Las Salinas de Maras, Cusco
This was definitely one of the more bizarre sights we saw on our trip to the Sacred Valley! A huge salt mine carved out of the hillside, with terrace after terrace of mini salt-pans spread out in front of us. Although it was a Sunday a few people were working in the pans, dredging up the piles of salt and leaving them to dry out (I was going to say dry in the sun, but it was raining that day!)
In its way this was as spectacular a sight as the Inca ruins we saw elsewhere in the valley, perhaps just because it was so unexpected. Definitely worth the detour if you want to see something a little out of the usual.
The salt mines are signposted (I think) from the road that leaves the main road through the valley near Urubamba
The Salt Terraces (Las Salineras) appeal to the hidden mathematician in everyone. Okay, if there's no hidden mathematician in you, then they'll appeal to the hidden cubist. But those white, brown coffee and chocolate covered rectangles will astound you with their beauty.
These terraces have been in use since the Inca times. Here, a salty spring emerges from the hillside, and the Incas cleverly built terraces to capture the flows and harvest salt. In the rainy season, the pools fill with earth-toned water of varying hues, and in the dry season the water evaporates, leaving a plentiful salt residue to be harvested and sold.
We passed the salt terraces on our horseback ride from Urubamba, but you can also access them on foot. There is no shade on the trail, so bring water and sunscreen.
Not part of the usual and typical tour but very much worth a visit are Las Salinas de Maras. Salinas are salt pans, i.e. where they extract the salt from the river and drie it out.
The drive is less than one hour from Cusco, even if a bit bumpy to say the least. But the view when you arrive immediately makes it worthy and of course the walk inside the Salinas.
Ah! Don't forget your sunglass as the sun reflections are quite strong.
Take a bus to Urubamba, stop in Chichero (see my page about this city), and then take a cab (negociate the price !) to go and see the wonderful salinas of Maras (go and see my Maras page, if you don't feel like going there !).
Prenez un bus pour Urubamba, arretez-vous a Chichero (je vous renvoie a ma page sur cette ville) et prenez un taxi (negociez bien le prix !) jusqu-aux salinas de Maras (si vous ne sentez pas d'y aller, faites un tour sur ma page Maras)