After Ollantaytambo, we headed back to Urubamba, the largest town in the Sacred Valley. At Urubamba, we hired a taxi for the Salinas de Maras (Salt Pans of Maras) and Moray, the archaeological site Inca terraces. The drive to the remote Salinas de Maras was full of breathtaking views of the Urupampa Mountain Range at the opposite side of the Urubamba Valley (Sacred Valley), including Mountain Ch’iqun at about 5,530m above sea level.
Salinas de Maras is a salt mine of roughly 3000 small pools along the hillside of a mountain. Each pool yields about 150 kg of salt per month. The pools are fed by a hotspring with a high concentration of sodium. As the water evaporates, crystallized salts are left behind for harvest. This salt mine has been in operation since the ancient times. Little has changed for the past hundreds of years.
After Salinas de Maras, our taxi driver drove us to the nearby Moray site, an Inca ruins of remarkable circular terraces. The purpose of Moray was unknown, but most archaeologists believe that the circular terraces of Moray were once an Inca outdoor testing lab for agricultural experiments to study the effects of different micro-climates and soil conditions on crops.
We stayed at Moray for a short while, but didn’t have enough time to venture down to the bottom. We lingered at the top of Moray ruins and the nearby area to take in the magnificent scenery of Urupampa Mountain Range until the sun began to set. Standing at over 3500m elevation, many peaks stood in front of us across the Sacred Valley on the Urupampa Mountain Range were over 5000m above sea level. We were grateful for ending our day of the Sacred Valley with such a peaceful scenery, a moment of cool breezes, fast moving clouds, fading sunlight, and majestic Urupampa Mountains.
We returned to Urubamba for the return bus ride back to Cusco. Upon arrival, we were all hungry and tired. We decided to treat ourselves a delicious dinner at one of the most well known tapas restaurants in the city, the Cicciolina. Under the atmospheric setting of Cicciolina, we had one of the best meal of our entire trip. This was the place where we took the courage to try a “cuy” dish (guinea pigs). On the Andes, guinea pigs have long been a source of meat since ancient times.
On the road to Salinas de Maras with Mountain Ch’iqun as the backdrop.
Our taxi is approaching the salt mine, Salinas de Maras.
The scene of a myriad of salt pools at Salinas de Maras was quite stunning.
Staff could be seen working at the salt pools at Salinas de Maras.
A water channel that diverts the salty water into the pools.
The water channel that feeds the different salt pools.
A water channel that diverts the salt water into the pools.
Shadow of the mountain was cast onto the pools.
The Salinas de Maras with the Sacred Valley in the distant.
The various shades of earthy colours of the salt pools at Salinas de Maras.
As the water evaporates, crystallized salts are left behind for harvest.
Moray, an Inca ruins near the village of Maras, was an ancient outdoor testing grounds for agriculture.
As evening approached, we had no choice but to embark on our return journey to Urubamba.
We were at the elevation of over 3500m, embraced by mountainous scenery including the Urupampa Mountain Range across the valley. As evening approached, we bidded farewell to the breathtaking scenery of Mountain Ch’iqun and the Urupampa Mountain Range and headed back to Cusco.
Back to Cusco, we headed to the guidebook-recommended Cicciolina Tapas Restaurant to end our long day with an exciting meal.
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Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010
1. Peru Trip 2010
2. Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3. Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4. Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5. Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6. Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru