get between destinations. This can be minimised with overnight sleepers where available but be aware, that while these should be safe, there is a higher number of incidents involving accidents and hijacking on the night routes.