Nestled in the rolling hills of Sacred Valley, Maras and Moray are two of the most popular archeological attractions near Cusco. Located conveniently close to the tourism capital of Peru and the gateway to Machu Picchu, visiting the mysterious terraces of Moray and the historic salt mines of Maras is the perfect day trip for anyone visiting Cusco. In the article below, we’ve outlined everything you need to know to complete your journey to these two incredible sites!
- Maras and Moray: Incan Ruins and Salt Mines in Peru
- How to get to Maras and Moray from Cusco
- Details | Maras and Moray day trip from Cusco
Maras & Moray | Incan Ruins & Salt Mines in Peru
- Location | 1 hour 30 minutes from Cusco
- Walking distance | About 2 – 3 miles
- Epic-ness rating | 5.5
- Time | 5 – 6 hours (including transportation to/from Cusco)
- Cost | $15 – $25 per person
Located just over an hour from the chaotic streets of Cusco, the mysterious archaeological ruins of Moray and the ancient salt mines of Maras make a perfect day trip from the tourism capital of Peru.
Located deep in the Sacred Valley, the ancestral home of the Incan people, Maras and Moray are not only surrounded by majestic mountains and epic views, but the whole area feels like a trip back in time. As you drive out to Maras and Moray, you’ll pass through rolling hills of green pastures and golden, flowing wheat, with views of snow-capped peaks far in the distance.
Maras, or more specifically, the Maras Salineras (or salt mines), dates back to pre-Incan times, meaning the local people have been mining the salt for not only hundreds, but maybe thousands of years. The intricate matrix of hexagonal ponds are fed by a nearby saltwater spring, which evaporates over time and is eventually harvested for salt.
Just two miles away are the mysterious Incan ruins at Moray. These three amphitheater-shaped terraces are carved deep into the ground and were used by the Incans as agricultural laboratories more than 500 years ago.
Both Maras and Moray give a glimpse into what life might have been like some 500 to 1000 years ago. In many ways, you’ll feel like not much has changed!
Why you should visit Maras & Moray from Cusco
Visiting Maras and Moray is the perfect day trip from Cusco. In fact, you can probably experience both attractions and be back to Cusco for lunch.
Venturing to Maras and Moray was our first Peruvian experience outside the cobblestone streets and narrow passageways of Cusco. Soon after leaving the city, we found ourselves surrounded by vast farmland, rolling hills, and majestic mountains.
We loved seeing the mystical Moray ruins and taking guesses at what the oddly-shaped structures were used for. Even more than Moray, visiting the Maras salt mines truly felt like a step back in time, as people were out there mining the salt the same way it’s been done for centuries if not millenia.
Where are Maras & Moray?
Maras and Moray are located just a few miles from each other, both being about 1 hour and 15 minutes northwest of Cusco. They are located right in the heart of the Sacred Valley, which is the traditional homeland of the Incan people.
The map below displays the location of the Moray ruins and Maras Salt Mines relative to Cusco.
- To view more details about each location, click on the marker on the map.
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The Sacred Valley of Peru
Stretching from Pisac in the southeast to the iconic and mysterious Machu Picchu in the northwest, the Sacred Valley runs for 62 miles along the banks of the Urubamba River. The river winds its way through staggering mountain peaks, creating a fertile and verdant valley perfect for farming maize or corn.
In earlier periods, the Incan people mainly lived in the Cusco area. From approximately 1000 to 1400 CE, they slowly grew their influence across the Sacred Valley using both diplomacy and warfare as means to expand their territory.
The Incan people were drawn to the Sacred Valley due to the fact that it’s at a lower elevation than Cusco and is a perfect area for farming all sorts of crops, but primarily maize.
Today, the Sacred Valley remains home to many traditional Incan people, many of whom are still farming the land just as it’s been done for centuries. Throughout the Valley, there are a number of picturesque towns and ancients ruins, all surrounded by soaring mountain peaks.
Of course, the primary attraction in the area is Machu Picchu, but the entire Sacred Valley is worth exploring, especially Maras and Moray!
When to visit Maras and Moray
The best time to visit Maras and Moray is during the fall, winter and spring, from April through November. The summer months, December through March, are Peru’s rainy season, so it’s best to avoid visiting during this time for the best shot at clear weather.
How to get to Maras & Moray from Cusco
You have two options for getting to Maras and Moray. You can visit them either independently or as part of a tour group. Both options have their pros and cons which we’ve laid out below.
Whichever option you choose, your adventure to Maras and Moray will start in Cusco, the tourism capital of Peru and one of the coolest cities we’ve ever visited.
With a tour group
- Cost | $20 – $25 per person
- Time | 5 – 6 hours
- Book your Maras & Moray tour here!
