Visiting The Incredible Maras Salt Mines, Peru
Visiting The Incredible Maras Salt Mines, Peru was originally published in January 2021
Visiting the ancient salt mines in Maras proved to be one of my favorite excursions when I went to the Sacred Valley. The practice, which dates back to pre-Inca times is a fascinating one. Salt is obtained in Maras by using evaporation ponds that are fed by subterranean streams.
Not only is the history of the Maras area captivating, but it’s also quite beautiful. The Maras salt ponds reminded me of a three-dimensional mosaic as the 6,000+ ponds descend a narrow passage.
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About Las Salineras de Maras
The construction of the ancient Maras Salt Mines are estimated to have taken place between 200-800 AD, several centuries before the establishment of the Inca Empire.
Clung to the canyon walls as it descends into the Sacred Valley, the Maras salt ponds are a collaborative effort, with each of these thousands of ponds being owned and farmed by a local family.
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How The Maras Salt Mines Work
The name salt mine is a bit of a misnomer- the Maras Salt Mines are salt pans, meaning salt evaporation ponds, which are fed by an irrigation system.
Each of these shallow salt ponds is fed by a salty underground spring. When a pond becomes full the channel the saltwater flows into the pond with is blocked and over the next few days, the sun evaporates the water, leaving behind pure crystals of salt. Once the salt is collected the channel will be reopened again to start the process over again.
Walk from Tambomachay back to Cusco and visit four ruins on the way
Go Salt Shopping At Maras
There is a shop near the entrance of the Maras Salt Mine where you can purchase sachets of the locally farmed Maras salt. Peru’s salt is world-renowned, so I’d recommend picking up some to take home with you or as gifts for family and friends.
How To Get To Las Salineras de Maras
You can either visit by hiring a taxi and making a day trip from Cusco, in which I recommend combining it with Moray and Chinchero as we did, or by collectivo.
By taxi: This is what we opted for because we did have limited time to explore the Sacred Valley, so we wanted to visit Maras, Moray, and Chinchero as a long day trip. The easiest way to go about this is to have your accommodation in Cusco call a taxi and negotiate a price for you. Expect to pay around 160 soles for the excursion.
By colectivo: Colectivos are the Peruvian equivalent to the minibus. Head to the colectivo station on Avenida Grau in Cusco and grab a colectivo bound for Urubamba and tell the driver you want off at Maras. The colectivo will cost about 5 soles and will depart when full.
Organized tour: Several operators offer day trips to Maras, as well as combo trips to Maras, Moray, and more from Cusco. You can typically book them in person, or you can compare and book Maras tours online in advance.
- 10 soles
Visiting The Maras Salt Mines
Unfortunately, since the time of my visit, it is no longer possible to walk along the Maras Salt Ponds. You can still visit and view the mosaic of ponds from above, you just can’t walk among them. Issues were arising due to people contaminating the ponds by walking in them, littering in them, etc.
Where To Stay Back In Cusco
- Budget: Ecopackers Hostel comes highly recommended on the backpacker scene. Compare rates on Booking.com and Hotels.com.
- Midrange: El Mariscal is where we opted to stay in Cusco and we 100% recommend it. Shop prices on Booking.com and Hotels.com.
- Splurge: For those looking for a more luxurious stay, the Inkaterra La Casona has rave reviews. Reserve your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com.
Have Any Questions About Visiting The Maras Salt Mines?
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