The Sacred Valley winds through the Andes with dramatic scenery and is steeped in tradition and history. We had a full day trip planned for Chinchero, the Maras Salt Mine and Moray terraces.
Our first stop was Chinchero and sitting at over 12,000 ft elevation, it’s the highest point we visited in Peru. Both Laura and I managed to avoid the dreaded altitude sickness the entire trip! Chinchero is the center of weaving in the area and our driver took us to one of the many Co-op houses for a textile demonstration. It was very touristy but I enjoyed seeing the methods for cleaning and naturally coloring the yarn. They grated a local root to create soap which was pure magic!
Chinchero also has Inca ruins, a plaza with women selling souvenirs and a Colonial church built by the Spanish. We were there on a Sunday and able to visit the colorful local market where I tried a few sweet treats.
A short drive from Chinchero are the Maras Salt Mines, where the Incas discovered salt rich land in the 1400’s. The 3,000 pools here are owned by local families, each having a section to harvest salt. Salt is produced through an evaporation process and remains nearly the same as when the Inca created it all those years ago. The salt-rich stream flows down into the pools, which are opened and dammed individually. Once a pool is filled, the water is allowed to evaporate and the salt crystals are scraped off with simple tools. The salt is bagged up, packaged and sold in local markets. We sampled a few varieties but Maras is one of four places in the world where pink salt is produced, so we picked up a few bags to take home!
This was maybe the 2nd busiest place we went in Peru but being so beautiful and spectacular, it’s easy to see why. A few days after our visit, they permanently closed off the walking paths through the ponds due to tourist damage.
After a stop for lunch, our driver took us to the Inca site of Moray. What look like amphitheaters are really a collection of agricultural terraces. It’s believed the Incas used these terraces as a laboratory of sorts, experimenting with micro climates for crop production. Their depth (the largest being 98 feet) and orientation to the sun create a temperature difference of as high as 27 degrees from top to bottom. They also never flood, even in Peru’s rainy season due to underground drainage systems. The Inca’s were so clever!
It was a long day of sightseeing but so worth it!
Next up – Machu Picchu!