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Chapter 2

The Salt Pools of the Sacred Valley

Salt Pools of the Sacred Valley

The Salineras de Maras, (Salt Pools of Maras) are a group of several thousand salt evaporation ponds that have been “mined” for salt by the local people for thousands of years, since as far back as 200 AD, many years even before the rise of the Incan Empire.

At over 3,200 msl the salty spring of Qoripujio bursts forth to carve out the Qaqahuiñay Gorge.The salty water has been cleverly directed by ancient intricate channels leading to the myriad salt catchment pond systems. Thus the valley’s steep slopes have been carved, massaged, and terraced into thousands of white, slightly pink, and light brown polygonal pools shimmering with the reflection of the surrounding red earth.


 Here the past lives on vividly in the present. 

Ancient and sustainable symbiosis with Mother Nature continues through the eons. Earth providing life in the the mineral form of salt and (hu)man’s ancient ingenuity and engineering used to depend on her. A prime display of harmony with La Pachamama.

Geology of the Region

The geology of the area is not fully understood and is the subject of ongoing debate. There are certain scientific ideas that seem probable but as is the case across much of Peru, the reality seems more mysterious than the stories. And as happens with many mysteries, extraordinary stories are born. Stories that display the intimate connection between (hu)man and nature. How indeed did a river of salt spring forth from the Earth and how did we figure out how to harness that water into life-giving salt? The most probable explanation seems to be something called "dryland salination". The Andes Mountains lie at a convergent tectonic boundary where two massive tectonic plates are colliding and crashing to form this expansive cordillera. This creates cracks in the subsurface that get filled with water. Now this water would typically be sucked out of the ground by the roots of trees but at above 3,000 meters of altitude there are not many trees to be found. Therefore this water stays stagnant underground and absorbs all of the surrounding minerals making a salty water that finds its way to the surface in Maras.


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