The Salt Mines of Maras and the Circular Platforms of Moray are destinations that recently began to have a greater frequency of visitors. Especially during the last few years. Both places are located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, so a visit is quite easy to make and also very comfortable. This is probably why to get to these places you can take different types of tours, including conventional ones and those that combine cycling and ATV activities. Now let’s learn more about these new destinations and why you should visit them during your stay in Cusco.
The Sacred Valley of the Incas
The Sacred Valley of the Incas is home to most of the archaeological sites of ancient Tawantinsuyo. It is an extensive territory of approximately 60 miles. This entire place has extremely fertile lands, both in the past and currently they are still used to plant, especially corn. This product is one of the most requested nationally and internationally. Corn from Peru, and especially from this region, has a large white grain that gives it unique characteristics. Therefore, Cusco is one of the main exporters of this ancient product.
A special condition for a civilization to expand territorially is that it can maintain continuous food production. The population of Tawantinsuyo was aware of the need for these resources, so they worked hard to generate and build land dedicated exclusively to growing food. Likewise, important citadels such as Pisaq and Ollantaytambo were built. Places that to this day house part of its most important temples and the presence of the platforms that served as retaining walls against heavy rains.
Similarly, the Sacred Valley of the Incas has a warmer climate than Cusco. This is precisely because it is located between high mountains and is also accompanied by the Vilcanota River, which at this point is called the Urubamba River. This flow of water will later reach Machu Picchu.The average temperature throughout the year is between 20 to 25 °C during the day. At night temperatures usually drop to around 10 °C. This temperature does not vary much during the seasons or seasons. The only change experienced is the presence of rain, from November to March, and the dry season (April – October) in which tourist trips increase exponentially.
Everyone should visit the Sacred Valley because to this day it maintains mysticism and the tour through any of the destinations is quite comfortable. Within the Sacred Valley, we can also find two of the most incredible destinations that surprise us because no one can be certain about the reason for their formation or construction. Natural formation in the case of the Salt Mines of Maras and construction in the case of the circular platforms of Moray. Now let’s learn more about these places that are gradually winning the hearts of tourists.
The Salt Mines of Maras
The Maras salt mines belong to the Maras district, hence their name. This district is located 49 kilometers from Cusco. So getting there is quite simple and the trip is short, unlike other destinations. The average travel time is one hour and twenty minutes at most. It is also important that you carry out this adventure with the help of a travel agency. Only then will you have a trip on schedule and without having to spend money on issues or details that you did not calculate well?
Regarding the history of the Maras salt mines, many studies indicate that even before the presence of the Incas, these salt mines were already used. Probably little by little they increased the presence of wells to achieve greater extraction. Thus it came to the domain of the Incas who continued with the extraction of this vital element for cooking and even to use it for medical purposes. Just as it is still used today, thanks to the grated salt obtained. Although it is also mentioned that it was a necessary ingredient for embalming corpses.
The obtaining of this mineral is carried out by the presence of almost 800 families who have distributed many wells to carry out the corresponding work. The natural formation of this place is truly incredible, although man has interceded for the creation and maintenance of the wells, the landscape never ceases to amaze us. Salt is produced because, in the depths of the mountain, water that contains high amounts of salt runs through. When these waters are exposed in the wells, they tend to evaporate and the salt is released and stored in the corners and the very bottom of the wells. After that, the residents go on to collect the grains of salt and store them in bags.
The residents of Maras and part of the Sacred Valley of the Incas say that the salt mines of Maras have a mythical origin. They tell the legend of the Ayar Brothers and after the confinement of Ayar Cachi, who had a lot of strength and generated fear and distrust on the part of his brothers, he ended up being locked up. After his helplessness and not being able to leave his confinement, he began to cry, his tears formed a stream of water that emerged through the mountain. These tears little by little formed wells. Thus, due to the strong rays of the sun, these wells began to have salt sediments that were accumulated and used until today.
