Moray Circles and Maras Salt in Cusco’s Sacred Valley

The Sacred Valley’s unique Moray archaeological site and Maras salt mines (Salinas de Maras) make a popular day trip from Cusco. I visited in August 2016.

At the tour’s first stop ladies demonstrated how llama and alpaca wool was traditionally dyed using naturally sourced ingredients and spun for weaving.

Incan Textiles, Maras, Cusco, Peru

Ladies in traditional clothing demonstrate how alpaca and llama wool was dyed and spun

Incan Textiles, Maras, Cusco, Peru

Purple, yellow, orange and blue dyed wool and the dye sources including purple corn. Note the traditional earthen oven in the corner

Moray Archaeological Site

The Moray archaeological site lies 3,500 metres high and features several round terraced depressions constructed by the Incas. The purpose of these ruins is unknown although it is speculated they were used to experiment with agricultural crops as the temperatures vary considerably between the top and bottom terraces.

Moray, Maras, Cusco, Peru

The Moray archaeological site in Cusco Region’s Maras Province

Moray, Maras, Cusco, Peru

Some Moray terraces, in danger of collapsing, are supported artificially

Moray, Maras, Cusco, Peru

Stones sticking out of the terraces act as steps

Moray, Maras, Cusco, Peru

The Intiwatanamuyu terraced depression

Moray, Maras, Cusco, Peru

Maras Salt Mines / Salinas de Maras

Since ancient, pre-Incan times, people have mined a naturally salty spring in Maras Province. The spring water is harvested by locals across many ponds as it travels down the hillside. Maras salt is highly regarded and commands a premium price.

Maras Salt Mines, Cusco

Maras salt for sale at one of several market stalls above the salt ponds

Maras Salt Mines, Cusco

Evaporated salt placed in heaps and ready for harvesting

Maras Salt Mines, Cusco

The salty water springs from a subterranean stream out of the hillside above the ponds

Maras Salt Mines, Cusco

An overview of the Maras salt mine ponds; the colour shades vary depending on the mining process stage

Salty spring water flows passed the ponds; after salt is harvested, a channel is opened, refilling the pond with water and restarting the process

Maras Salt Mines, Cusco

A worker shovelling salt crystals from their pond

Maras Salt Mines, Cusco

A local working the salt pond; the sun and salt combine to provide harsh working conditions – bring your sunglasses, hat and long-sleeve clothes!

Maras Salt Mines, Cusco

A pile of salt crystals

Returning from Maras to Cusco, a musician busked impressively, simultaneously drumming and playing the pan pipe on the moving bus.

Moray and Maras are impressive sites and well worth visiting while in the Cusco region.

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