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Ancient Salt Mines of Maras

Imagine the windswept mountains of the Sacred Valley of the Incas covered by red and pink-colored slopes and dotted by bleached-white snow webs. Now imagine your surprise when you realize that what you are actually seeing are hundreds of square-shaped terraced salt pans which cover the slopes of the hillside. These salt pans, known locally as Salineras de Maras, have been in use even before the Incas and are believed to have been built by the Chanapata people between 200 and 900 A.D.

The whole complex consists of several hundred terraced salt pans, most of them no more than thirteen sq. ft. in diameter and twelve inches deep, which are filled by the highly saline underground spring, known to the locals as Qoripujio, through an intricate network of tiny channels, which are designed to efficiently run down the slopes of the complex and fill all of them. The pink salt gets its exquisite hue from trace elements in the spring water, including calcium, magnesium, silicon, and potassium.

Today, as it was five hundred years ago in pre and Inca times, the salt pans are actively hand-harvested by local families during the dry season, May through November. Freshly-harvested salt and salt crafts are readily available for purchase at the site.

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