MORAY TERRACE GARDENS AND MARAS SALINAS
Moray Terrace Gardens and the Salt Terraces of Maras
Moray Terrace Gardens
There are many places in Cusco where you can admire the technical achievements of the inca in terms of agriculture, such as terraced cultivation and aqueduct irrigation. In Moray, circular terraced fields have been created, demonstrating the high cultural level of the inca civilization.
The village is located 7 kilometers from the village of Maras and about 63 kilometers from Cusco. The thing that will impress you the most here is the agricultural system in circular form, whose terraces are up to 100 meters deep. They are formed by retaining walls connected by an irrigation system.
The Inca plant Moray is a plant consisting of several terraces at different heights. It was built in three larger natural sinkholes of varying depths. The deepest sinkhole, over 70 meters deep, with 28 meters of terraces at its lowest, is called Qechuyoq. The first seven terraces, which span about 15 meters, are arranged concentrically. The eighth terrace breaks out of the scheme in a northwesterly direction, widening the acreage on the seventh terrace. The remaining terraces follow the course of the eighth. Except for the largest sink, the plants are concentric and circular. Until 50 years ago potatoes and barley were cultivated on the area. The terracing and the arrangement in the round results in a superimposition of the macro-climate with several microclimates that are different for each terrace. Moray may have used the Inca as an agricultural trial to study the impact of these microclimates on plant growth. The terraces are held by solid retaining walls made of large stones and filled with fertile soil. Probably about 250 plant species were grown here and supplied by a sophisticated irrigation system.
One can consider Moray as an agricultural experimental laboratory because the Inca created microclimates here to grow different products. When you go down to the terrace steps, you can actually feel that it is getting warmer and warmer down below. The heat difference should be up to 15°C!
They are probably the highest salt production site in the world. On the steep rock terraces are a myriad of salt pools. In the past, the white gold of the Incas and now a source of income for some small families who still work hard as salt farmers here every day.
If you’ve gone through the hard gravel road to the highest saline in the world, you’ll be amazed. On the steep slope, which leads down to the valley, there are countless more or less full salt ponds. Depending on the season, they are in a glaring white or for the rest of the months rather a bit brown, but still shining bright. Nestled between the dark brown mountain slopes are the so-embedded salt terraces, which are fed by a labyrinth of small brine springs from the brine spring springing up from the mountain.
But this breathtaking view belies the extremely hard life of the local andean salt farmers of Maras. Maras is a poor, tiny farming village located about 45 kilometers northeast of Cusco. The salt terraces of Maras are a tourist attraction in the area of the Valle Sagrado. However, the Salineras are often not approached by some tour operators from Cusco because they are accessible via a dusty and steep gravel road.
Fascination Salineras de Maras
You can take a private taxi from Cusco or ask at your hotel in Cusco, as some of the hotel operators also arrange tours to the many attractions, including Maras. Already from the top of the steep gravel road, which leads down to the salt terraces in serpentines, you have a fantastic view of the mostly in the white radiant salt terraces. At the entrance to the salinas is a small entrance fee of about 10 soles to pay. This entry is not included in the “Boleto Turistico”. From the parking lot it then goes on a narrow path down to the salt terraces, which shine in all colors – from glistening white to light brown in the sun. On the way to the salt ponds, there are a few small stalls, where mainly small salt packets and delicious snacks are offered.
The rainy season in the Peruvian highlands ends in April. Before that lie about five to seven months in which the salt terraces are fallow due to rain. The saline water for salt extraction comes from the surrounding massif and flows in a specially designed labyrinth of small streams very the terrace pools.
The sun and the dry air ensure that most of the water evaporates quickly. In the basins then remain mushy salt masses, the brine and the precious crust with white salt crystals. The salt crust is skimmed off, dried and processed into salt granules.
Tour combination – Moray Ruins & Maras Salt Mines Tour
On this tour we will enter the Sacred Valley to visit two curious places that date back to the Inca civilization: the salt mines of Maras and the circular platforms of Moray. To explore!
Having been picked up from your hotel in the morning, you’ll leave Cusco behind and head deep into the Sacred Valley of the Incas, a valley in the Peruvian Andes that is home to an astonishing number of Incan archaeological sites.
You’ll then be taken to Moray, where a mysterious Inca archaeological site is located. The ruins of the circular agricultural terraces, known as andenes, are thought to have been used by the Incas to create different microclimates in order to grow a variety of crops.
The second stop on your tour will be Maras, a picturesque town surrounded by stunning mountain landscapes, which has given its name to the salineras, or salt pans, that are located here. These salt mines are evaporation ponds that have been used to produce salt here since pre-Inca times, and the natural colour variation of the pools, staggered in terraces down the side of the canyon, make them a breathtakingly beautiful sight. You’ll be able to see them in all their glory from the viewpoint.
At the end of a fascinating Sacred Valley tour, you’ll make the return journey to Cusco’s historic centre, where you’ll be dropped off in Plazoleta de San Francisco in the afternoon.
- Pick up from your hotel.
- Personalized attention.
- Cusco tourist ticket (different ticket packs depending which sites you want to visit)