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.
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.
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