Immersed in the impressive Andean beauty of the Sacred Valley, the Salt Mines of Maras offer a new look at surprising Inca ingenuity and skill. The salt encrusted ponds at Maras look like a blanket of snow covering the side of the Qoripujio mountain in the distance. It is a spectacular sight. Each of the more than 3,000 pools have various shades of white to brown. Maras Salt has been collected since pre-Inca times, and travelers are invited to see this centuries-old tradition at work.
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 their 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, the maras salt mines 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 AD. Most of these pools, built along the steep slope of Qoripujio Mountain, are no more than 5 square meters and 30 centimeters deep.
During the 12th century and the mid-14th century, the Inca empire took over the Maras operation. 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 Maras salt mines was given to families living in the nearby community of Maras. The same salt extraction process used by these families during Inca times has been passed down 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 who originated the great empire of the Incas: The god Wiracocha made these brothers come out of a cave to found the great empire. Ayar Cachi threw a stone at the mountain, forming a ravine. Then his brothers, fearing his strength and power, deceived him in the cave, preventing him from being the founder of the empire. The tears of this character formed the pools that later the dry sun formed the salt flats.
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