A popular day trip out of Cusco is a visit to Salinera de Maras, also known as the salt flats. It will get you to the Urubamba Valley to get a glimpse of some incredible sights of the Cusco area outside the city center. The drive alone through the villages is spectacular, with stunning landscapes of green mountains, rivers, and little houses all throughout the countryside. There are alpacas and llamas roaming the fields, along with all sorts of other farm animals.
The salt flats are a checkerboard of different salt pans owned by different families, and they are a cool thing to see as part of the exploration of the Sacred Valley.
To get to Maras from Cusco, you’ll want to take a group bus, also known as a combi. It costs 5 Peruvian soles or about $2 USD. Catch the bus in Cusco from the stop at Avenida Grau N° 496. From here you can take a taxi to Maras to see the salt flats, or negotiate to have them drive you around for a full day to see other nearby sights like Moray and Pisac. Try to haggle with them for a good price – a lot of drivers will try to overcharge.
These salt pans have existed on the hillside since the Inca days centuries ago. The salt water runs down from the mountains and fills the pans, and then over time, the water evaporates, leaving behind the salt. They’ve used this method of mining for salt for over 500 years, and the views are incredible. The salt flats charge a small entry fee to go in, and you can hire a tour guide or just enjoy a self-guided walk through the viewing area of the salt pans. You can also see the salty water of the river float by, depositing into each of the squares of the flats.
After walking through, you can purchase some salt from the mines as a souvenir as well as salt, something unique for when you’re cooking back home. There aren’t any restaurants around the actual salt flats, so I’d recommend seeking out a meal at a restaurant in Urubamba or another village of the Sacred Valley nearby. The Urubamba village is worth exploring, with cool streets and beautiful views of mountains surrounding it.
Tips for Visiting Maras
If you want to combine your visit with other stops – leave early in the day to give yourself plenty of time. If you want to just visit Maras, you only need half a day to see everything.
Bring water and snacks to enjoy while exploring, and wear sunscreen if it’s sunny out.
Be prepared to haggle with taxi drivers for a decent price. Be sure to specify what you want to see and where you want to go.
Don’t forget your camera! The views here are incredible. No drones are permitted over the salt flats.