Visiting Maras and Moray as part of a tour group is definitely the easiest and most popular option for seeing the two sites. If you go as part of a tour group, you won’t need to worry about transportation and a guide will lead you around each of the attractions, giving you interesting information and deepening your appreciation for the ingenuity of the Incan people.
There are tons of companies offering tours throughout Cusco, so you won’t have a problem finding a guide.
Most Maras & Moray tours last for half a day (5 – 6 hours), picking you up at your hotel and dropping you off near the historical center of Cusco in the afternoon, and cost between $15-$20 per person, not including entrance tickets (more details below) or food. Some tours also include a stop in Chinchero, which is a cute town known for its colorful market and Incan weaving.
If you want to extend your Maras & Moray tour, here are some fun alternative tour options available:
- ATV tour | Instead of taking a bus or van to travel between Maras and Moray, you can also book an ATV tour! Many of the roads in the area are unpaved and rocky, with sweeping views of the lush countryside and distant mountains, making it a great place to cruise around on an ATV. We saw some people on an ATV tour when we visited the Sacred Valley and we both thought it looked like a ton of fun. Read more about this option and book your ATV adventure here!
- Horseback riding | Another great option for visiting Maras and Moray is to go on horseback. This will take a bit more time and is more expensive (about $180 per person) but riding through the open farmland with views of nearby mountains sounds like an epic way to spend the day! You can book a horseback tour here.
- A full Sacred Valley Tour | You can visit Maras and Moray as part of a longer, full day tour of the entire Sacred Valley (minus Machu Picchu). You can book a full Sacred Valley tour here.
Visit Moras & Moray independently
- Cost | $10 – $40 per person (varies by # of people in your group)
- Transportation | Taxi
If going as part of a tour group doesn’t sound like your style, you can also visit Maras and Moray on your own. To do this, you’ll need to hire a taxi driver in Cusco who will drive you to either Maras/Moray, wait for you while you visit the first site, bring you to the next site, before bringing you back to Cusco.
When we visited Maras and Moray in May 2022, it cost 150 soles, which is equivalent to about $40 USD, to hire a taxi driver, although our route ended in Ollantaytambo, instead of back in Cusco (more on this below).
The good part about hiring a taxi driver and going on your on is that you aren’t tied to predetermined schedule like a tour group is, so you can spend as much or as little time at each attraction as you’d like.
The downside is that you won’t have a guide to give you all the interesting history and insights about each site. Either way, you really can’t go wrong!
Getting a taxi in Cusco
When we were doing our research before visiting Peru, we kept reading about getting taxis in Cusco and honestly we were a little anxious about it. But you don’t need to be – getting a taxi is Cusco is actually very easy!
Whenever we needed a taxi to bring us out of Cusco, we headed to the Pavitos area. This seems to be where all the taxis that bring people farther distances wait for passengers. J
ust plug “Pavitos” into your GPS or ask anyone how to get there and you’ll find it. It’s a little street near the San Pedro Market. You’ll know you’re there when you see all the taxis lined up.
That being said, there are tons of taxis zipping around every street in Cusco. You probably could convince any driver to take you to Maras and Moray for the right price but your best bet is definitely to head to Pavitos.
How much time does it take to visit Maras and Moray?
Most tours to Maras and Moray are half day adventures, taking about 5 hours. We visited both sites independently and it took us about the same amount of time. Below, we’ve listed all the different times you’ll need when planning out your trip.
- Drive from Cusco to Moray ruins | 1 hour 30 minutes (depends on your driver)
- Moray to Maras Salt Mines | 30 minutes
- Time at Moray | 30 minutes – 1 hour
- Time at Maras Salt Mines | 30 minutes – 1 hour
Maras & Moray tickets and entrance fees
If you’ve started to plan your trip to Cusco, you’ve likely read a little bit about the Cusco tourist ticket or boleto turistica del Cusco. This ticket allows you to enter most (but not all) of the major attractions in and around Cusco and the Sacred Valley.
Entrance to the Moray ruins is included in the tourist ticket but the Maras salt mines are not included. You will need to pay 10 soles per person to enter the Maras salt mines. There will be someone collecting money at the entrance station.
You will need to purchase a tourist ticket to get into Moray. It is not possible to buy an individual ticket just to get into the ruins. There are two boleto turistica options which include Moray:
- Full Tourist Ticket, which is valid for 10 days and costs 130 soles
- Partial Tourist Ticket Circuit III – Sacred Valley, which is good for 2 days and costs 70 soles. This ticket also allows you to enter the ruins at Ollantaytambo, Pisac, Moray, and Chinchero.
If you plan on visiting more sites in the Sacred Valley, we recommend buying the full tourist ticket. You can read more about the tickets here.
