This is another famous half-day tour in the sacred valley that enables you visit the Inca’s agricultural laboratory and salt mines, both are very accessible from Urubamba.
Most organized Maras and Moray tours will take you first to the circular terraces of Moray. When you look from the upper part, it looks like a natural amphitheater.
These four groups of terraces have been built into a natural depression in the ground, all in perfect concentric circles; simply another master piece of Inca engineering.
For those visiting the ancient building by themselves, these terraces will be just another beautiful Incan site. For that reason, we highly recommend hiring a local guide that explains about all the historical significance of the visited places.
During the Inca Empire the main activity was the agriculture, and these terraces were used as an agricultural laboratory.
The circular terraces of Moray were built as an agricultural experiment stations where the ancient Incas acclimated and adapted a wide variety of crops to different microclines found in each level.
The sun and the wind creates a temperature difference of as much as 15-degrees Celsius between the top and bottom terrace.
They also built a sophisticated irrigation system that provided water from a nearby lake. During the heavy rainfalls the bowl-looking terrace never floods because they were built upon four different layers of smaller stones.
The former capital city of the Incan empire offers so many ancient Inca constructions that differ from one to another and visitors will never get bored with them. Similarly, Moray stands out as one of the most impressive achievement of ancient engineering and understanding of mother earth.
The Salt Mines of Maras is another highlight of the Sacred Valley attractions for most travelers.
If you have been to the salt flats of Bolivia and other similar destinations, the salt pans of Maras are exceptionally unique and out of this world.This square-shaped pools were strategically constructed on the hillsides of the mountain overlooking the Urubamba valley. These salt pans form a network of ancient salt deposits, built way before the arrival of the Incas.
The salty water comes from an underground natural spring, mixed with salt deposits from salt lakes, and smartly channeled into the thousands of salt ponds. During the dry season the strong sun heat evaporates the salty water very quickly, leaving behind deposits of salt crystals.
The local families from Maras have been extracting the salt for ages, and today they keep building more salt ponds. There are approximately about 3000 salt pans which provide salt to local markets in the region. Most villagers from Maras make a living from selling salt and farming.
What is impressive is that these salt mines are part of a cooperative – and not a single owner – that has been around since the Inca times and each pond belongs to a member of the community, the size depending on the family.
The salt produced here is called the Andean Salt and has different colors and each has different uses too. By instance, some are table salt, some are for cooking, for preserving meat and also for bathing.
A bus tour will always include a short stop for a textile demonstration in the picturesque village of Chinchero. This Andean villages is known locally as the ‘birthplace of the rainbow’, but you can see this only during the rainy season.
Chinchero’s major tourist attraction is the Sunday market, which also sells colorful weavings like all artisanal markets, but less touristy than the one at Pisac.
This village is actually a home to traditional weavers and you will have the opportunity to attend a weaving demonstration and the honor of having a local member explaining only in English.
You will learn how natural colors can be obtained from nature. They mainly use leaves, minerals, lemon and even dried bugs to get all the required colors.
The weaving studios of Chinchero usually gather local skilled ladies that help each other. They will show you how wool is washed, dyed and spun, all while you are enjoying a hot coca tea.
The Andean Textiles Centers of Chinchero also sells alpaca and vicuña garments. i.e. Jumpers, blankets and table runners.
At this place you can also find an Incan archaeological site, once a farmland and resting point of Tupac Inca Yupanqui. The Incan archaeological park includes many groups such as the religious sector, the residential sector, the agricultural sector, many of which still in use today.