31 January, 2020
Immersed in the impressive Andean beauty of the Sacred Valley, the Salineras de Maras offer a new look at the amazing ingenuity and Inca skill. The salt-embedded ponds in Maras look like a layer of snow that covers the hillside of the Qoripujio mountain in the distance. It is a spectacular sight. Each of the more than 3000 pools have different shades of white to brown. The Salt of Maras has been collected since pre-Inca times and travelers are invited to see this centennial tradition in operation.
Maras is a town located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, where an ancient custom is still practiced: the use of pre-Inca salt pools. These incredible constructions continue to provide the city and our country with its pink salt, which has been recommended by experts as a healthy option to flavor foods due to its healing properties. In addition to their nutritional value, salt marshes are often visited for their spectacular scenery.
The first shallow salt ponds in Maras were probably built by the Wari civilization between 500 and 1100 A.D. Most of these pools, built along the steep slope of the Qoripujio mountain, are not more than 5 square meters and 30 centimeters deep.
During the twelfth and mid-fourteenth century, the Inca empire took over the operation of Maras. The Incas season and preserve their food with salt. They may also have used the mineral for mummification and other religious ceremonies. Ownership and management of individual salt mines were given to families living in the nearby community of Maras. The same process of salt extraction used by these families during the times of the Incas has been transmitted from generation to generation and is still practiced today.
Legend has it that the salty waters that flow from the mountain are the tears of Ayar Cachi. Within Inca mythology, this was one of the 4 brothers and sisters that originated the great empire of the Incas: The wiracocha god sent these brothers out of a cave to found the great empire. Ayar Cachi threw a stone into the mountain forming a ravine. Then his brothers, fearing his strength and power, locked him up with deception in the cave preventing him from being the founder of the empire. The tears of this character formed the pools that then the dry sun forming the salt flats.