Salt mines of Maras


The salt-embedded ponds in Maras look like a layer of snow that covers the hillside of the Qoripujio mountain in the distance. It is a spectacular sight. Each of the more than 3000 pools have different shades of white or brown. Maras salt has been collected since pre-Inca times and travelers are invited to see this centenary tradition in operation.

Maras is a town located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, where an ancient custom is still practiced: the use of pre-Inca salt pools. These incredible constructions continue to provide the city and our country with its pink salt, which has been recommended by experts as a healthy option to flavor foods due to its healing properties. In addition to their nutritional value, Maras salt mines are often visited for their spectacular scenery. Here you will find everything you need to know about this historical wonder hidden in the Andes.

Amazing story of Maras

The first shallow salt ponds in Maras were probably built by the Wari civilization between 500 and 1100 AD. C. Most of these pools, built along the steep slope of Qoripujio Mountain, were no more than 15 square feet (5 square meters) and 30 centimeters deep.

During the twelfth and mid-fourteenth century, the Inca Empire took over the operation of Maras. The Incas seasoned and preserved their food with salt. They may also have used the mineral for mummification and other religious ceremonies. Ownership and management of individual salt mines were given to families living in the nearby community of Maras. The same process of salt extraction used by these families during the times of the Incas has been transmitted from generation to generation and is still practiced today.

But where does Maras salt come from?

The salt comes from an underground salt water flow that bubbles from the source of the Qoripujio mountain, near an upper section of the valley. Therefore, an intricate network of narrow channels was built to direct the flow of this salt water to each pond. When the water evaporates, the crystallized salt that remains is carefully extracted with shovels and wooden rakes.

Health benefits

Many experts recommend Maras rose salt for people suffering from hypertension because it has low levels of sodium chloride. Maras salt also contains calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium, making it a perfect medicinal option for skin conditions and to treat swelling.

For these effects to occur, it is important that you season your meals with Maras salt after you have finished cooking. This is because it loses its medicinal properties at temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius.

The collected salt can be purchased on the site very economically. Once it is packed and sold in supermarkets, prices tend to triple.

The salt ponds of Maras are becoming a popular tourist attraction in Cusco for its amazing landscape and historical value. By visiting Maras, you will also be contributing to the community of farmers who, with gratitude, will show you the traditions that they inherited from their ancestors.

How to get?

To visit the salt mines of Maras you must travel to Cusco. From Lima to Cusco, the bus journey takes around 21 hours and the tickets cost approximately 80 to 100 soles.

The town of Maras is located on a high altitude plateau northwest of Cusco, 60 km away. To get there, you must take the detour along the two-lane road that connects Cusco and the town of Urubamba in the Sacred Valley. On the tour you will glimpse a green landscape of agricultural fields and snow-capped peaks in the distance. Halfway between the salt mines, in a rural region away from the main road, is the small town of Maras.

What is the best time to visit the salt mines?

The high season of the region is during the dry season (from April to October), when sunny blue skies are the norm. This is a very pleasant time to take a bike or horse tour. The dry season is a good time to visit the pools because the constant sunlight (which evaporates the water and, therefore, produces more salt) increases the likelihood that the locals will attend their salt flats.

On the other hand, the rainy season (from November to March) is a beautiful time to visit the Sacred Valley. During those dates, the landscape, including the grassy terraces of Moray, presents a bright and colorful green hue.

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