Town of Maras: Salineras de Maras (Peru)
Maras is a small town in the Cusco Region of Peru. Salineras de Maras, which date to pre-Incan times, are salt-evaporation ponds in the form of stepped terraces down a canyon that descends to the Rio Vilcanota and the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Town of Maras
Maras is a small town in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, located approximately 45 km (28 mi) north of Cusco, in the Cusco Region of Peru. It is a thriving community that has adopted tourism as its main activity.
The Spaniard Pedro Otiz de Orué founded the town. It is notable for its carved door lintels and quiet, narrow, picturesque stone and dirt streets with adobe houses and quincha and tile roofs. Many homes have a stone inscription of the year they were built and sometimes of previous and present owners.
The Maras area is accessible by a paved road from the main road through the Sacred Valley between Cusco and the surrounding towns.
In the Maras town center, facing the Andes is the large colonial church of San Francisco de Asís, built of stone, brick and adobe. The quaint old church, of gothic and Mudejar architecture, houses Cusquenian paintings that represent the last supper, Jesus and the apostles.
The town is well known for its salt evaporation ponds, located towards Urubamba from the town center, which have been used since Inca times.
Salineras de Maras
Salineras de Maras ("Salt Mines of Maras"), which date to pre-Incan times, is located about 4 km (2.5 mi) north of the town of Maras. The salt-evaporation ponds are in the form of stepped terraces down a canyon, descending to the Rio Vilcanota and the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Geologically, the movement of tectonic plates pushed the seabed up to form the Andes. The sea salt was locked into the rocks and eventually began to filter out through the Qoripujio spring. At the top of the valley, this hot spring discharges a small stream of heavily salt-laden water diverted into salt pans and evaporated to produce a crystallized pink or tan salt.
This small stream feeds the strategically dug ponds, each of which is approximately four sq m (43 sq ft), staggered down the valley in terraces. An intricate network of channels feeds the spring water into the ponds. The keeper of each pond lets water into their pool by opening a notch in the side wall.
While there is no transcribed record of the ponds' creation, they seem to have been passed down and expanded by a few owners over hundreds of years.
Each pond is approximately 30 cm (12 in) deep, and when it is full, the water is left to evaporate in the dry Andean air. When the pool has crusted over, the keeper uses a wooden baton to scrape up the salt, which is put in a basket to drain.
There are over 4,500 salt ponds, some owned by families and others left unused. They produce between 160 and 200 tons of salt per year.
In 2019, the Salineras de Maras ("Salt Mines of Maras") was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List due to its universal cultural and natural significance.