Moray Ruins and Maras Salt Mines: Sacred Valley highlights
Are you ready to join us on an enigmatic discovery through Peru´s Sacred Valley? The Moray ruins and salt mines of Maras are our next destination. Trust us at Peru by Bus, you will be a-ma-zed!
Moray Ruins and Maras Salt Mines
The Moray ruins are located on a high rolling plain above the Sacred Valley, reached from a road that comes off the main road from Cusco to Urubamba.
The easiest way is to hire a tour operator to take you. The cost is between 20 and 25 soles per person and the complete tour lasts more or less 5 hours.
You can also hire a taxi for a few hours and be able to stop whenever you want along the driveway.
Moray Ruins – Alien Mystery or Inca Lab?
This half-day adventure starts out with incredible views of the Sacred Valley landscapes and stunning mountains peaks.
Discovered in 1932, Moray Ruins are very enigmatic for those who visit it. It´s impressive circular platforms looking like giant fingerprints, makes anyone think about an alien creation, astronomical observatory or worship as a primordial sense.
From the access road, you cannot see anything on the site but once you get there, a giant landscape opens and immeasurable steps descend in concentric circles (two large circles and another smaller one). At the first sight, it really looks like a Roman Colosseum!
The might of the Incas
The complex is very large and very deep. You will not be able to walk all over the place, because there are several areas where the terraces are quite damaged and mistreated.
According to the anthropologist John Earls, these circular platforms are an agricultural laboratory built by the Incas to recreate a variety of microclimates. At the center of the concentric circular platforms the temperature is higher and it gradually reduces progressively towards the outside at lower temperatures – this experimental model can simulate up to 20 different types of microclimates. Impressive!
The platforms, built on retaining walls filled with fertile soil and irrigated by complex irrigation systems, allowed to cultivate more than 250 plant species and grains such as quinoa and multiple types of potatoes. This is definitely another proof of the Inca´s high-level knowledge of hydraulics, agronomy, and astrology.
Moray is an impact site, enclosing history and landscape beauty.
Next Stop: Maras Salt Mines!
Just East of Moray, deeply hidden in the Urubamba valley, you can find the small town of Maras. It is renowned for the salineras or salt mines.
The white wells arranged on terraces are so incredible that there is no choice but to drop a “Wooow” once you arrive there. The steep valley slopes are rusty brown and covered with coarse scrub, making the ponds all the more striking.
The entrance fee is only 7 soles and goes directly to the co-operative of families that work on the salt mines.
How does it work?
The salt is found in a local subterranean stream and emerges into a spring. The flow of the spring is directed through channels. It allows the water to run down the valley through a series of terraced ponds. When the water begins to evaporate and create salt crystals, the pond keeper shuts the channel and allows the pond to dry up. And…. Voilà! Salt! The keeper then removes the salt by scraping the bottom and sides before opening the channel again.
Walking along a path through the ponds you will be able to see different stages of salt crystal formation.
You can find salt grinders filled with the pink Maras salt on some of the top restaurants around the world. The mineral-rich salt doesn’t just add flavor to dishes: it helps to reduce stress. It also prevents other diseases such as diabetes.
Right at the top of the Mines, you will find souvenir shops selling freshly harvested Maras salts, salted snacks including corn chips, fried banana slices, salty chocolates and an extensive range of bath salts and exfoliating scrubs.
The salt mines are probably the only reason to visit the small town of Maras – but… WHAT a reason they are!
Featured picture: Flickr @Shawn Harquail