As you stand on the lookout balcony at the mines of Maras you see thousands of little pools of water. From a distance it looks like a giant field of snow, divided up into little sections.
You see, the mines of Maras are built for extracting salt. They’ve been serving that purpose for around 2,000 years now, and it is still one of the largest salt suppliers in the country of Peru.
Getting to Maras is no small feat. I’m guessing here, but I would say that 85% of the tourists to Cusco miss out on this beautiful site. If you were driving between Cusco and the Machu Picchu train station in the Sacred Valley, you would drive right past these mines without even knowing it. And the drive is my favorite part. En route to the salt mines you become a witness to the grandeur of the Peruvian Andes. You will most likely drive past Quechan farmers, harvesting Quinoa or guiding sheep along the side of the dirt road. There are a lot of photo opportunities.
The mines themselves are impressive. The switchbacks down the mountain provide bird’s eye views of the mines and then, once you’ve paid the small entry fee, you can walk down in and around them.
The mines of Maras are usually accompanied by a visit to the circular ruins of Moray. We like to bundle those two sites together and turn it into a half-day tour of the Sacred Valley.
Yeah, it doesn’t sound like much: salt mines. But when you’re standing in the middle of the Sacred Valley, looking at the mines, and at the glacier-filled backdrop, it is one of the most impressive views around Cusco.