Salt Mines of Maras

The salt mines of Maras are found in the high plains above Urubamba. These ancient salt mines were created by the Inca and are still in use today.

The salt mines are set in the Sacred Valley of Peru. Looking down on the mines, you see a dizzying array of white, irregular rectangles. It’s a very photogenic scene.

The source of the salt mines, or salineras, is a warm salty spring at the head of the valley. Although the Inca created the mines some 2,000 years ago, the harvesting method hasn’t changed much. It goes like this:

The water is directed towards the pools by an intricate network of channels that gradually run downhill into the terraced pools. Once the water arrives in the pools, it evaporates after a few days and leaves behind a thin layer of salt. Workers then scrape the dry salt from the sides and bottom of the pool. Once all the salt has been removed, the pools are refilled and the process begins again.

The salt mines of Maras are still in use today. These days there are thousands of pools, or pocitos, with each pocito yielding around 150 kilograms of salt per month. You can sometimes see this salt marketed abroad as “Peruvian pink salt.”

Travelers can visit the salt mines and explore them along narrow paths. It’s fascinating to watch locals harvest the salt, a process that hasn’t changed in thousands of years.

Southern Highlands, Peru, South America

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