The Circular Platforms of Moray
The Moray Circular Platforms are located just 5 kilometers from the Maras salt mines. Therefore, it is advisable to visit this place, even if you have made the trip on your own. These Inca constructions were a mystery to archaeologists for a long time because they could not give a reasonable and scientific explanation. The Moray platforms are considerable in size, the height of the platforms is 1.9 meters on average. It is located at 3500 meters above sea level and you can find 3 circular platforms.
It is believed that the main reason for the construction of these platforms was to make an agricultural laboratory, thereby having greater control over the majority of plants that grew in different sectors of Tawantinsuyo. Therefore, the different microclimates that each platform produces would serve for the growth and at the same time adaptation of new plants to other altitudinal floors. This way they would take new seeds to other destinations to have greater food production. This work was fundamental because the Incas began important expansionist campaigns, and dominating the terrain and crops was essential.
The Moray Circular platforms are made up of 3 circular platforms of different sizes. These have different names. Among them, Moray stands out, which has a greater expansion than the others and also has a shape similar to that of a clear “8” without the intersection of its lines. The other platforms are close to this one. During the tour it is possible to see them, we are referring to Simamayu and the smaller circular platforms are made up of Intiwatanamuyu.
That’s not all, during the tour it is possible to appreciate the beautiful landscapes offered by the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Likewise, if we are lucky, the blue sky can accompany us throughout the morning and the tour. Although entry to the platforms is currently not allowed, you can observe the grandeur of these constructions and even imagine what the places would look like with the care and dedication to the crops and the development of their agriculture. Some studies suggest that they managed to plant and obtain a variety of tubers and corn grains, which were taken to other regions.
Unfortunately, there are no chronicles or writings about these places. There is also no record that crops have been grown or if they would continue to be cultivated after the arrival of the Spanish. However, the first official record of Moray was in 1932. An aviator, Shirppe Johnson, flew over the place, revealing the presence of these constructions. Later anthropologists arrived at the area and determined it as a cultivation area or agricultural center. Later, we found out that it would be an agricultural laboratory.
What are the tours to get to Maras and Moray?
At the moment we can talk about 3 tours that allow you to reach Maras and Moray. To reach these destinations, the group will have to enter the trails of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. In this sense, it will be possible to enjoy beautiful landscapes in any of the seasons in which you decide to make this trip. The dry season, which is characterized by no rain, will begin from March to October. The rainy season will begin in November and will last until February.
The beautiful thing about the Sacred Valley of the Incas is that it presents beautiful landscapes and a warm climate for much of the year. It is also possible to visit the different archaeological sites such as Ollantaytambo and Pisac. Let’s learn more about the tours to Maras and Moray, making the trip from Cusco.
Minivan transport tour
This is the classic tour, that is, the trip is made with a guide to both destinations. Transportation will be in a spacious, fully equipped minivan. The first step of the trip will be to reach the town of Maras, from there the trip continues until reaching the Circular Platforms of Moray. After the tour and the corresponding photographs, it will be the turn to travel to the Maras salt mines. There you can find different souvenirs and even products derived from the salt obtained in these salt mines.
This tour also features minivan transportation, but it is a slightly different trip. We will leave Cusco heading to Chinchero, exactly to the community of Cruzpata. This will be the place where we will find the ATVs, we will have prior preparation and we will start rolling. For 45 minutes we will be on the ATVs until we reach Moray. After that we began the return trip in the same way, driving the ATVs. When we return to Cruzpata, transportation will be waiting for us to go this time by minivan to the Maras salt mines.
This tour is very similar to the ATV tour. Here we begin the trip from Cusco to Cruzpata, that is, through the Chinchero sector. From there we will drive on the bicycles and begin the route until we reach Moray. We will do the tour following the instructions and following our guide. After that, we began to drive our bicycles to the Maras salt mines. Finally, we return along another route, where we will contemplate the flow of the Urubamba River until we reach where our transportation is. The tour will end in the city of Cusco.