Salineras de Maras – Sacred Valley – Peru
Just a 40 minute drive from Ollantaytambo there lies a remarkable natural phenomena – The Salineras de Maras.. Wedged between two red rock mountains, are hundreds of polygon salt pans cascading downwards. Many millenia ago, the entire area was submerged beneath the sea.
During the time that the Inca inhabited the valley, a subterranean river with a small outlet that runs between the two mountains was discovered. Recognizing that the water held an extraordinarily high salt content, the Inca built hundreds of pens to trap the water and harvest the salt. It’s a magnificent sight. Viewed from above, it resembles a painter’s color swatch of neutral tones, from blinding white, to ivory, to the palest shade of cognac.
We hiked down to the pens – then balancing on the narrow ledges between them – kept making our way downward so that we could get a view of this extraordinary sight from below. The only pop of color that punctuated this white other worldly landscape, was the clothing of an Andean woman, who together with her husband was engaged in harvesting the salt. They filled their bags, then hoisted them onto their backs and with their backs bent like bows, and the sure-footedness of mountain goats, threaded their way between the pens to deliver their cargo to the cooperative located uphill.