Approximately 69 kilometers out of the city of Cusco are the wonderful tourist attractions (Agricultural Laboratory of Moray and The Salt Mines of Maras) located in the district and province of Urubamba.
Moray is a Quechua word and names a sector occupied by the peasant communities of Misminay and Kaccllarakay. It is a system of terraces in concentric form constructed in three gigantic holes located at different levels. The largest hole contains 12 circular terraces with variable diameters, whose approximate depth is of 100mts. Each terrace has walls of artificial irrigation channels and drains. It is said that this place, in the time of the Incas, was a center of agricultural experimentation. It was possibly a center of production of seeds in diverse climates, since the layout of its platforms produces up to 20 micro climates that cultivate more than 250 vegetal species.
Moray is a kind of amphitheater formed by terraces on top of each other that offer a truly fascinating spectacle.
The archaeological remains of Moray are located 7 kilometers from Maras, in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, 38 km northwest of Cusco. It is possible to reach Moray via the road that leaves from the village or directly from a detour from the main road.
It was discovered in 1932 by the expedition of Shirppe Johnson as he flew over the area. Each circle includes a terrace that overlaps another, forming circles that are expanding. It can be accessed from one to another by climbing protruding stones (sarunas), nailed to the wall.
Scholars researching the area believe the most likely explanation is that Moray was an Inca agricultural research center where crop experiments were carried out at different heights. Due to their sheltered position, each of these platforms represents approximately 1000 meters of altitude under normal tillage conditions. The layout of their platforms produces a gradient of microclimates- the center of concentric circular platforms have a higher temperature which is gradually reduced towards the outer rings, thus being able to simulate up to 20 different types of microclimates. It is believed that Moray may have served as a model for calculating agricultural production not only in the Urubamba Valley but also in different parts of the Tahuantinsuyo.
The platforms were built on retaining walls and were filled with fertile soil and irrigated by complex irrigation systems, cultivating more than 250 plant species. These platforms served as Inca agricultural laboratory to experiment with their crops. Moray contains history and scenic beauty.
Maras Salt Mines
The Salinas de Maras is located in the Sacred Valley. Salt has been produced here in a totally natural way with a beautiful landscape since the time of the Inca. There are approximately 3 thousand small pools of various sizes where the salt water that comes from the mountain “Qaqawiñay” is stored during the dry season between June and October. The wells are filled with water every three days so that the sun evaporates the water and the salt remains. Currently, the salineras belong to the community of Maras, and the salt is used for consumption and export to several countries as a gourmet product.
The Maras Salt Mines are a natural site highly recommended for lovers of photography. It is also ideal for the practice of trekking, mountain biking and quad biking which are available through many tour agencies.
This town, located between the hills of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, is close to the mountain of Weqey Willka, the place where according to legend, would have been where the Ayar brothers imprisoned Ayar Kachi, the smallest of the Ayar Brothers, who arrived at Cusco to found the Inca Empire because they were jealous of his supposed magic powers. According to the story, he wept so much due to the betrayal of his brothers that his tears turned into crystals. The crystals are now spring water that runs through an underground channel and fills the wells at the mines.
How to get there
The only way to get to these two splendid attractions is to take a tour with a tour agency or you can hire a taxi from Cusco to the Archaeological center of Moray and the Maras Salt Mines. Located to the north-east of Cusco, the journey will take about an hour.