Tucked away in the heartland of Peru and in the Sacred Valley of the Incas lies the village of Maras. This sleepy Andean village is home to a geological wonder known as the Salineras de Maras or Maras Salt Pans. Take a journey with us to the hidden gem of the Andes.
The Marvel of Maras
The salt mines themselves consist of approximately 4,500 salt wells, artfully constructed as stepped terraces into the middle slope of Qaqawiñay hill. These wells are defined by retaining walls made from irregular stones, sealed with mud mortar. Arranged in a precise and orderly manner, the stepped wells create a stunning landscape with numerous squares of white, cream, red, yellow, and brown hues.
It Runs in the Family
What makes the Maras Salt Pans even more fascinating is the deep-rooted tradition surrounding their ownership and maintenance. The salt pans are passed down from one generation to another, ensuring that the ancient art of salt extraction endures. Additionally, when new members or families join the community, the salt pools are allocated to them. This communal approach, known to the locals as "ayni" keeps the traditional social relationships intact and fosters cooperation and reciprocity among the community members.
Harvesting salt from the Maras Salt Pans is no easy task. Work in the salt pans begins at an astonishingly early hour, from four in the morning until sunset. The "salineros" carefully monitor the amount and flow of water. They must also ensure the timely closure of drains and meticulously repair any possible leaks in the basins.
The Magic of Maras Endures
Today, the Maras Salt Pans are still actively mined by local families. For visitors to Peru's Sacred Valley, a trip to the Maras Salt Pans is an opportunity to witness centuries-old traditions in action. The stunning natural beauty, cultural significance, and the labor-intensive process involved make it an unforgettable experience. So, when you find yourself exploring the Sacred Valley, take the time to immerse yourself in the wonder of Maras and witness the magic of salt unfold before your eyes.