6 REASONS TO VISIT LAS SALINAS DE MARAS IN PERU
As some of you know I was recently spent two weeks adventuring through Peru. When the trip was being planned, there were a few places that were on my bucket list - Paracas, Huacachina, Machu Picchu and the Nazca Lines. When the itinerary was confirmed, it was suggested I visit Las Salinas de Maras in Peru – ‘salt flats of Maras’. I had no idea what it was or where it was in Peru, so naturally I went straight online to do a bit of research. Needless to say my jaw dropped open and stayed that way for a very long time. So here are my top five reasons why you need to put Las Salinas des Maras on your Peru bucket list: FOR THE TOWN Maras is a town in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, just 40 kilometres north of Cusco. Accessible by paved roads, the drive through the Sacred Valley between Cusco, the surrounding towns and mountainous range is absolutely gorgeous.
FOR THE VIEW When driving through mountains to get to the salt flats, most taxi’s and bus drivers will pull over at the top of mountain and encourage you to jump out and take panoramic photos of the salt flats from above. With over 5,000 flats, the sheer size is astounding.
FOR THE HISTORY Since pre-Inca time, salt has been harvested in Maras by evaporating salty water from a natural underground spring. The stream is directed into an complicated system of miniature channels constructed carefully so that the water runs down and over thousands of terraced ponds. Working the salt ponds require a cooperative system which was established during the time of the ancient Incas.
FOR THE SALT As water evaporates from the sun drenched ponds, salt precipitates into various sized crystals on the walls and floor. Within a few days the caretaker of the salt flat carefully scrapes the dry salt from pond. Interesting to note, the colour of the salt varies from bright white to a light brown. This all comes down to the skill of the community tending to the salt flats.
FOR THE EXPERIENCE After taking photos from above, when you arrive at the car park at the bottom of the mountain head straight down to the flats. Don’t just walk around the flats on the dirt promenade. Get involved! Walk in between the salt flats, touch and taste the salt crystals, chat to the local Maras people harvesting the salt and get snap happy. Do note, only members of the Maras community can own salt flats and they can only be passed down to other members of their family. Should they wish to sell their flats, they must be sold to someone in the Maras community.
FOR THE COMMUNITY After adventuring around the flats, make sure to stop at the many market stalls on your way back to the car park. Most sell salt directly from the flats and are remarkably cheaper than what you’ll find in Cusco and Lima. The pink salt chocolate is to die for as is the salt bath concoction which includes a host of other herbs – perfect for a post 45km trek soak in the bathtub. I also found some of the best souvenirs at Las Salinas des Maras, including this handsome little toy lama.
So how do you get there? If you’re starting at Lima, book a flight Cusco. You could go by bus but I was told by several locals it can be long and treacherous. Even though a flight costs more, I recommend going by plane as it’s (obviously) a lot quicker. Once you’re in Cusco, either arrange a tour or pay a taxi to take you out for the morning. You shouldn’t need more than a couple of hours exploring the salt flats, which is a great reason to continue exploring the Sacred Valley.
All photos taken on my Canon EOS 70D.