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A Day Trip to Moray and Salinas de Maras: The Surreal Sacred Valley

A Day Trip to Moray and Salinas de Maras: The Surreal Sacred Valley

The Scared Valley was the heartland of the Inca civilization and today it’s the tourism epicentre of Peru. Machu Picchu takes most of the headlines, and rightly so, but there are so many other ancient sites worth visiting. We used Cusco as a base to explore the Sacred Valley and the day trip to the agricultural ruins of Moray and Salinas de Maras (salt mines) was a highlight. Here’s a quick look at what you’ll see if you decide to skip the widely advertised Sacred Valley tour and do this day trip independently (or book a tour here so I get a cut!).

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We walked to the bus station in Cusco (there are a few different ones so check with someone at your hotel) and hopped on a bus headed for Maras. We got off at a turnoff where there were several taxis waiting. We hired one (40 soles) for a few hours. You could walk but it’s a long way and the taxis are good value, especially if you’re travelling in a group. We arrived at Moray, showed our Boleto Turisticos (a ticket which gets you into a lot of Sacred Valley sights) and came face to face with the dramatic concentric terraces of Moray. They look like crop circles — apparently they were a kind of agricultural laboratory where the Incas tested different crop growing techniques. There are two large circles and another smaller one.

Interested in taking a tour? Check out these Sacred Valley tours on Get Your Guide!

A day trip to Moray and Salinas de Maras, Peru

We walked down to ground level and back up the other side where the snow-capped mountains provided the perfect backdrop. I’m not sure how long you’d get to spend there if you went as part of a tour, but you need at least an hour to look around properly. The Moray archaeological site is very different to the other ruins that we visited in the Sacred Valley and the scenery alone makes it worth a visit.

A day trip to Moray and Salinas de Maras, Peru -- Terrace ruins of MorayA day trip to Moray and Salinas de Maras, Peru -- Moray mountainsA day trip to Moray and Salinas de Maras, Peru -- Moray market

The road between Moray and Salinas de Maras

The best thing about hiring a taxi for a few hours is being able to stop whenever you want. We drove down a stretch of road lined with crops and backed by giant snow-covered mountains. It was one of the best views that we saw in Peru and it would have been annoying to just drive past it in a tour bus.

A day trip to Moray and Salinas de Maras, Peru -- scenic road

Salinas de Maras (Salt Mines)

Another advantage of having a driver is that they generally know the good viewpoints. We stopped at the side of the road to see the salt mines spread out below us — you can really see the scale of this man-made wonder from above.

Salt at Salinas de Maras, Sacred Valley, Peru

Entry to Salinas de Maras cost us 10 soles each. This place gets pretty busy and after a short walk you’ll soon realise why. Small squares of salt fill the valley for as far as the eye can see, and the fact that this place has been around since before the Incas makes it even more impressive. You can walk along some of the salt squares and watch the local workers toiling away. There are several viewpoints where you can get some cool photos and also a market selling salt statues, bags of salt and other souvenirs. After exploring the salt pans it was time to head back to the main road, where we caught a bus back to Cusco. Our day trip to Moray and and Salinas de Maras had been a success; we explored some really unique historical sites, saw dramatic Sacred Valley views and didn’t spend too much money.

I’ve heard reports that some parts of the salt mines are closed and you can only really see it from the viewpoints — let me know what the story is if you’ve been recently!

Maras salt pans, Sacred Valley, PeruA day trip to Salinas de Maras, Peru

If you’re heading to Cusco / Machu Picchu try and spend a few extra days in the area and visit some of the other Inca sites. As well as Moray and Salinas de Maras there’s Ollantaytambo, a little Inca town towered over by a hilltop fortress and Pisac, a collection of well preserved stone settlements built on rocky hills.

Where to Stay in Cusco: Hotel Pension Alemana | Estancia San Blas | Hosteria de Anita

Are you planning a trip to Peru? Let me know in the comments below!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.

Jonathan Mejia

Wednesday 23rd of January 2019

Hey Jon,

Just wondering where the bus station would be located in Cusco and also how much did the bus cost to get to Maras?

Thank You!

Jon Algie

Friday 25th of January 2019

Hey Jonathan, I can't remember exactly but it wasn't too far from the old town -- just ask someone at your hotel etc and they should be able to tell you. It cost a couple of dollars from memory -- it's a pretty short ride. Enjoy the trip!

chaomei guo

Friday 21st of December 2018

Hi Jon, Are there taxi to Moray from Ollantaytambo? Thanks.

Chaomei GUO

Jon Algie

Saturday 22nd of December 2018

Hey Chaomei, I'm not actually sure but I don't see why not. Just bargain with the drivers there and it should be all good.


Thursday 21st of June 2018

Thank you! Planning a trip shortly and this will come in handy. I'm not sure if you're still keeping up with this blog/comments, but how was the taxi drive (duration/time/vomit inducing curves)?

Jon Algie

Tuesday 26th of June 2018

Hey Linley, I can't remember much about the taxi ride but I think it was pretty straight forward. Enjoy the trip and let me know how it went if you remember. Thanks!