Exploring the Ancient Salt Pans in Maras, Peru

You may be familiar with table salt, Kosher salt, or sea salt, but have you heard of Peru’s Maras saltsal de Maras (also known as Peruvian pink salt)?

Maras Salt is considered rose colored gold, which has beneficial properties for our bodies and a wonderful flavor. In recent years, this salt has quickly become the preferred ingredient for Peru’s top chefs.

Maras

Sal de Maras

The name, sal de Maras, is attributed to the place where the salt is extracted. Maras is located 11,090 feet (3,380 meters) above sea level in the Sacred Valley of the Cusco region. The salt pans were built between 200AD-900AD by the Chanapata culture, pre-dating the Incas, and are known in Quechua as Kachi Raqay. There are around 5,000 ponds which were used to supply the entire Inca Empire as well as the Viceroyalty of Peru. The salt held great importance for ancient Peruvian cultures as it was not only used for flavoring food, but also for medicinal purposes given that these beautiful pink crystals are 100% natural.

Maras Sacred Valley

Discover the Sacred Valley: Maras Salt Pans

But how did it all start? Usually, salt pans form near the ocean, meaning Maras was once covered by exactly that- an ocean! Each pond is about 54 square feet and is about 12 inches deep. An ancient spring water canal called Qoripujio feeds the ponds through a network of narrower channels that crisscross the complex, so when keepers want to fill theirs, all they have to do is open a notch to allow the salty water to come in. Once the pond is full, keepers leave it to dry in the arid Andean weather until the spring water evaporates completely. After it’s all dried up, the scraping of the pink salt crust begins – exactly how it was done centuries ago.

The salt mines have traditionally been available to anyone wishing to harvest salt. The owners of the salt ponds must be members of the community, and families that are new to the community wishing to propitiate a salt pond are generally assigned one of the ponds farthest from the community. The size of the salt pond assigned to a family depends on the family’s size. Usually, there are many unused salt pools available to be farmed. Any prospective salt farmer needs only to locate an empty, currently unmaintained pond, consult with the local cooperative, learn how to properly keep a pond within the accepted communal system, and start working.

Mountain Biking to the Maras Salt Pans

The sal de Maras is known as the healthiest and most nutritious salt on the planet, and can only be found in the Andes and the Himalayas. Health benefits of this mineral powerhouse include:

• Heartbeat stabilization and regulation, thanks to its magnesium and sodium content.

• Its sodium is essential for proper muscular function.

• Good quality salt helps minimize the effects of stress by maintaining proper melatonin, serotonin, and tryptamine levels in the brain.

• It helps remove cellular acidity, especially in the brain and kidneys and it helps prevent osteoporosis.

• It provides a buffer for blood sugar levels to help prevent diabetes or to help those who are diabetic use less insulin.

• It provides iodine in a natural setting, making it easier for the thyroid to absorb it and to regulate the endocrine system.

Maras

Maras Salt Pans

Do not miss the chance to visit this natural and historic wonder when you are exploring the Sacred Valley in Peru! Contact us about adding our 1-Day Maras Salt Mines and Moray near Cusco Tour to your next adventure to Machu Picchu and beyond (for those seeking more adventure do this tour on two wheels and pedal through these two amazing sites!) !

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Your friendly Peru expert,

Gretchen

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