Tucked away in a deep canyon in Peru’s Sacred Valley are the Maras salt flats (Salineras de Maras). Only about 25 miles (40 km) north of Cuzco, the only access to the area is via a treacherous dirt roadway…without any guardrails! If you can white-knuckle the trip down however, it’s well worth the effort. The dizzying views of the geometric ponds are otherworldly.
Since pre-Inca times, salt has been obtained in Maras by evaporating the briny water that emerges from a subterranean spring. The flow is directed through an intricate system of tiny canals constructed so that the water runs gradually down into thousands of shallow, terraced pools. As the water evaporates, salt crystallizes on the surfaces of the pond’s earthen walls. For generations, salt farmers have collected the crystallized salt, which varies in color from pure white to reddish brown.
At the site, vendors sell handicrafts, jewelry, and of course salt gathered from the ponds. I purchased a small baggie to bring home as a souvenir. Every time I cook with it, I’m reminded of my amazing visit to this extraordinary place.
Below are a series of photos from my visit:
The photo above shows the Salineras de Maras, as seen from the perilous dirt road leading into the canyon. The buildings clustered to the left are shops where artisans sell their crafts as well as Andean salt.
I loved the symmetry of this shot with the various tones of white, beige, mocha, and tan.
See the two salt farmers? One is wearing blue and the other is in red. You can also see the narrow channels of water tracing along the tops of the ponds’ walls.
This photo shows how the salt ponds are situated in the canyon, facing the Sacred Valley (El Valle Sagrado).
Notice the piles of harvested salt next to these ponds? Near the front of the photo are bags of salt that will soon end up on a table somewhere in the world.
How much: S/5 Peruvian nuevo soles or roughly $2 US dollars.
How to get there: If you’re not part of an organized tour, you can pay a taxi about S/130 (approximately $50) to take you to the Salineras de Maras from Urubamba, a larger town in the Sacred Valley. The salt flats are located close to the stunning archaeological site of Moray, so be sure not to miss that site too.
Don’t forget: Wear sunscreen and sunglasses since the light reflecting on the salt pools is very bright.
Have you ever seen a place like this before? What are your thoughts? Feel free to comment in the section below!
Michael Figueiredo is a freelance travel writer based in Los Angeles, California. When he’s not gallivanting around the world, he’s enjoying the laid-back lifestyle and perfect weather of Southern California. So far he’s visited forty countries and territories on five continents. His goal is to see at least one new country every year! . Read more from this author