bowl of pink salt

Las Salineras de Maras: Experience Traditional Salt Mining in Peru

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Last Updated on October 8, 2021 by Michelle Moyer

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Las Salineras de Maras: The Maras Salt Mines Ponds in Peru

Salineras de Maras are the ancient salt pans located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas in Peru.  We were able to tour the salt mines and walk the narrow salted paths between terraces. However, these paths are now closed to tourists due to the continued destruction of the salt mines.   It is a shame that tourists are causing such damage to it. It is a good thing that they are preserving this for the local people and I am honored that I was able to experience it closely before that opportunity ended.

Maras salt mines

Don’t Worry!!! You can still see these salt mines and take beautiful photographs from up above. The view of the salt mines is now only from the observation platform, but the paths are barricaded off. There is a 10 soles entrance fee (approx $3 USD) per person for this site, so be prepared with some Peruvian coins.

How is the salt made at Las Salineras de Maras:

The salt mines are expansive, thousands (like 3,000!) of shallow pools filled with saltwater that are strategically dug into the mountainside. There is a beautiful viewpoint on the road that leads to the salt mine entrance.

View over Las Salineras de Maras

The salt pans themselves are man-made and the water that is channeled through them comes from a natural spring which mixes with salt deposits from prehistoric salt lakes.

The pools evaporate, or the water supply is closed off, leaving behind the crystallized salt, which has been harvested by the indigenous people for more than 500 years – pre-dating the Inca civilization.

Salt pool at Maras Salt Mines
Salt in the Maras Salt Mines

Today the local community has exclusive mining rights to over 6,000 salt pans near Maras. Each pan is no more than 13 square feet, less than 1 foot deep and is owned by a local family to collect salt to sell in local shops and nearby towns.

local harvesting salt in Las Salineras de Maras
Harvesting salt in Las Salineras de Maras

I would have loved to have talked to the locals to hear their version of the salt mining, however, we didn’t take a tour and had no translator, so the conversation would have been very one-sided.

Our walk through the salt mines was on narrow pathways.  It amazed us that there were no guardrails.  The overlook that we walked along was elevated above the next salt pool level and it would have been quite a fall! 

View along the Maras Salt Mine pathway – now closed

The harvested salt has a pink hue to it due to all the minerals like silicon, magnesium, calcium, and potassium that it contains.

We walked the entire lower pathway and did the return path that overlooked it. 

path in the Maras Salt Mines
End of the Maras Salt Mine pathway – now closed

We saw other tourists that did not stay on the pathway, thus contaminating the salt. It put a damper on our happy mood and was a grim foreshadowing of the impending closure of this amazing site.

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When to go to Las Salineras de Maras:

Las Salineras is open every day from 8 am – 5 pm. The parking lot is small and often crowded so get there early to avoid congestion. The officials typically regulate the traffic well so that it seems to flow.

How Much is Las Salineras de Maras:

Bring cash for your 10 soles entrance fee to Las Salineras de Maras. Credit cards are not accepted at the entrance or at the market stalls. This stop is not included in the Boleto Turistica.

Better yet, get a TOUR to Las Salineras de Maras. This will be beneficial all around as you are picked up at your hotel and driven right to the salt mines. Often there are other sites included on the tour so you can get a lot of sightseeing done all at once!

Shopping at Las Salineras de Maras

On the pathway leading to the mines, there is a large shopping area with many stalls.  Many of the locals sell their harvested salt in pretty colors for the tourists to buy as a souvenir.  I bought my share of salt and will have it proudly stationed in shakers placed on an appropriate porcelain llama display.  

Shopping for salt at Las Salineras de Maras in the Sacred Valley of the Incas
Shopping for salt at Las Salineras de Maras in the Sacred Valley of the Incas

Where are Las Salineras de Maras Cusco:

Las Salineras de Maras Peru are located on the side of Qaqawiñay mountain and down a canyon that descends to the Rio Vilcanota in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. They are accessible along a paved road that winds along the mountains at the high altitude of 3,380 meters (11,080 ft) above sea level.

How to get to Las Salineras de Maras Peru:

Las Salineras de Maras are 40 km north or an hour’s drive from Cusco. You can hire a tour for a visit, but it is also very easy to get there on your own. From Cusco, you can take a taxi (approx $10 USD). Another option is a collectivo (public bus/van) for Urubamba. On this route, make sure to tell the bus driver where you are going and get off at the Maras stop. You may still need a taxi from that point since the mines are a 15-minute drive from town (approx 15 soles or $5 USD). If you are already in the Sacred Valley, a taxi from Ollantaytambo to Maras salt mines is an easy trip too.

Closure of Las Salineras de Maras pathways

What do you think about the community’s actions? The salt mines are an important resource for them. Should they have closed the walkway through the salt mine pathways or kept them open? Luckily, even with the paths closed, the vast expanse on salt pools is still impressive from a distance and tourists will still be able to enjoy their beauty from the observation deck.

For more reading material to take on your trip to South America:

Looking for more things to do from Ollantaytambo to Maras Salt Mines?

Check out this post: 10 OUTSTANDING THINGS TO DO IN OLLANTAYTAMBO, PERU

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Jamie

Oh wow! What beautiful pictures and descriptions. Putting this on my bucket list.

Annalisa

Wow I would love to go to Perù so much! I didn’t know about this place, I mean pink sal mines… you were so lucky to have the chance to visit! Thanks for the beautiful photos…

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