A GUIDE TO MARAS, PERU
A guide to the town in the Sacred Valley of Peru on a trip to the Maras Salt Mines
Words: Emily Georgieva
Photography: Thomas Griggs
15 January 2019
The land in the Sacred Valley was worshipped and admired for its fertility. Throughout time, the locals have managed to maintain most of the initial culture, which originates from the place. The ancient charm still exists and can be seen through various aspects of the identity of Maras - from the traditional dresses that the locals still wear, to the rituals, which are still practised as well as the spoken languages and the spiritual ceremonies, which connect the locals to the Earth through their beliefs.
To explore the secrets of the Sacred Valley requires becoming familiar with Ollantaytambo. In the town a great deal of the pre-Inca and Inca Empire curves the atmosphere. Most of the buildings date back to those ancient times and initiate a respect to the magnificent Inca civilisation. It is easy to observe the roots of clever engineering through the water system, which brings water from one river, lets it flow down the hillsides and evenly distributes across the land what has become a clean, drinking water. Ollantaytambo keeps old-dating traditions alive and still celebrates parts of a culture dating back to the 13th century.
A short drive from Ollantaytambo and closely located to Cusco lies the town of Maras. There, around 8 centuries ago, the Incas developed a system to extract salt from the great salt deposits through the means of evaporation pools. This is a very well-thought through system, which makes the overall maintenance of the pool dependable on taking care of the individual salt ponds. This includes making sure that the water is clean, the walls are stable and functioning as well as keeping track of the filling, evaporation and extraction processes.
Maras is not only impressive because of the landscape, serving almost as a trail back in time to get a touch of the short-lived Inca Empire. The town is also preferred by hiking lovers as it serves as a connecting route to the villages of Tarabamba and Pichingoto. An easy route leads to the Sanctuary of Tiobamaba and the Moray archaeological site, known for its concentric traces - another mark that the Incas left as a reminder of their time. The complex system of circles represents architectural site where the Incas tested and put into practice several different agricultural techniques.
The town of Maras is a cultural phenomenon and one-of-a-kind. It is a place of a rare beauty as it still manages to connect travellers and locals to times that are long gone and an Empire which contributed greatly to shaping humanity and evolution.