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The Maras Salt Mines or Salt Ponds in 2023

The Maras Salt Mines: Explore one of the best attractions of Salineras de Maras

Explore the fascinating Maras Salt Mines in Cusco. Learn about Salineras de Maras, including their history, how to get there, when to go, and more!


A visit to the Sacred Valley is an essential part of your exploration of the Inca Heartland in Peru. Indeed, there are plenty of ruins to visit and slopes for hiking, but one must-see attraction are the ancient salt pans, known as the Maras Salt Mines, or Salineras de Maras.


¿Have you ever imagined seeing salt mines in the middle of the mountains at an altitude of more than 3000 meters above sea level?

The strategy of digging deep into the mountainside, thousands of shallow pools filled with salt water. They eventually evaporate and leave behind a salt that crystallizes. These salt marshes have been operating for more than 500 years. To this day, they are mined by local families to make their special and beloved Peruvian pink salt.


Disclaimer: Peru restricts tourist access to the Maras salt pans. As of June 15, 2019, tourists are prohibited from entering the crystallization pond area due to contaminants found in the salt. Tourists can still learn about the salt flats with a guide and be taken to breathtaking viewpoints.


History of Salineras de Maras

Salineras de Maras, or Maras salt mine, dates back to pre-Inca times. They are also the largest pre-Hispanic salt mines in Peru. Historians do not know exactly who created the mines and when. However, archaeologists have found evidence of civilizations in the Maras from around 700 BC. Of course, when the Incas came to power, they oversaw the salt production of the area.


Surprisingly, however, the Spanish conquistadors never took over the local salt production. Even after the Conquista incident, people continued to maintain salt ponds in Maras. Indeed, since they were created, salt mining has never stopped in the Maras.


Until now, only residents of the Maras and Pichingoto communities controlled the salt mines. The individual ponds belong to the families living in these communities. They are then passed on from generation to generation. Also, when someone gets married in the community, a new pond is created for the new couple.


What is Maras?

Maras is a salt mine located in the mountains of Peru that has over 3000 small salt lakes that were used by locals even before the rise of the Inca Empire. The salt mines are located on the hillside and are supplied by a stream of saline water that flows through each basin through a system of irrigation canals.


The salt mines of the Maras mean ancestral traditions and customs to locals, and even today, a source of income and work for neighboring communities.


Where are the Maras salt mines?

Salt Mines is located about 50 kilometers northeast of Cusco, 3200 meters above sea level, and offers spectacular views of the Sacred Valley of the Inca.


The salt mines are located downstream of the Salineras, which flows directly into the Vilcanota River, between the rural communities of Maras and Pichingoto, and between the hills of Qaqawiñay, Cruz Mocco, Llully Mocco and Chupayoq.


How to get to Maras Salt Mines from Cusco City

To get to Maras you will have to take a bus or any other type of ground transport, so you can get there early enough to start your journey. The salt mines are located 10 km from Maras town, 26 km from Chinchero and 16 km from Urubamba, so you should find it fairly easy to get there from any of these.


What the salt mine lakes look like

There is a collection of small lakes built by the ancient Peruvians and in total there are more than 3000. They are built in the form of staggered steps on the hillside of Qaqawiñay. They have an area of ​​​​about 5m2 each, in shallow water and together occupy an area of ​​​​about 1500m2.

These basins were constructed of mud that demarcated each basin and were provided by an irrigation system that evenly distributed water, which, according to the inhabitants of the city, was of pre-Inca origin. It’s amazing how the pools and water recirculation systems are still intact and in perfect working order to this day.


Why visit the Maras and local communities

When you decide to travel, you can choose the type of experience you want to have. You can go shopping or choose to have an incredible experience where you not only visit another country, but you really get to know the people, their customs, their traditions and all their history, History behind each archaeological site, monument or city.


When you visit a community like Maras, you contribute to the local economy and create benefits for the families that are a part of it.


Is a Cusco tourist ticket necessary to visit the Maras?

The entrance ticket to Maras is not included in the tourist ticket for attractions in Cusco, that’s why you can’t prepay. Buy our package to do the tour Maras and Moray, which includes certified transport and guides, and explore the concentric terraces of Moray used as a hub for agricultural research. The salt mine entrance fee is S/.10 and is to be paid locally. We invite you to make your plans come true, just by clicking here: Visiting the Maras and Moray


Peruvian Pink Salt

Peruvian pink salt is hand-harvested from the beautiful salt ponds of the Maras. Local families mine and sell salt at local and on-site markets to the many tourists who drop by each day. The salt itself has a beautiful pale pink color and a rough, irregular texture. It has a milder and more complex flavor than table salt and is the perfect addition to any culinary creation. Use it to season meats, vegetables and potatoes!

How to get to the Maras Salt Mine

The best way to explore Maras Salt Mines is in a Tour.

First, remember that you can add the Maras Salt Mine to any of our Peru and Machu Picchu tour packages, where you’ll be picked up directly from your Cusco hotel for your savory adventure. The salt mines are about 30 miles from Plaza de Armas de Cusco and take just over an hour to get there. After an engaging tour with a professional local guide, you’ll be returned to your Cusco hotel or if you continue, your Sacred Valley hotel. A pre-arranged tour is undoubtedly the easiest and most popular method of getting to the salt mines.



If you’re looking for an adventure and want to get there the local way from Cusco, take public transit. First, take a bus, combi (public shuttle) or colectivo (shared public taxi) to Urubamba. Let the driver know that you are getting off at Maras. Once in the Maras, you can either walk an hour to the salt flats or hire a taxi (about 10 minutes) to take you the rest of the way.


Best time to go

Time of year. The best time to visit Maras Salt Mines is during the dry season, between May and October. Ideally, this is also the best time to visit Machu Picchu and the Cusco region as a whole. The dry season means more pleasant weather and more beautiful colors. During the rainy season (December – March), the salt is more brown, while the dry season months (May – September) roll in the sun, the water evaporates and that brilliant snow color emerges. The dry season also brings better weather for horseback riding, mountain biking or hiking around the area.



Time of day. Maras Salt Mines opening hours are from 8am to 5pm. If you want to avoid the crowds, go when it’s open. Most groups don’t start to get crowded until around 9:3010. However, if you are looking for the perfect shot, photographers will say that late afternoon, when the light is more balanced, is the best time to take a photo that captures the unique color of the beak. . No matter what time you leave, you’re bound to have a pleasant experience and can always find peaceful corners away from the crowds.


Excursion Options

There are many ways to experience the majestic salt flats of the Maras. Whether you want to depart leisurely with a professional guide or explore the surrounding area by mountain bike, there’s a tour waiting for you.



For a sense of adventure, hop on a quad ATV and explore the Andean countryside. Make stops at the Maras Salt Pans and the Moray Archaeological Site. Safety briefing is included at the start of the tour.


Glide, prance and gallop on horseback through the picturesque landscape of the Sacred Valley. You will stop at many beautiful scenic spots, the highlight of which is the Maras salt basin in another world.


Mountain biking

The trails through the open landscapes of the Sacred Valley are an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. One of the most interesting routes going to Maras and Moray. The first stop is Moray, followed by Maras.



There’s nothing  like walking through the valley – admiring the sights, discovering lesser known gems and doing some cardio  at the same time. The half-day hike will stop at the Moray archaeological site and the ancient Inca Maras salt ponds.