Sechura Desert: Nazca Desert (Peru)

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Sechura Desert: Nazca Desert (Peru)

Thu, 10/12/2023 - 18:15

The Sechura Desert is situated along the northern coast of Peru, running parallel to the Pacific Ocean. Bounded by the ocean and the Andes Mountains, it is a diverse landscape with one of the world's most extensive dune systems. The Nazca Desert is a smaller region within the Sechura Desert.

Sechura Desert

The Sechura Desert is situated along the northern coast of Peru, running parallel to the Pacific Ocean. Approximately 400 km (250 mi) long and 200 km (120 mi) wide, it is bounded by the Piura Region to the north, the Lambayeque Region to the east, and the Ica Region to the south.

The Sechura Desert is the largest in Peru, covering an area of approximately 50,000 sq km (19,300 sq mi) and is bounded by the Andes Mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.

This desert ecoregion, a member of the deserts and xeric shrublands biome, is a significant part of the coastal landscape of northern Peru. At its northern end near the city of Piura, the Sechura Desert transitions to the Tumbes-Piura dry forests ecoregion.

Nazca Desert / Ica Desert

The Nazca Desert is located south of the Sechura Desert in the Ica Region. The Nazca Desert, approximately 200 km (120 mi) long and 50 km (30 mi) wide, is smaller than the Sechura Desert, but it is more famous because it is home to the Nazca Lines.

The Nazca Desert is best known for its geoglyphs, which are giant drawings etched into the ground. The Nazca Lines, a World Heritage Site, are believed to have been created by the Nazca people between 500 BC and 500 AD. The Nazca Desert has several other archaeological sites, such as the Nazca Pyramids and the Cahuachi Temple.

The Ica Desert is often a synonym for the Nazca Desert, but it is a larger region that includes the Nazca Desert. The Ica Desert extends from the coast to the Andes Mountains and is home to the city of Ica and the Huacachina Oasis.

Humboldt Current

The Humboldt Current is an integral part of the Sechura Desert ecosystem. It helps to create the arid conditions that the desert is known for and supports the rich marine life it depends on.

In addition to the Humboldt Current, the desert's climate is also affected by the Andes Mountains and subtropical atmospheric subsidence. The Andes Mountains block moisture from the Amazon Rainforest from reaching the desert, and subtropical atmospheric subsidence causes the air to warm and dry as it sinks. These factors all contribute to the aridity of the region.


Some of the notable features of the desert include:

  • Bayóvar Depression: a large salt flat in the northern part of the desert, home to the world's largest phosphate deposit

  • Sechura River: the largest river in the Sechura Desert, flows into the Pacific Ocean

  • Nazca Lines: a series of geoglyphs located in the southern part of the desert, believed to have been created by the Nazca people between 500 BC and 500 AD

  • Pan-American Highway: the highway runs through the northern part of the desert, passing through the cities of Piura, Chiclayo, and Trujillo

  • Sechura National Reserve: established to protect the unique biodiversity of the Sechura Desert, home to various animals, including the Sechuran fox, the Peruvian guanaco, and the vicuña

The Sechura Desert is a diverse landscape with salt flats, rocky outcrops, and dry riverbeds. Vegetation is sparse, but cacti, succulents, and other drought-tolerant plants grow in some areas. The desert is also home to wildlife, including lizards, snakes, birds, and mammals.

One of the most prominent features of the desert is its extensive dunes. The Sechura Desert hosts one of the most extensive dune systems in the world. These dunes can reach over 150 m (500 ft) in height and stretch long distances, creating a dramatic and dynamic landscape. The dunes are known for their unique and ever-changing shapes, sculpted by the wind.

Like many desert regions, the Sechura Desert is not devoid of economic activities. Mining, including extracting minerals like phosphate and gypsum, is conducted in certain areas, contributing to the regional economy.


The climate in the Sechura Desert is arid, similar to other desert regions. It experiences very little rainfall, with average annual rainfall of less than 100 mm (4 in) and some areas receiving less than 50 mm (2 in). Average temperatures range from 20 - 25 °C (68 - 77 °F). The desert's proximity to the ocean also results in cool sea breezes and frequent coastal fog.

Despite the arid conditions, agriculture is possible in some parts of the desert due to irrigation from the nearby Piura River. Crops like cotton, mangoes, and sugarcane are cultivated in the fertile river valleys, providing economic support to the region.

Flora and Fauna

Despite the arid conditions, the Sechura Desert supports some hardy plant species. One of the most iconic plants in the region is the Peruvian desert lily (Amarcrinum memoria-cordis), which produces large, striking flowers. Other desert-adapted plants, such as cacti and succulents, can also be found.

The desert is home to wildlife, including small mammals, reptiles, and birds. Some of the most common animals in the desert include the Sechuran fox, the Peruvian guanaco, the Peruvian pelican, the Humboldt penguin, the vicuña, and the Sechuran mouse. Bird species include burrowing owls and the Sechura swift, a bird endemic to the region.