Moray: All About the Inca Ruins near Cusco

Moray: All About the Inca Ruins near Cusco

Surrounded by the breathtaking Andes mountains, the Moray ruins are an archaeological complex in the Sacred Valley that has been captivating researchers and travelers for decades.

The site is best known for its three groups of circular terraces. Each of these terraces has 12 levels, with the largest depression having a spectacular diameter of 600 ft (183 m).

From the highest terrace to the lowest, the descent is about 490 ft (149 m), making the Moray ruins one of the most fascinating man-made sites.

Let’s walk through the history and purpose of the Moray site, as well as uncover the best time to visit and the top things to do in the area.

Table of contents:

History of Moray

Because the Incas did not have written language, the history and purpose of Moray are still somewhat enigmatic.

Evidence suggests, however, that the bottom six terraces at Moray were built by a culture predating the Incas, somewhere between the 6th and 10th centuries.

The remains of the archaeological complex that we see today were created by the Incas between the 12th and the 14th century and were most likely used to cultivate different crops. More extensive research of the area began in the 1930s and, up until the 1970s, the site was used by local communities for agriculture.

couple at moray ruins

Moray is a great site for taking pictures in the Valley.


Today, the unique Moray ruins are one of the must-visit ruins in Peru and one of the most instagrammable spots in Cusco.


Incan Agriculture at Moray

Many archaeologists and anthropologists believe that the Moray ruins were once used as a means to carry out agricultural experiments. Some of the evidence that supports that is the extensive irrigation system (fueled by water from a reservoir located high in the mountains) engineered into the terraces.

Another fascinating observation is the temperature difference. From the highest to the lowest terrace, the temperature differs 41 °F (5°C) and the sun hit each terrace at a different angle and intensity.

The microclimate at Moray likely allowed the Incas to do agricultural research and identify the best conditions for crops to thrive. Even more, all this suggests that the Incas utilized their knowledge of the environment to capitalize on their natural resources.

What Did the Incas Cultivate?

While there is no written evidence, based on the agricultural practices in the Andean region, the Incas likely farmed crops such as potatoes and quinoa, as well as Amazonian plants suited to milder temperatures.

Corn was likely another major crop cultivated at Moray due to its significance in different religious ceremonies in the Inca Empire.

mora ruins closeup

A closeup of the ruins is proof of the detailed architectural work of the Incas.


How Did They Make the Moray Terraces?

Carved out from the slope of a mountain, the Moray terraces are undoubtedly an architectural wonder.

Each of these terraces has been reinforced with stones, as well as soil to allow for better water drainage.

Research in the area also suggests that the Incas imported soils from different regions of Peru to fertilize the terraces, providing even more evidence to support the crop experimentation theory.


Best Time to Visit Moray

The Moray ruins are located in the Sacred Valley, northwest of Cusco. They have a tropical mountain climate and sit at an elevation of 11,500 ft (3,500 m) above sea level.

The climate at the site is fairly stable throughout the year, but temperatures can vary quite significantly between day and night. Snowfall is rare and the temperature rarely drops below 30-50 F (1-8 C).


Dry Season vs Wet Season

Just like the rest of Peru, Moray has two different seasons – dry and wet.

The dry season runs from April/May and lasts until October. This is a great time to visit as during the day there is plenty of sunlight and a generally low level of precipitation.

couple standing at moray ruins

With an optimized itinerary, it’s still possible to avoid the crowds when visiting Moray in the high season. 


Traveling during the dry season is quite pleasant, but it’s still worth noting that this is also the peak tourist season in Peru and the sites might be more crowded.

The wet season is from November to March. Even though the season is characterized by heavy rainfalls, it offers a unique view of Moray that displays infinite variations of green.


How to Adjust to the Altitude

Going higher in elevation, and doing so quickly, causes you to start taking less oxygen per breath, essentially causing altitude sickness. This can lead to unpleasant symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and shortness of breath.

Moray and Cusco sit at similar altitudes. If you’ve spent a couple of days at Cusco, visiting the ruins should not be a major concern. That said, learning how to avoid altitude sickness is still essential for avoiding side effects caused by altitude sickness.

Some tips to help you adjust better include:

  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Getting enough rest
  • Eating light meals
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Drinking coca tea


What to do in Moray

Moray is absolutely spectacular to see but it is also a great place to have an adventurous trip at. In fact, together with visiting Ollantaytambo and the Pisac ruins, exploring the Moray area is one of the top things to do in the Sacred Valley in 2022.

moray ruins

There are various activities that can be combined with the visit of the Moray ruins.


Along with offering incredible insights into the Inca culture, the area hosts a number of great activities. Here’s a quick overview of four exciting things to do in Moray.


Mountain Biking

Moray is situated in the Sacred Valley – a dream destination for any adventure seeker.

One of the most adrenaline-boosting ways to visit Moray is on a mountain bike. Joining a mountain biking tour is a great activity for anyone who wants to explore the area off the beaten path. Regardless of whether you opt for a tour or a private adventure, there are different routes that you can follow to enjoy the spectacular landscape.


ATV Tours

Another exciting way to explore the Moray area is by hopping on an ATV tour.

ATV tours start at Chinchero (an hour away from Cusco) and take you to Moray, as well as the Maras salt mines – a stunning set of salt wells formed as a result of a natural process of salinization in the rivers and stress in the Andean region.

girl on atv

Our client enjoying the ATV tour in Cusco’s Sacred Valley.


Remember that reputable ATV tours come with an experienced guide who shows you the highlights and ensures your safety.


Horseback Riding

Horseback riding is a popular activity around Moray. You can join a riding group in the Andean community of Piscuyo. From there, you’ll embark on a 1-hour uphill ride where you’ll get to enjoy the highest point on the trail and the surrounding mountain peaks.

The path continues along the mountain plateau and leads to the Moray ruins.


Eat at the MIL Restaurant

MIL is a restaurant located on the edge of the Moray ruins. Established in 2018 by chef Virgilio Martinez, MIL is a unique spot that definitely deserves a visit.

Inspired by the ruins’ history, chef Martinez continues the agricultural experiments that the Incas began centuries ago. At the restaurant, you can enjoy innovative dishes with high-quality, local ingredients.

restaurant at moray

You can find various delicious options at the MIL restaurant.


The MIL restaurant offers a 2-3 hour food experience, including an 8-course tasing menu that is bound to satisfy your taste buds and give you a real taste of the Andes.


Don’t Miss Out on This Amazing Site

When visiting the Sacred Valley, a visit of Moray is an absolute must. If you have any additional questions about this site or about our Sacred Valley tour, feel free to message us.

Ready for more adventures in Peru? Check out the 10 best things to do in the city of Cusco.

  • 6 July, 2022 at 9:52 am

    This place sounds incredible and the history is just WOW! The Sacred Valley tour will be definitely on our list as it should help with getting used to the altitude. Any other recommendations for not becoming sick?

    • 7 July, 2022 at 11:21 am

      Hello John! Yes, this tour is the perfect combination out of history and stunning landscapes. In addition to that, you’ll get used to the altitude and learn important things about the Incas. However, feel free to read our blog post about how to avoid the altitude sickness. Let me know if you have any other questions.

      Team Exploor

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