Maras Salt Mines: Visiting the Salineras de Maras in 2024

Maras Salt Mines: Visiting the Salineras de Maras in 2024

Just an hour away from Cusco, in the beautiful Sacred Valley, lie the Maras Salt Mines, or as the locals call them – Salineras de Maras.

If you find yourself touring the Sacred Valley, the Maras Salt Mines is a place you shouldn’t miss. Without a doubt, this is one of the most instagrammable spots in all of Peru.

Located on the side of a mountain, these picturesque salt mines hold thousands of terraced pools, with each yielding around 330 pounds (150 kg) of salt per month. From a distance, the salt mines resemble a snow layer, featuring an array of different shades of white and earthy brown.

Let’s walk through the history of the Salineras de Maras and uncover the best things to do while you’re around.

Table of contents:

History of the Maras Salt Mines

It is believed that the Maras Salt Mines were built somewhere between 500 and 1100 AD by the Wari – a civilization predating the Incas.

During the rule of the Inca Empire, locals saw great opportunity in the mines and started expanding and harvesting the salt pools. The extracted salt was likely used for consumption, livestock, and food storage.

local woman at maras salt mines

The ownership of the ponds was distributed among families from the local community. Many of the ponds are still owned by local families and are passed on from generation to generation.

The Salineras de Maras have been mined by local communities for over 500 years, and are still in use today. The salt is sold throughout numerous markets across Peru and is characterized by its subtle pink hue and rough, uneven texture. Compared to regular table salt, the Peruvian pink salt has a milder taste and is great for flavoring meats and vegetables.

How Do the Peruvian Salt Mines Work?

At Maras, you will find over 3,000 salt ponds, all connected through an impressive network of underground canals. The water channeled into the ponds comes from a natural underground spring and runs downhill into the pools

maras salt mines view

A few days after the water fills the pools, it evaporates and leaves behind a thin layer of salt.

The process of harvesting the salt has remained, to a large extent, the same as it was 500 years ago – the dry salt is carefully scraped from the sides and bottom of each pond.


How to Get to the Maras Salt Mines

The Maras Salt Mines are located over the slopes of Cori Pujio mountain in the Sacred Valley, about 31 mi (50 km) northeast of Cusco.

Generally speaking, there are two main ways to get to the salt mines in Maras – as part of a group/private tour or with public transportation.

With a tour, you get to explore the salt mines with an expert tour guide without worrying about transportation and logistics. Joining a tour is the easiest – and most popular – way of reaching and exploring the Maras Salt Mines.

view out of front window of car

If you’re up for an adventure, you can take public transport. From Cusco, you’ll need to take a bus, combi (public shuttle van), or colectivo (shared public taxi) towards Urubamba and get off at Maras. Once in Maras, you can walk to the salt ponds (for about an hour) or take a taxi (for approximately 10 minutes).

Note: If you take public transport, be sure to notify the driver that you are going to Maras before departure. When taking a taxi – just as you would in the rest of Peru – make sure you can see the driver’s ID or official document proving their registration with the municipality. In addition, don’t be afraid to negotiate the price before getting in.


Best Time to Go

Maras, just like the rest of the country, has two seasons (dry and wet) and the best time to visit the salt mines will depend largely on your interests and travel itinerary.

During the dry season (May to October), you’ll get to enjoy sunny days and mild temperatures. This is also the time when the sun evaporates the water from the ponds and you can enjoy the bright, snowy colors that come through. The dry season is also the best time to do the Inca Trail and visit Machu Picchu.

couple at maras salt mines

While you can certainly visit the salt mines during the rainy season (November to April) too, it’s good to keep in mind that you are likely to face more rainfalls and the pools will have a more brown, earthy color. That said, the dry season coincides with the peak tourist season, which means that visiting during the wet months will come with fewer tour groups around.


Tour Options and Activities

From strolling around and taking in the views to riding in an ATV, there are plenty of different ways to experience the awe-inspiring Salineras de Maras.

The area is usually visited in a Sacred Valley day tour, so you can easily combine it with other day tours. In fact, the Maras Salt Mines are included in the 3 best multi-day trips from Cusco and are a must-see for anyone looking to experience the Sacred Valley.

Here are some of the most popular things you can do while visiting Maras and the Sacred Valley.


Hiking around Maras

Hiking to the Maras Salt Mines is another great way to explore the Sacred Valley and its lesser-known gems.

The most popular way to do so is by joining a half-day hike that takes you through both Moray (stunning circular ruins that were once used by the Incas for agricultural research) and the ancient Inca salt ponds.


Group Tours

One of the best, and most stress-free, ways to get to the Maras Salt Mines is by joining a private or a group tour with an experienced guide.

women at maras salt mines

Having an expert guide will ensure that you make the most out of your trip and learn more about the salt mines, their history, and their importance to the local communities.

These tours take you through the mines and many of them include additional sites and activities such as a visit to the archaeological site of Moray.


Mountain Biking

Along with beautiful Inca treasures, the Sacred Valley is also famed for its great outdoor activities.

In fact, one of the most exciting and adrenaline-boosting dirt trails in the region goes to Maras. You can book a private or a group mountain biking tour and embark on the exciting route that takes you from the center of Moray all the way down to the Maras Salt Mines.


ATV Tours in Maras

The surroundings of Maras are ideal for travelers looking for an adrenaline rush.

girl on atv

One great way to pack in even more adventure is by hopping on a quad bike (ATV) and seeing the Andean landscape from a different perspective. Taking an ATV tour is sure to be an unforgettable experience, which is why it’s also one of the top things to do in the Sacred Valley in 2022.


Horseback Riding

Horseback riding to and around Maras is a more relaxed activity that is great for travelers of all ages. By going on a horseback riding trip, you get to explore the scenic landscape of the Sacred Valley, pass through the Moray ruins, and finish off at the stunning salt mines of Maras.


Enjoy the Beautiful Salt Ponds of Maras

When visiting Maras, we definitely recommend you take some of the salt back home with you. Our favorite is the dark chocolate with salt from Maras; give it a try when you’re there!

Looking for more adventures in the area? Check out the top 10 things you should not miss in the Sacred Valley.

  • 11 July, 2022 at 10:46 am

    very interesting place! I have heard a lot about the sacred valley and is it true that it is possible to continue the trip from ollantytambo to aguas caliente? whats your recommendation about that?

    • 24 July, 2022 at 8:44 am

      Hey Jason! Yes, that’s the best way to combine the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. We recommend doing the Sacred Valley tour and taking the train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes in the afternoon. Then you spend the night in Aguas Calientes and enter Machu Picchu the next day. This way you don’t have to travel so many hours in a single day and you can enter Machu Picchu early in the morning before the crowds arrive.

      If you have any other questions feel free to contact us at 🙂


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