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Mar 22, 2024



Above 3300 meters, there is a narrow stream that transports tiny salt crystals to over 3000 ponds. These ponds act as a natural oven, creating some of the purest salt in the world. This popular Maras Peru salt has been used since pre-Inca times for various purposes, not just for consumption.

Discover amazing facts about Peruvian gourmet salt and its ponds in less than 5 minutes through this blog!

History of the Use of Maras Peru Salt

Archaeological research suggests that the use of Maras Salt dates back to 800 BCE, as evidenced by the remains of human settlements around Maras. However, since the 6th century CE, the Wari Empire utilized Maras Peru salt to dry the fur of camelids and trade it with civilizations from Puno and Titicaca lake surroundings.

Then, the Inca empire flourished in the region from the 13th to the 16th century. They recognized the value of the natural salt resource and developed an intricate system of channels and terraced ponds, which still exist today, to harvest the salt from a subterranean saltwater spring. This ingenious system has been passed down through generations, surviving the colonial time thanks to the descendants of Tupaq Inka Yupanqui, who became owners of the salt ponds.

Finally, in 1969, the Peruvian government established the salt public company (EMSAL) to extract, produce, and manage salt across the country. But, in 1977 the communities of Maras and Pichingoto (where the salty stream is located) requested the re-administration of the Maras Peru salt mines. The government accepted their request in 1980.

The functionality of Maras Salt Mines

The salt harvesting process at Maras is a fascinating display of traditional techniques that have been perfected over centuries. Due to saltwater from a natural spring named Pichingoto is carefully channeled into a vast network of interconnected, terraced ponds carved into the mountainside.

After filling each 30-centimeter-deep pond, the owners leave the water inside to evaporate under the intense Andean sun. This process leaves behind crystallized salt that is ready to be collected, mixed with iodine, and sold.

Types of Maras Salt

The salt from Maras is known for its exceptional quality and unique flavor profile, earning it the nickname “Pink Salt of the Incas”. This artisanal salt comes in various forms, each with its own distinct uses:

  • Fine Salt (first layer): It is perfect for seasoning dishes and adding a subtle burst of flavor. Its finely ground crystals and delicate pink blush make it an ideal choice.
  • Semi-Coarse Salt (second layer): This variety features larger, irregularly shaped crystals with a slightly pink hue. It is prized for its crunchy texture and intense flavor, which is perfect for grilling meats.
  • Coarse Salt (third layer): Composed of large, solid chunks of salt, these salt stones are frequently utilized for facial treatments, bath showers, and skin care products.

Community Administration

The Maras Peru Salt Mines are operated by a cooperative of local families who have been involved in salt production for generations. This community-driven approach preserves traditional techniques and fosters pride and ownership among the people of Maras.

The cooperative distributes the salt ponds among its 3500 members, ensuring a fair and equitable system. Each family is responsible for maintaining and harvesting their assigned ponds, ensuring the continuation of this long-standing tradition.

Salinity of Maras Salt

Maras salt is outstanding for its low sodium content compared to regular table salt. Regular salt usually contains about 39% sodium, while Maras Salt contains only 27% sodium. This lower sodium level, combined with its unique mineral composition, gives Maras salt a distinct, slightly sweet flavor that sets it apart from other salts.

Meaning of Maras

According to Andean legends, near Pacaritambo or the ‘Abode of Procreation,’ there was a Tamputoqo or ‘Enclosure of the Windows’ with three sinkholes. One of them was called Maras Toqo, which means ‘salty cave.’.

Where is Maras Salt Used Around the World?

Maras Peru salt is a highly valued ingredient in kitchens around the world due to its unique flavor and quality. Renowned chefs and food experts alike appreciate this artisanal salt for its ability to elevate dishes with its delicate and complex flavors. It can be found on the finest dining tables from South Korea, Chile, Germany, the United States, Russia, Canada, Australia, among others, adding flavor to everything from gourmet meats and seafood to baked goods and desserts.

Best Time to Visit

Despite being a popular year-round attraction as well as Machu Picchu, the best time to visit the Maras Peru Salt Mines is during the drying season, which generally lasts from May to October. During this period, the skies are clearer, providing unobstructed views of the salt ponds and the surrounding Andean mountains. Nevertheless, even in the rainy season, the mines remain attractive but not clean at all due to mud over the ponds.

Location of Maras Salt Mines

The location of this place is in the Cusco Region of Peru, above the picturesque Sacred Valley of the Incas and among the plateau of Chinchero. It is situated approximately 41.4 kilometers (25.7 miles) away from Cusco city and 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) northwest of the town of Maras, nestled amidst the rugged Andean peaks that define the region’s breathtaking landscape.

How to Get to the Maras Salt Mines

The most recommended way to visit this stunning landmark is by taking the half-day Maras Moray tour, which is a brief excursion that allows you to visit three tourist attractions. Additionally, for those who love adventure and culture, there is another option: the Maras Moray tour by quad bikes.

Finally, a new alternative option that has become increasingly popular recently is the full-day paragliding tour in Maras. This upgrade offers an unforgettable experience, allowing you to feel the awesome Andean energy and take in the breathtaking landscapes from high above.

Whether you love history, food, or adventure, the Maras Salt Mines will amaze you and give you a deeper appreciation for Peru’s ancient cultures. Click here to start this adventure with us!

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