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Among the great treasures of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, hidden in the imposing mountains of the Andes and in the green Urubamba Valley, is one of the most amazing places you’ll see in your life: the Salt Mines of Maras.
In this place there are around 3000 pools of salt that work since Tahuantinsuyo supplying salt to a large part of the population of our country.
Join us on a tour around this exciting place!
History of the Salt of Maras
Like many other places in Cusco, the Salt Mines of Maras have their origin in a history of Inca mythology. According to it, the four Ayar brothers, sons of Viracocha, were sent by their father in search of fertile land. But one of them, Ayar Cachi, had a huge strength, so his brothers, scared, decided to lock him up on a mountain. The tears of Ayar Cachi were so many that created this shocking place.
Although the mythological history is exciting, of course the origin of the Salineras de Maras also has a scientific explanation. On the slopes of a hill above the pools there is an eye of water, which transports naturally, through a stream, the salt water to the pools.
The owners of the pools, all inhabitants of Maras and Pichingoto who inherited their relatives’ pools, wait for the evaporation of the water in the pools until there are several layers of salt piled up. This process takes about a month and, after it, the salt crystals are removed, so that the pool replenishes.
These pools of different colors, mixed with the mountains that surround them and the sunlight, create a landscape that leaves all those who visit them speechless. You will not get tired of taking pictures from each of its corners!
Characteristics of the salt of Maras
The salt of Maras is recognized around the world for its high quality. Here, salt is extracted from three different qualities. The extra salt or flower of salt is the best and, therefore, the more expensive, the first salt is used for mass consumption and the third salt is used industrially.
They create three different types of salt: from salt with spices to pink salt, which can only be found in four places in the world.
Would you like to try them all and take some small bags of salt from Maras to your home? Buy at the salt mines store! You will find all kinds of products at a much cheaper price than in other areas of the country.
Benefits of Maras salt for your health
In addition to giving an excellent flavor to your dishes, Maras salt has several benefits for your health.
On one hand, the salt of Maras is beneficial for people with hypertension, since it has a lower proportion of sodium chloride than common salt. Sodium chloride in large amounts increases fluid retention and, consequently, can cause hypertension, kidney or heart problems.
Likewise, the salt of Maras is also good to heal skin lesions such as those caused by psoriasis, varicose veins or herpes.
In addition, it can be used by those who suffer from arthritis or osteoarthritis. Dissolved in water and used to keep the affected areas soaking, the salt of Maras helps as a desinflammatory.
But if you want to cook with the salt of Maras and keep all its properties, you will have to add it to the food once it is ready, since at more than 40 ºC it loses its benefits.
How to get to the Maras Salt Mines?
The Maras Salt Mines are located 60 km northwest of Cusco, at 3300 meters above sea level.
To get to this place, it is best to hire a half-day tour: it is the most comfortable option and the price is quite affordable (from S / 50 or US $ 15). In addition, most tourist agencies include a visit to the Archaeological Complex of Moray along with the Maras Salt Mines.
Among the options to get to Maras with an organized tour, is to do it the traditional way, by bus, or choose a more adventurous one: ATV, on an exciting journey driving your own vehicle through the Sacred Valley.
The ticket to the Maras Salt Mines has a cost of S/ 5 (US$ 1,5), but if you plan to visit other places in the Sacred Valley, we recommend you to buy the Tourist Ticket of Cusco, which allows entry to several tourist attractions in the city and its surroundings.
The Maras Salt Mines are a unique place in the world that, we are sure, will be one of the favorite destinations of your trip. You can go on your way to take the train to Machu Picchu. Do not miss it!