Salt Pans of Maras, Peru

Peruvians have been harvesting salt from these salt pans near Maras, Peru, since before Inca times.  The beautiful salt pans have become a tourist attraction, too.

Peruvians have been harvesting salt from these salt pans near Maras, Peru, since before Inca times. The beautiful salt pans have become a tourist attraction, too.

We were near the end of our visit to beautiful, amazing Peru, with a free afternoon.  My family and I had visited Cusco and Machu Picchu (too briefly) and now we were in Ollantaytambo, a town in the Sacred Valley of the Inca, where the Inca had won a battle against the Spanish.  In the morning, we’d climbed the ruins overlooking the city, the site of this battle.

We were walking to the Plaza in Ollantaytambo, deciding what to do and see during our afternoon, when a taxi driver approached us, saying the magic words “Moray, Salineras.”  Soon we were in his car for an hour-long taxi drive to the spectacular terraced salt pans, called Salinas de Maras, high in the Andes Mountains, and later to Moray, an Inca agricultural site. The trip with its stops took about four hours.

You can find salt harvested from the Moray salt pans available for sale at the market at the salt terraces.  The salt is available in a variety of flavors, such as basil, garlic and cumin.

You can find salt harvested from the Moray salt pans available for sale at the market at the salt terraces. The salt is available in a variety of flavors, such as basil, garlic and cumin.

Halfway there, we left the paved highway and drove on a dirt road that bisected pastures where shepherds watched flocks, where a rainbow arched across the valley after a rain shower, under the towering snow-capped peak of Ch’iqun (Chicon), which stands at 18,1400 feet.  In the distance, smoke curled from pastures being burned to renew the grass.  (Ranchers burn pastures in the Flint Hills in my state of Kansas, too.)

The driver stopped the car at an overlook, where we first saw the 3,000 beautiful multi-colored terraced pools of the Salinas de Maras (Salineras) stretching down a hillside in a valley fed by spring water.

Peruvians have been gathering salt from the terraced salt pans near Maras, Peru, since before Inca times.  Salty water originating from the Qoripujio spring is carefully channeled into shallow man-made pools. The water evaporates, leaving behind salt, which is harvested by the 600 area families that own the ponds. There are markets at the entrance, where you can buy food, woven goods, pottery and other souvenirs, as well as salt, both plain and flavored, harvested from the site.

The salt ponds are near Maras, which is 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of Cusco, in the Cusco Region of Peru. Cusco is the ancient Inca capital.

More than 3,000 salt evaporation pools in terraces spill down a valley near Maras, Peru. Peruvians have been harvesting salt from these ponds since before Inca times. The unpaved, narrow mountain roads don't stop tour buses and taxis from bringing many tourists to see this beautiful place.

More than 3,000 salt evaporation pools in terraces spill down a valley near Maras, Peru. Peruvians have been harvesting salt from these ponds since before Inca times. The unpaved, narrow mountain roads don’t stop tour buses and taxis from bringing many tourists to see this beautiful place.

A woman waits in her shop, selling food, woven goods, salt and souvenirs at the market at the salt pans, near Maras, Peru.

A woman waits in her shop, selling food and souvenirs at the market at the salt pans, near Maras, Peru.

 

We were inspired to visit Ollantaytambo and other Peruvian sites by Terri and James Vance, who write a wonderful travel blog at Gallivance.  Here is one of their many fascinating Peru posts.  Ollantaytambo, a Living City of the Inca. Here is a listing of their Peru blog posts: Gallivance: Peru

Here are some posts I found from other travelers who visited the salt pans near Maras.

The Sacred Valley of the Inca — Moray and Salinas.

A Visit to the Salt Pans of Maras

Off the Beaten Track: A Visit to Salinas de Maras

Wikipedia: Maras, Peru.

 

A sculpture in the center of the Plaza in Maras, Peru, displays some of the sights in the area, including Salineras and the Moray Inca agriculture circles.

A sculpture in the center of the Plaza in Maras, Peru, displays some of the sights in the area, including Salineras and the Moray Inca agriculture circles.

Salty spring water flows into the terraces of the salt pans  near Maras, Peru.

Salty spring water flows into the terraces of the salt pans near Maras, Peru.

Salt Pans of Maras, Peru
Salt Pans, Maras, Peru
Photograph by Catherine Sherman
Salt Pans of Maras, Peru
Man with a Harvest of Salt, Maras, Peru
Photograph by Catherine Sherman
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19 Comments

Filed under History, Photography, Travel

19 responses to “Salt Pans of Maras, Peru

  1. It always amazes me that our ancestors did so much with so little. When you consider the tools, etc. it’s quite an engineering feat. Controlling deeps to max production wasn’t done by happenstance. As usual your photos are great.
    Sandy

  2. I’m so envious! what an amazing trip 🙂

  3. Very interesting to hear more about Peru 😉
    Thanks for sharing.
    Irene

  4. Your work is filled with emotion and breathtaking beauty. Thank so much, Catherine.

  5. Lynn

    This is so interesting. Your trip must have been amazing and your photos are wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    ONE DOESN’T NEED TO TAKE THIS WITH A GRAIN OF…! GOOD, WELL-DOCUMENTED REPORTING!

  7. Interesting post Cathy, and great photos. The shot of the terraces nestled on the mountainside is particularly nice. I didn’t know about the salt pans, and after reading your post, I’m sorry we missed them. I would also have liked to see the Moray Circles. Peru is a special place, and eventually we’re returning. When we were in Cusco, we wanted to do a short tour of the Amazon, but couldn’t work it out. Thanks so much for the kind words and the link to our blog. I’m really glad you had such a nice visit to Peru. ~James

    • I would love to return to Peru, too. We were there such a short time. When we returned, I re-read your posts and saw how much I had missed even when I was on the lookout for it. There is so much to discover in this beautiful world. I’ve lived in Kansas my whole life, and there is much I haven’t seen here, either. Thanks for your comments! P.S. I added one more photo, which shows the spring water channel.

  8. Like you, Catherine, I’ve still so much to see of our world; I haven’t ventured into South America as yet – fascinating cultures.
    Your images are gorgeous. The salt pans look like a mosaic created by an imaginative artist; the colours are so rich and interesting. As is your detailed description of the process; very clear and precise.
    You’ve certainly had some interesting journeys!

    • Thanks! This was my first trip to South America. I don’t know why I waited so long, but it was amazing. We were only there eight days, not nearly enough time.

      • I’ve never really had a desire for travel, until the last few years. Now I’m finding myself looking forward to seeing more! You are so right; venturing into new cultures, with all the delights to be found, seems to need so much more time than ‘life’ generally allows us. 😉

  9. Great set of photos! Nice and a educative text. Thanks for sharing 🙂 I enjoyed “trip” with you. Bye. Kamila

  10. This is a place I have always wanted to visit and your beautiful writing and stunning photos make me even more ready to book tickets! Thanks Cathy. I wish you continued safe travels and beautiful light. ~ Rick

  11. Amazing post! Wonderful photos of the salt pans. Mind boggling that they’ve been harvesting salt even before Inca times.

  12. Such beautiful pictures 🙂

  13. Here is one of the blog posts my son wrote about the salt pans and other sights in the area, including more photos of the Sacred Valley of Peru. http://lostluds.com/2014/10/sacred-valley/

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