The beauty that is the Maras Salt Mines of Peru largely distracts from how genius its ancient design actually is.
Residing somewhere inside the mountain above Maras is a very salty spring.
The water that flows down the mountain from this spring crosses through the salt pans that the locals and their ancestors have tended to for over 500 years.
As the water collects it will eventually be swept away by the high mountain sun.
Left behind will be the deliciously famous pink salt of Peru!
Traveling to Peru? Does Maras have your attention? If you answered yes to either of these questions then read on to learn more about my visit to the infamous salt mines of Peru!
Once you're done reading this post be sure to check out my Peru Video Travel Guide that will highlight some of my favorite activities to do around the Cusco area.
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Where are the Maras Salt Mines?
The Maras Salt Mines are about 90 minutes driving from Cusco. Your best options to get to here include rented car, bus, taxi, colectivo or tour company.
If you're still looking for accommodations for your trip you can search great deals on Cusco hotels here.
Since we didn't have a rental car and already had a good dialogue going with Alpaca we had them book us for a day trip that involved visiting Maras, Moray and the ruins of Pisac on the same day. In other words, we went the tour company route.
We booked the experience as 'private' so it was just myself, my brother and Alpaca Expeditions along for the ride.
Alpaca did a great job so I can recommend them with confidence - but even if you go with a different tour operator, having a local guide that can speak to what you're seeing is a huge perk.
What can you buy at the Maras Salt Mines?
Not only are the Salt Mines of Maras fun to visit but the salt also makes for a great souvenir and the locals here benefit greatly from having tourism associated with the salt mines.
They benefit first from the entrance fee - which was 10 soles or about $2-3 USD. They also benefit from selling the salt to visitors of the mine.
You'll find vendors in the area selling different flavors of salt, packaged goods such as chocolate made with the salt and even large hunks of unprocessed salt that can serve as household decorations.
Like elsewhere in Peru, make sure to have some soles handy. You'll need it to pay your entrance fee and to deal with the locals peddling the salt of Maras.
Personally I left with some pink salt for cooking, a large decorative piece of salt taken from the mines and some chocolates.
If you can't decide what to get, many of the vendors will let you sample the different salt flavors or chocolates that they sell.
How much time should I spend at the Maras Salt Mines?
The area where tourists are allowed within Maras is relatively limited.
At one point in time tourists were permitted to meander through the salt pans to a greater extent, but issues with inconsiderate guests leaving trash and polluting them caused Maras to cut back visitor access down near the actual pans.
I would budget 60 to 90 minutes for visiting the Maras Salt Mines depending on how much shopping and photography you want to do.
Seeing the salt terraces is only half the battle. I'd recommend hiring a local guide to help you understand the history of Maras and how the operation takes place. They can also help bridge the language barrier when bartering with local vendors!
If Maras is up your alley read on and consider pairing the Inca ruins of Moray with your visit to the area. For those seeking a broader set of activity ideas don't forget to check out my list of the best activities to do in Cusco Peru. That guide covers a ton of activities to do around Cusco, including big ticket adventures like visiting Humantay Lake or Machu Picchu!
How old are the Maras Salt Mines?
Experts believe that the Maras Salt Mines were constructed between 500 and 1100 AD, by the Wari civilization, an ancient culture that predates the Inca Empire. Given these estimates the mines may have been in use for over a millennium!
Is it worth visiting the nearby Moray Inca ruins from Maras?
First off, to enter the ruins of Moray you'll need a tourism ticket for the area.
This ticket is different from the one needed to access Moray and some of the other Inca Ruins such as Sacsayhuaman located closer to Cusco.
You should be able to purchase a ticket near the Moray entrance. Be sure to have cash on hand to purchase your ticket or for purchasing goods from the locals who setup shop here as well.
But is it worth it?! So, as I mentioned earlier we booked our Moray trip as a full day excursion through Alpaca Expeditions that included stops at Pisac and the Maras Salt Mines beforehand.
The day as a whole was amazing and we really enjoyed working with Alpaca Expeditions.
While the history of Moray is very interesting, the site as a whole is a bit underwhelming compared to Pisac or Maras. I'd recommend these two many times over. But Moray did feel a bit flat after we visited Pisac and Maras earlier in the day.
However, if you're already planning to visit the salt mines it's probably worth popping over to Moray given it's proximity.
If you're also planning to visit Pisac then the tourism ticket will already be a sunk cost so entering Moray won't be an extra cost.
While I wouldn't go out of my way to visit Moray on it's own, if you're already nearby visiting the Maras Salt Mines of Peru then it's certainly worth the pit stop!