Salt ponds of Maras in Peru's Sacred Valley of the Incas
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Incan ingenuity. Salt ponds of Maras, Peru
Peru's spectacularly beautiful Cusco region has plenty of Incan wonders waiting to be rediscovered. Take, for example, these ancient salt ponds, stepping their way down the mountainside in Maras, nestled in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. You'll find more than 6,000 of the little salt pans near Maras, many of them owned and mined by local families.
Salt is still harvested from the ponds through evaporation, just as it was in the 1400s when the Inca created the pools. Production is—pun sort of intended—seasonal. From May to October output is greater and of higher quality, and you'll see crystallized salt with its subtle pink hue. Maras salt is prized for its flavor and rough texture, and people swear by its healthy properties, too. The salt is sold in markets, and of course visitors are encouraged to take samples back home with them.
It's not far from Maras to Moray, another location where Incan ingenuity is on display. This time it's in the form of grass-covered stone rings believed to have been test beds for crop experimentation. The soil is from a few areas in the region, and studies show that the rings were designed to create microclimates to see what worked best for different plants.