Within Cusco and the Sacred Valley, there is much to do than just touring the well-known Wonder of the World. A tour around the Valley and its many ruins is necessary before leaving for the Inca citadel. There are many ruins and many wonderful things to witness in the surroundings. That is why together with Machu Travel Peru we have prepared a small article about the Maras Salt Mines. The old Salinas de Maras is a place that one cannot miss for anything in the world if you find yourself touring the Sacred Valley. These are located almost strategically on the side of a mountain, where thousands of shallow pools are filled with salt water. These pools then evaporate and leave the expected treasure crystallized.
EVERYTHING ABOUT THE MARAS SALT MINES
WHAT ARE THEY?
The Maras Salt Mines are an infinity of terraces or salt ponds that in the distance resemble a layer of snow in the middle of the slope of the Qori Pujio mountain. It is an unparalleled view, the more than 3,000 pools have various shades of white or earthy brown. These pools have been in operation for over 500 years in the Sacred Valley of the Incas and even today they are still mined by different local families. The precious Peruvian pink salt is one of the treasures that ancient ancestral cultures have left us. Although the salt flats themselves were created by man, the water that is channeled into these pools comes from a natural underground spring. This underground spring is constantly and quietly carrying the water so that it fills the various ponds with the precious pink salt.
HOW TO GO THERE?
To get to the Maras Salt Mines, you first need to get to the small town of Maras. Inside Cusco, you can take a bus (or a taxi) that goes to Urubamba, previously clarifying to the driver that you plan to get off in Maras. When you get into the small city of Maras, you can take an hour-long walk to the beautiful Salineras, or simply rent a taxi to take you there. There is also the option of taking one of our many private tours that will pick you up from your hotel or resort to taking you to this particular ruin. Within our tours around the Sacred Valley and its many ruins, you can not only experience the Salineras but also places like Moray Ruins among others.
The Maras Salt Mines are believed to have been built by the Wari civilization, which predates the Inca Empire. Even so, the Incas saw the opportunity that these pools represent, thus expanding the salt flats much higher on the slopes of the mountain. Salt is extracted through the evaporation of the brine (water with large amounts of salt) when it evaporates, local communities carefully extract the salt crystals from the land surfaces. When all the crystals are removed, the pools are refilled with brine and the process is repeated. This method is practiced long before the Incas themselves. With an antiquity that dates back more than 500 years, the salt mines today are usually one of the best tours and things to do around Cusco.
Today the Maras Salt Mines are one of the biggest attractions to visit within any guided tour around Cusco. Being able to visit the more than 3,000 pools is one of the best things to do in Sacred Valley. Today the local community has unique mining rights for the Salinas that are located near Maras. Hundreds of local miners work at the site today demonstrating ancient techniques and methods used by these early cultures. Then the different local families usually sell this salt in the different markets. Each of these pools is not more than 5 square meters in size and there are more than 3,000 different terraces or pools. Today it is a very attractive point within the guided tours of the different ruins in the Sacred Valley.
BEST TIME TO GO
If you are planning a trip to Peru, you will surely wonder when is the best time to experience these ancient pools. Normally, by consensus and advice of already professional travelers, it is usually recommended to travel during the dry season of Cusco (between May and October). Conveniently, it is the same recommendation for those who wish to visit Machu Picchu. During the dry season, you will be able to appreciate a more pleasant climate and clear skies, while in the rainy season (between December to March) you can expect rain without warning. It is also worth mentioning that during the dry season, the Maras Salt Mines assumes a much brighter and snowier color. While during the rainy season you can expect more earthy and brown tones.
You can find many ways to experience the beautiful Maras Salt Mines, you can choose between private and personalized tours or others with group options. Your choice will depend a lot on how you want to enjoy the different attractions, either at a much slower pace or wanting to visit several ruins on the same day. Many of our Machu Picchu tours offer the possibility of touring not only the Inca citadel but also many other alternatives that are worth knowing. Among them, you can enjoy these beautiful Salinas.
“OH, THE THINGS YOU CAN FIND IF YOU DON’T STAY BEHIND”
As you can see, the Salinas de Maras is a unique place within the culture of Cusco and surroundings, it is a part that is still very much alive and its traditions are maintained by the local communities. To be able to visit this beautiful destination is to know a living part of the history of the Ancient Inca Empire. That is why we hope together with Machu Travel Peru to have illuminated your perspective of this often forgotten place. You can consult with our expert and qualified advisors to know how to explore this and many other attractions within Peru.