Built by the Nazca people during the pre-Columbian period of Peruvian history, the Cantalloc Aqueducts continue to serve their original purpose. Local farmers still rely on this series of canals to bring water to the arid region.
These aqueducts were built in Peru’s lowlands, just 2.5 miles (4 km) to the east of the Nazca lines. Not only close geographically, the structures may have shared a common theme. Scholars speculate that the drawings may have played a symbolic role in the quest for water, the resource that the Nazca built the aqueducts to access. These canals, just like the Nazca lines, are believed to have served some sort of religious purpose, outside of their practical work making the soil more welcoming to crops.
These aqueducts carry water from springs in the mountains, at origin points called puquios. These springs are located very far up the sides of the mountains, and are covered with wooden roofs and lined with stones. From the puquios, deep trenches guide the water down to the lowland fields.
Tourists can follow the paths of the aqueducts, built to form giant curves. Curving waterways ensured that the water would not flow too quickly when the snow melted in the spring, thus preventing flooding. You can walk into the aqueducts, down spiraling stone steps into the wells of the cooling waterways. These spirals are called ojos, the Spanish word for eyes. The aqueducts require annual maintenance, and the ojos allow the farmers to descend into the aqueducts to clear out the canals. Thanks to the aqueducts, this is a lush area to hike, with spectacular views of mountains in every direction.
All we know of the Nazca is the ingenuity evident in their designs. This is a must-see if you’re planning to visit the Nazca Lines - the lines demonstrate a complex and artistic religious life, and the Cantalloc Aqueducts are evidence of a clever determination to make the desert meet their needs.