The Maras Salt Mines are located 40kms away from the city of Cusco in the Sacred Valley, it is a complex that dates back to the pre-Inca period although it was the Incas who developed it to what it is today. Maras contains more than 4500 ponds that are continuously used. We invite you to learn more about this extraordinary place and how to visit it from Atoq San Blas.
The town of Maras was very important during the Inca Empire, mostly because it provided salt for the whole empire. Something that makes this salt mine site unique is that all of the ponds from where the salt is extracted are located in a descendent way in the middle of one of the Andean mountains (Qaqawiñay), this gives the salt ponds the sense of terraces.
At Salineras de Maras salt is extracted manually and using the same methods used hundreds of years ago. Underneath the mountain runs a salty stream of water used to fill the ponds, after the water is evaporated the process of extracting the salt grains begins. The water from this stream is channeled from pond to pond, irrigating all the 4500 ponds on site. The complex is managed by the community of Maras and the ponds are “owned” by the families that live in Maras, in some cases the ponds have been inherited for many generations.
When visiting Maras one can obtain different products made by using this natural rich in minerals salt. You can find salt for the kitchen and for BBQs, a mixture of salt with different herbs and chillis and massage oil and other cosmetics. There are also brands that sell this products in Cusco, one of our favorites is Maras Gourmet not only because of the variety of products that they offer and their quality but because they carry out social work with the community of Maras.
Travelers can visit the salt mines in Maras and sometimes the local people allow travelers to help out. Apu Andino offers a daily tour that includes visiting the town of Maras, the salt mines and Moray (check out our Moray post here), participants are picked up from our hotel in the historic city center of Cusco and taken in a tourist van, plus this tour offers a picnic to enjoy the outdoors, nature and the lovely views of the Sacred Valley.
As we mentioned in our Moray post Maras can also be visited by ATM quad bikes. Viator by which travelers are picked up and taken to Cruz Pata, from there the ride in the ATM bikes begin going all the way to Moray and Maras and passing through rough terrain but at the same time enjoying the fields and lovely views of the mountains. You can take this tour in one of its two schedules 8am or 1pm and it lasts 5 hours approximately.
Our last recommendation, this one is ideal for those who love being outdoors and horseback ridding. Cultural Inmmersion offers a tour to the town of Maras, the Salt Mines and before heading to Moray all travellers enjoy an outdoors picnic that is a great way to recover energy and take in the view. After lunch there is a hike down through the Sacred Valley towards the Vilcanota River where the horses are waiting. In this opportunity guests ride Peruvian horses (caballos de paso) with their particular walk and explore the Sacred Valley and the little towns within it.
We hope one of this options is the right one for you and that you will not only visit us at Atoq San Blas but also that you will take a day to explore this beautiful site that is part of our Inca heritage and that is naturally beautiful. At our hotel in the Historic Center of Cusco we will be happy to help you plan your adventure.