After our visit to the agricultural ruins near Moray, our driver brought us to a place he called (as did the concierge at our hotel) the Maras Salt Mines. These aren’t mines, per se. They are more akin to salt ponds.
Salt has been harvested here since the time of Incan Empire. The principal is simple: water flows naturally through underground streams picking up salt in the process. The highly salted water emerges and is diverted into one of the dozens of ponds in the complex. Once the pond is sufficiently full, the water is redirected into a different pool. The water then slowly evaporates over a series of days leaving behind only the salt, which is then scraped up, packaged and sold.
I had never visited a site like this and while I find the whole process interesting, I find the beauty of the landscape to be the real draw here.
This definitely isn’t a draw in and of itself, but coupled with the visit to Moray it makes for a nice and relaxing side trip during your visit to Machu Picchu. Our excursion to both sites took about 3.5 hours and allowed get off hotel property for a bit.
When you visited Machu Picchu did you take some time to explore these sites? What other sites did you visit to the Sacred Valley? Have you seen Salt Ponds like this elsewhere in the world?
After Cusco we headed down to Urubamba, a city 53 km (34 miles) from Cusco. This city would be our base for our next few days while we explored Machu Piccu and the surrounding areas. We hadn’t booked any additional tours until we actually arrived at the hotel. We sat with the concierge and he suggest we visit two nearby sites. We could hire a driver (who wasn’t a guide) and explore the ruins at Moray and some nearby salt mines. While it would have been nice to have a guide to fully explain the area and the history, but we were able to learn a lot from the online resources at each location and from the brochures / signs we found. It was also nice just to get out and walk in the fresh air.
Our first place we visited were ruins near the town of Moray. This site was at about 3,500 meter (11,0000 feet) and consisted of several sites, but the most impressive / important (to us) was an enormous terraced circles.
While it isn’t perfectly clear what these circles were for, the consensus is that it served an agricultural purpose. From the top to the bottom of the terraced area there is an elevation drop of more than 30 meters (100 feet). The directional layout, coupled with the elevation change allows for the temperature to vary from top to bottom by 15C (28F). The layout also maximizes sun and wind variations. It is believed that the Incas would use this site to study different growing conditions and help them further domesticate certain wild vegetables. I imagined this site filled with various potatoes, corn and the like.
We spent about an hour at the site, hiking around the perimeter and walking down into the crater, but ensuring we stayed on the proper path – unlike so many of the folks we saw there that day. We crossed paths with only a few people while we were visiting this location, but there were still a couple dozen people walking around. The enormity of the sight really can’t be shown in pictures.
While we didn’t have a guide, we gleaned a good amount of info from online resources and eavesdropping on organized tours that we weren’t officially a part of. I wouldn’t make a trip to Peru just to see this site, but if you are in the area, you should definitely stop by and have a gander. It’s a great little walk and it is so peaceful.