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Maras, the ultimate travel guide
The best information to visit the Salt Mines of Maras
Cusco - Peru
Nicole Maxdeo
May 7, 2024

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Located precisely in the province of Urubamba, about 45 minutes away from Cusco, lies the town of Maras, globally renowned for its salt mines, which, combined with the Andean sunset, offer one of the most incredible landscapes in Peru. This small yet charming town welcomes thousands of travelers daily, all eager to witness the beauty of Peru. Did you know about its origin? Don’t worry, we’ll tell you more about this place.

Table of Contents

What are the Maras Salt Mines?

The salt ponds in Maras, also known as the Maras Salt Mines, are a collection of nearly 3,000 salt ponds in total. These ponds are primarily fed by an underground spring in the area, which originated almost 110 million years ago during the formation of the Andes mountain range.

Today, these water pools are very popular among travelers, as they are one of the main attractions in the area. Thanks to these ponds, salt harvesting is possible, and most of the local residents engage in commercializing this salt.

Where are the Maras Salt Mines located?

This tourist attraction is located approximately 46 kilometers north of the city of the Incas, in the province of Urubamba in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
The ponds, which produce the globally renowned pink salt, span approximately 5 square meters in total dimension.

How to get to the Maras Salt Mines?

To visit this incredible natural formation, you can choose to travel by public transportation or take the one-day tour to the Super Sacred Valley. To reach the Maras Salt Mines from Cusco, you can take a bus from Pavitos street to Urubamba. From there, you can opt for a collective taxi to the town of Maras.

However, the most popular route for tourists is to take the tour to the Sacred Valley, which includes visits to both Maras and Moray.

 

What is the altitude of the Maras Salt Mines?

The town of Maras is situated at an altitude of approximately 3200 meters above sea level, which is lower than the city of Cusco and boasts a more favorable and warmer climate.

Climate

The climate in this area is highly variable. Being situated on a plain surrounded by snowy peaks and mountains, the weather varies greatly. However, being at a lower altitude than Cusco, the temperature ranges from 21°C to 8°C, with a minimum of 1 degree. During the rainy season, the weather tends to be changeable, with moments of intense rainfall and even hail.

November through February invites you to embrace the gentle patter of the Rainy Season, a time of lush landscapes and tranquil beauty.

March through October heralds the Dry Season, perfect for exploring Peru's iconic landmarks and hidden treasures.

Do I need a few days in Cusco to acclimate?

It is highly recommended to spend at least a day or a couple of days for better acclimatization. You can use this time to engage in other activities such as the City tour.

History of the Maras Salt Mines

The origins of these natural formations date back thousands of years. It is said that from the high or summit parts of the Qaqawiñay mountain, there are formations of salty waters that spring forth, and when they evaporate due to the sun, these salt ponds are formed.

This theory sounds more rational; however, it is not the only one. There is also the story that these ponds are related to the Ayar brothers. According to some historians, Ayar Cachi, one of the Ayar brothers, together with Manco Capac, traveled to found Cusco.

Thus, it is on this journey that Ayar Cachi, being one of the strongest brothers among the Ayar, throws a stone at the mountain in the area, forming a ravine. The other brothers were very afraid of Ayar Cachi, so they locked him in a cave and covered him with stones. Feeling helpless and furious, it is said that the tears of Ayar Cachi formed these ponds.

Other cultures, upon learning of these ponds, began to exploit them. It is believed that the Wari culture was the first to take advantage of these ponds while they were occupying Cusco territories. Later, the Incas organized the production and distribution of salt from Maras, which was even used in religious ceremonies for mummy embalming.

Currently, these Maras salt mines are worked by local people who produce different types of salt that are already known worldwide. Each family has a certain number of ponds, which are inherited from generation to generation.

Getting to Know Maras

The town of Maras is very picturesque and welcoming. Its streets are narrow and were founded during the colonial era, when not only its streets were built, but also its temples, squares, and mansions. However, nowadays this town is known for its salt mines rather than its living culture. Despite this limited recognition of traditions, the town remains steadfast in its expressions, such as its native language, Quechua, textile techniques, and salt production, which is a millennia-old practice.

What to See in Maras?

The Maras Salt Mines

As mentioned before, these ponds are worthy of admiration, both for their production and for their formation. This millennia-old practice has been passed down from generation to generation, and despite many adversities, the inhabitants maintain these traditions alive. When visiting this attraction, don't leave without your souvenir of pink salt, a gourmet salt known worldwide.

The Inca Terraces of Moray

This archaeological complex is part of the one-day tour of the Sacred Valley and features circular terraces that, during the time of the Incas, served an important function. These circular terraces are the living proof that the Incas were trying to investigate agriculture and microclimates. This is Moray.

The Colonial Temple of Maras

This colonial-style temple, called San Francisco de Maras, was built with the purpose of instructing the inhabitants about religion. Its architecture blends colonial and Andean styles, with its main altar adorned with sheets of gold leaf. It also possesses canvases from the 'Cusco School.'

The Doorways of Maras

These are colonial buildings distributed in different sectors of the town of Maras. These doorways stand out mainly in the temple of San Francisco Asís, the doorways of the Plaza de Armas, as well as in other streets of the town.

The Tour to the Super Sacred Valley

We will wake up early to begin our day full of adventures and discoveries in the breathtaking sites of the Sacred Valley. After enjoying breakfast at your hotel, we will pick you up around 7:30 am.

Our first stop will take us to Chinchero, a picturesque town known for its colorful textiles and rich history. Here, we will visit the archaeological center to explore the ancient Inca ruins and learn about the local culture.

We will then continue our journey to Moray, a fascinating archaeological site composed of circular agricultural terraces. We will admire the ingenious Inca architecture and learn about its function in ancestral agriculture.

Next, we will head to Maras to marvel at the impressive salt terraces, a unique natural wonder in the world. We will take time to explore and take photographs of this spectacular landscape.

After our experience in Maras, we will proceed to Urubamba, where we will enjoy a delicious buffet lunch with a variety of traditional Peruvian dishes. We will relax our senses and enjoy the warmth of this place.

Continue our adventure to Ollantaytambo, an impressive archaeological complex that showcases the grandeur of Inca architecture. We will tour the imposing constructions and immerse ourselves in the history of this iconic place.

Finally, before returning to Cusco, we will pass through the picturesque town of Pisac. Here, we will explore the local artisan market, where you will have the opportunity to purchase unique souvenirs and products handmade by local artisans.

We will return to Cusco around 7 pm, full of new experiences and unforgettable memories of this magical day in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

What to Bring?

  • Small backpack
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Rain poncho (rainy season)
  • Extra money
  • Camera
  • Extra batteries - Portable charger

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