Maras and Moray are a non-traditional circuit that, in the last years, has been gaining importance for visiting Maras town and the Moray terraces system; Maras “Salt mine” can be seen all together or separately. Maras is a district in Urubamba province and can imply reached through an asphalted road from Cusco via Chinchero or Urubamba road. We can observe the mountain range next to Urubamba town with the snow-capped mountains.
About seven Km. / 4.3 miles away west of Maras, there is an archaeological site called Moray, unique in Cusco state. It is possible to reach it by car on the dusty road and walk off in Maras town. That Inca site comprises enormous natural depressions or hollows in the ground surface, which the Incas built watered farming terraces. What is surprising about those hollows is the average annual temperature between the top and the bottom of the holes, which reaches about 15°c / 59°F in the most profound depression, about 30 meters /100 feet deep. Pachamama has created an isolated environment in those natural formations, so people’s conditions or microclimates in greenhouses or hothouses in modern times.
Therefore, Maras and Moray is a prototype of a greenhouse or experimental biological station, very advanced for its time which helped that the ancient American Man could leave for humankind about 60% of the vegetable products consumed in the present time. So that Andean – man could drink three thousand different potato varieties, one a half hundred maize varieties, and many other rich products. Nevertheless, there are still many enigmas about this site because of the lack of serious scientific research that could clarify them.
The structures here are typically Inka, although some authors hint that they belong to earlier times, at least about the lower terraces. One of the enigmas is how the drainage for water flowing through the aqueducts worked; it is the hint that underground channels must be built at the bottom, allowing water to drain. It also hints that the base is settled over a very porous natural rock formation, enabling water to filter into the earth. The fact is that even at present, in those bottoms, no floods nor inundations take place during the rainy season. It is necessary to carry out serious studies to know the nature, species, quality, and other features of the vegetables cultivated here.
Maras, there was a pre-Inka settlement with a subsequent discontinued occupation; there are many pottery pieces of the Chanapata culture and obsidian scrapers and knives all over this area. Pedro Ortiz de Orue founded the town in colonial times. Its essential occupation began when the Cusqueñean Inca noblemen dispossessed their palaces in Cusco and moved away, settling in small towns like San Sebastian and Maras.
Likewise, during the war started by Manco, Inka was willing to get his Quechua nation back. Maras did use as a stronghold for invaders harassing the Ollantaytambo town, which the Inkas occupied for two years.
It was an enforced way for muleteers and their mule droves to transport tropical products, especially coca leaves, from the higher jungle to supply to the markets in the town and the country. This town did pronounce the Villa of Saint Francis of Assisi of Maras (Villa is a town with certain privileges). It had much more critical than the Urubamba settlement by that time, but it is now languishing due to its isolation from modern life development.
Maras have a church made of sun-dried mud bricks, typical in the village’s religious architecture, where the front patio, a cross-carved in granite, is located. Inside the church, some Cusqueñean school paintings represented the apostles, and some very nice ones by the Quechuan painter Antonio Sinchi Roca Inka, a native of Maras and painted carefully for its church. That painter was contemporary to Bishop Mollinedo y Angulo and became famous by the middle of the XVII century.
Northwest of Maras village, the famous Salt mine located, can be reached by walking the hiking trail or by car through a dusty road almost useless in the rainy season. The Salineras comprise about 3000 small pools 5 m2 wide each / 53.8 ft2 set in the “Qaqawiñay” mountain slope. The users fill those pools with salty water from a natural spring on the facility’s top. When that water evaporates, the salt contained in it slowly solidifies. That process will imply carried out for approximately one month until a considerable quantity of solid salt is piled up, which means about 10 cm. / 4 inches) high from the floor. That solid salt does beat thus granulated, then packed in plastic sacks and sent to the regional markets. At present, that salt implies duly treated with iodine for human feeding.
On the trail towards the Northwest and following the small valley, a small town called Pichingoto does already located in the Sacred Valley territory. It is also possible to reach Pichingoto by walking from the “Rumi Chaka” bus stop – located about seven km / 4.35 miles from Urubamba on the road toward Ollantaytambo.