Las Salineras De Maras : Exploring Peru's Sacred Valley
By Sydney Tong on April 28, 2017. Read time: 4 min.
Adding the Maras Salt Mines to our adventure was one of the best decisions we made all trip. We skipped the guided tour and decided to hike up to these ancient Incan salt mines on our own.
This beautiful trail enters the salt mines through the back entrance of the valley and skips the hustle and bustle of tour companies. We enjoyed the beauty of the terraced salt ponds on our own time for a fraction of the cost.
Located in Peru's Sacred Valley, Las Salineras feature hundreds of salt evaporation ponds. Each pond is approximately 4 square meters with an inlet and outlet for water.
Farmers direct water from a nearby salty spring to the ponds via an intricate system of channels. Water flows through the shallow ponds providing each pool with a new supply of salt water. As the water evaporates, they become supersaturated, and salt begins to collect on the walls. Once this begins, the farmer will plug up the inlet and allow the pool to dry out. After several days, the pond goes dry, and the farmer can collect the salt.
Taking a taxi will cost more and limit your time at the site.
There are a variety of transportation options from either Ollantaytambo or Urubamba. We were staying in Ollantaytambo and taking a taxi to the mines would have cost us 140 Soles. The driver we got the quote from wasn't going to wait long than 45 minutes, which isn’t enough time for us to do the hike, walk around, and take photos.
Close up to the salt crusted walls
Views from the top of the mountain into the valley
Close up to the geometric pools
A local woman walking to work
Bring sturdy hiking shoes and lots of water. Snacks are a great idea too!
We didn't like the idea of paying 140 Soles for a one-way trip, so we hopped onto a minibus (collectivo) to Urubamba for 5 Soles per person. It is the same minibus that takes people to and from Cusco. Our driver dropped us off at the Urubamba bus station. In hindsight, we could have asked him to drop us off at "Las Salineras."
From the Urubamba station, we hired a bicitaxi to take us to the entrance of the hike for 5 Soles. Our driver was kind and walked with us a bit through the neighborhood and drew us a map. The whole trip took about 45 minutes.
Arcos Iris Del Puente
From the road, you must walk straight through the neighborhood and at the end of the road take a right. When you see the "Arco Iris Del Puente" sign take a left. From here, walk straight until you cross the purple bridge.
Once you cross the bridge, you will need to pay the entrance fee, 10 Soles per person. Make sure you have the correct amount because they likely won't be able to make change for larger bills. Walk along the river and turn left to follow the houses towards the trail. It is straightforward from there as the path is well-marked.
This man is making a pond
There isn't a ticket counter or an official place to buy tickets. Someone should be around once you cross the purple bridge from whom you can buy your tickets.
The hike is steep but not very long, about 1.5 km. After several switchbacks and jaw-dropping views, you will turn the corner to see thousands of salt-filled ponds glistening under the sun. The hike enters Las Salineras through the back of the valley and is the road less traveled. This route gives spectacular views free of other tourists. Farmers are friendly and are open to answering questions about the process.
Some ponds are ready to be harvested.
About halfway through the salineras, stairs lead visitors to pathway around the ponds. Hike all the way to the entrance to buy some salt from the gift shop and see the spectacular view.
After hiking back down, getting a ride back to Ollantaytambo/Urubamba requires more patience. There aren't any bus stops so you will have to hail a bus or taxi to get a ride back. We caught a minibus in 15 minutes. It cost us 3 Soles per person.
Hiking towards the front.
By choosing to hike and ride buses, we spent a fraction of the cost. For the two of us, it would have cost 434 soles to take a tour of the salt mines. Had we hired a taxi, it would have cost 160 Soles, possibly more (340 Soles) if we needed to hire a taxi back to Ollantaytambo. We spent 36 Soles to get there on our own, and we had the freedom to go at our pace. Some people might point out that we missed the explanations of a tour guide. We talked with a farmer for quite a bit of time and asked questions about how the system works. In our case, it worked out just fine.
It is hard to choose what to do in Peru, and these salt ponds are on my "Do Not Miss" list. They are unique to the Inca people, can't be seen anywhere else in the world. The hike was great, and it felt great to stretch our legs. Seeing the different colors of the salt pools is a sight to see.
The money shot
Catching a ride home
This map shows the different points that you will encounter while traveling to and hiking Las Salineras. Zoom in on the map to see the different point and follow our exact hiking trail. Note that the GPS on our hike was a few meters off.
A perfect picture for sharing on Pinterest
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