Friday, July 15, 2011


Our last stop in the Sacred Valley was a spot on the western rim that I had been curious to visit for some time: the salineras (saltworks) at Maras.   The normal tour of the northern part of the valley passes through the market at Pisaq -skipping the ruins-, lunch at Urubamba, the ruins at Ollantaytambo, and the market and church in Chinchero- but I had instructed our hired driver -a really nice guy named Javier- to skip Urubamba and Chinchero- and make sure to get us to Maras.

The Maras saltworks have been in operation since Inca times and likely well before that.  One side of the little valley where they are located has been terraced and the terraces are filled with salt water that emerges from a single spring in the mountainside.

Each family controls 10 to 20 pans. The salt spring's water is channeled and diverted so that all the terraces' pans are filled, and the water is allowed to evaporate and the salt to concentrate, until it forms a layer thick enough to be harvested.  The salt is then bagged and shipped out to market, mostly for agricultural use, though some -mainly from the purer top layers is packed in small amounts, labeled, and sold in Cusco, and at the works themselves, for medicinal and culinary use.

We bought about a half kilo of salt to bring back to US with us and some to leave here in Lima.  The salt is not "sweet" like fleur de sel nor minerally like Indian kali namak.  The overall impression is of ... well, ... saltiness.

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