Peru: Day Two in the Sacred Valley: Maras

Editor’s note: more of our travels from July 31st 2013. Enjoy!

After a great breakfast at the hotel, Valentin picked us up, and we headed up the switchbacks above Urubamba out of the valley towards Maras (switchbacks visible in panorama below -click to open full size in a new tab).
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One of the things that makes the Sacred Valley and surrounding areas so spectacular is the massive snow-capped peaks that seem to hover over you wherever you go.
The 17,000 foot snowy ridge of Nevado Chicon can be seen above Urubamba on the far side of the valley.

Golden hayfields as far as the eye can see cover the top of the Maras plateau, which sits at 11,000 feet.
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Farmers work crops and tend to livestock, while others carry heavy loads on their backs.

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The highest peak visible from the Maras plateau is Salcantay, rising over 20,000 feet above sea level, the 12th highest in Peru.

Maras Salt Ponds

Our first stop was the Maras Salt Ponds which are located in a narrow valley in the plateau and have been in use for over 500 years. Nearly hidden from view, they are only visible once you begin down the dirt road. (They can also be seen on the road to Ollantaytambo, but we’ll save that for later).

Salt water from a natural spring is carefully routed to the hundreds of ponds below. The water evaporates leaving salt which is collected and sold by local farmers. The ponds range in color from white to rust, with the walls of the ponds bright white from the salt deposits.

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We walked along a narrow path (on the left in the image above) across the top of the ponds.

We saw people working their ponds and gathering the salt into piles.

Looking back towards the entrance from the far end of the ponds:

The salt at various stages of evaporation:

The salt paparazzi were also busy at work:

We made our way back along the levee and headed for the famous Moray…

(to be continued)

Happy RTW Travels!