The Salt Mines of Maras found in Perú have been a scene that has been exploited since even before the arrival of the Spanish, and dates that we can remember. One of these imposing salt mines is located in Maras and is known as the Salineras de Maras, whose name in Quechua is Kachi Raqay. This set of salt mines is located in the Maras district, which belongs to the Urubamba province in the Cusco region.
The Salt Mines of Maras in Perú are not only an interesting resource on a commercial level, but also historical, since they are mines that have been exploited for centuries, so through them you can learn about the extractive procedures that it has had since pre-Hispanic times.
Physically, the maras salt mines surprise the visitor with the more than three thousand wells that they present and which are currently still being worked by more than 360 families. Regarding the work that is currently carried out in the Salineras de Maras, it is important to say that the custom and extractive work of the mines is an inherited work so that only the descendants of the previous families can work the land, although the work is managed equally in a communal and unfamiliar way. The extraction of salt from the Maras mines is carried out only in an artisanal way and the commercialization of the salt that is extracted from these lands is in charge of the Maras Sal association, in charge of ensuring the interests of the community since the end of the years. 80.
The Salt Mines of Maras in Perú, due to their impressive territory and wealth, are capable of producing an average of two thousand tons of salt per year. The more than three thousand wells that make up the salt mines, measure approximately 5 square meters each and in them water that flows from a stream filter. The pools are distributed on platforms on the slopes of a mountain.
According to local legends, the salt produced in Maras is the product of the tears of Ayar Kachi, one of the brothers of the Inca legend who would have been locked up by his relatives in a mountain near the salt mines. It is said that Ayar Kachi’s tears were such that they began to turn into crystals that are currently circulating along the course of the stream that supplies the wells of Maras, allowing the process of solidification and harvesting of the salt in this district.
The town of Maras is located 3,000 meters high, in the Sacred Valley, 48 kilometers northwest of Cusco and 8 kilometers from Moray, another of the towns that is worth visiting in the Urubamba Valley.
Altitude of Maras in Perú
The altitude of Maras in Perú is 3300 m.a.s.l., on a plain that in the past was a plateau where you could see different mountains of snow. The salt mines of Maras, is the main attraction that this town has, it is believed that this place existed even before the Incas.
Salt Mines of Maras in Perú
Without a doubt, the most interesting visit to do in Maras are the salt mines, which are located 10 kilometers from the town. It consists of between 3000 and 5000 wells located on terraces, which are about 4 or 5 square meters each. The wells are filled with salty water that reaches them through an underground channel, a process that takes three days. After a month, when the water evaporates, the salt is deposited, in a layer about 10 centimeters high, which is extracted manually.
The Salt Mines of Maras in Perú are exploited by a society formed by the local families, who are the same ones that have been engaged in this activity for centuries.
If you visit Maras during the salt extraction season, you can participate in the collection together with the locals.
Surprising history of Salt Mines of Maras in Perú
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 12th and mid-14th centuries, the Inca Empire took over the Maras operation. 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 the individual salt mines was given to families living in the nearby community of Maras. The same salt extraction process used by these families during Inca times has been passed down from generation to generation and is still practiced today.
But where does the salt of Maras come from?
The salt comes from an underground flow of salt water that bubbles up 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 salty water to each pond. When the water evaporates, the remaining crystallized salt is carefully removed with shovels and wooden rakes.
Many experts recommend Maras Pink 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 in temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius.
The collected salt can be bought on the site very inexpensively. Once it is packed and sold in supermarkets, prices tend to triple.
The Maras salt ponds are becoming a popular tourist attraction in Cusco for their astonishing scenery and historical value. By visiting Maras, you will also be contributing to the farming community who will gratefully show you the traditions they inherited from their ancestors.
How to get to Salt Mines of Maras in Perú?
In order to reach the Salineras de Maras, the visitor has to go to Ramal, which is located 48 kilometers from Cusco, and which can be reached in a private or tourist vehicle. Once in Ramal, you must take the detour that leads to the Salineras, which can only be followed on foot and has an extension of 6 kilometers, so it can be completed in less than an hour. It is recommended that visits to the salt mines take place between the months of April to October, and in the morning. To access you must pay the modest cost of S / 5.00.
How to visit the Salt Mines of Maras in Perú?
You can enter the Salineras de Maras by paying 7 Peruvian soles (2.5 USD). The site does not need any ticket like many other archaeological sites in Cusco.
Please note that in Maras you will not be able to pay with your credit card, US dollars, euros or any other currency.
Another option is to buy a tour to Maras, which includes a visit to the archaeological site of Moray.
The best way to visit the salt mines of Maras is with a tour that includes transfers from the hotel and an expert guide. You can discover the interesting history of the place, see for yourself the postcard images of the salt mines and even collect a handful of salt for yourself. It will be an unforgettable ride.
Our tour will also take you to know the fabulous archaeological zone of Moray, where the Incas carried out incredible agricultural experiments.
What to take to the Salt Mines of Maras in Perú?
During your visit to the Salineras de Maras do not forget to bring the following:
- Poncho for rains.
- Hat or cap.
- Anti-slip shoes.
- Photographic camera.
Recommendations to visit the Salt Mines of Maras in Perú
Most people who come to Cusco to visit Machu Picchu, take time to get to know and take some photos of the Salineras de Maras.
Take advantage of your visit to the Salineras de Maras to see the Inca platforms of Moray, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Sacred Valley.
If you choose to visit Maras with an organized tour, dare to take an ATV adventure through Maras and Moray. This is one of the favorite tours for tourists looking for some adventure in the Sacred Valley.
After visiting the Salineras de Maras, you can take advantage of the famous town of Urubamba, in the heart of the Sacred Valley.
If you visit the city of Cusco another impressive destinations that you can visit are the tour to rainbow mountain peru or the humantay lake tour from cusco, which only takes one day. But if you are gonna to stay more days in Cusco, other archaeological places you can know will be the choquequirao trek peru, the salkantay trek to machu picchu, and the classic inca trail 4 days 3 nights.