What to pack for Moras & Moray
Below are a few important items to make sure you remember to pack for your day trip to Moras and Moray from Cusco:
- Water and snacks (not provided by tour)
- Sun protection, including sunshirt, sunscreen, hat and sunglasses, as there is not much shade in the area.
- Cash | For the Maras entrance fee, purchasing snacks or water at the markets, and tipping your guide.
- Camera or GoPro to capture your experience.
- Comfortable shoes | Expect to do a decent amount of walking at both Moras and Moray
Maras & Moray | Day Trip from Cusco Details
In the section below, we’ll provide more detail about the experience of taking a day trip to Moras & Moray from Cusco.
We visited Maras and Moray in May 2022 on our way to Ollantaytambo. If you’re visiting the Sacred Valley, it’s almost a given that you’ll be visiting Machu Picchu. There are a handful of ways to reach Machu Picchu, but one of the most popular routes is to take a bus from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, where you’ll then catch a train to Aguas Calientes.
We had booked a train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes for later in the afternoon so had some time to kill while making our way to Ollantaytambo.
Since Maras and Moray are between Cusco and Ollantaytambo, we decided to hire a taxi driver to take us from Cusco to Maras/Moray and then drop us off in Ollantaytambo, where we explored some more ruins, had a fantastic lunch and beer, and then boarded the train to Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu.
If you’re going to Machu Picchu and are taking an afternoon train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, we strongly recommended skipping the bus from Cusco and instead hiring a taxi to bring to Maras and Moray on the way to Ollantaytambo.
Which site should I visit first?
Another quick note before we get into more details – it doesn’t matter which site you visit first. If you’re part of a tour group, you won’t have much choice in the order of events.
If you’re traveling independently, your taxi driver may have an opinion based on location and timing, but it really doesn’t matter if you go to Maras or Moray first.
- Location | 1 hour 30 minutes from Cusco
- Walking distance | ~ 1.5 miles
- Time | 30 minutes to 1 hour to explore the ruins
- Cost | Included with Peru boleto touristica (see above)
The Moray Ruins are a series of three groups of circular terraces carved into the ground. Each terrace has 12 layers and the largest has a diameter of 600 feet – they are truly an impressive site!
The site is very easy to navigate and is well-marked. We spent about 45 minutes walking around, taking pictures, and enjoying the views. There are several trails that lead throughout the ruins which total about 1.5 miles of walking distance.
History of Moray
The ruins weren’t “discovered” by the outside word until 1932, when an explorer named Shirppe Johnson was flying through the area and noticed the formations from his plane.
Of course, the Incan people had known about the Moray terraces since the time they were built, but this “discovery” was the first time the outside world learned about their existence.
In fact, the local people continued to use the terraces for farming purposed until 1970, when the Peruvian government protected the area and turned it into more of the tourist attraction it is today. Pretty crazy to think the area was used for farming for more than 500 years!
What was Moray used for?
Because the Incans did not have a written language, many aspects of their civilization and culture remain shrouded in mystery.
Most people believe the Incans constructed the circular terraces in order to create unique microclimates under which they experimented with different growing techniques. Not only is there a complex irrigation system for each terraces, but the temperature range from the bottom terrace to the top differs by up to 27 degrees Fahrenheit and each level was carefully constructed to see the sun at different angles.
If you like to indulge yourself in some of the more intriguing theories about Moray, my favorite is the theory that Moray is actually an alien landing site and each of the terraces was a different launching point for alien aircrafts. Another fun theory is that the terraces were built out of a crater formed by a fallen meteor!
Whatever theory you choose to believe about their history and purpose, you can’t deny just how striking and beautiful the formations are.
Even if you roll with the most accepted and plausible explanation that they were built as an agricultural lab, it’s still crazy that the Incans had such advanced technology more than 500 years ago and it still stands today!
Maras Salt Mines
- Location | 1 hour 30 minutes from Cusco
- Walking distance | 1/2 mile
- Time | 30 minutes to 1 hour
- Cost | 10 soles per person (roughly 2.5 USD)
After exploring the Moray ruins, meet back up with your tour group or taxi driver and head over to the Maras salineras or salt mines.
The Maras salt mines are a series of over 5,000 small ponds that descend down the side of a mountain towards the Rio Valcanota.
The ponds are fed by a saltwater spring that spirts out of the ground at the top of the mining area. From there, the water is carefully routed through a complex irrigation system to fill each pond.
Harvesting the salt is a family affair and is typically done by all members of the community. Over time, the water is evaporated by the intense sun and the salt becomes more and more concentrated until eventually, it forms a layer several inches deep.
Then the salt is scraped off with the highest quality kitchen-grade salt forming the first layer. The second layer is lower quality but still usable. The third and final layer is typically used for industrial purposes.
History of the Maras Salt Mines
Like most Incan attractions, the exact history of the area is unclear. It is estimated that the mines predated the Incan civilization and were likely built by the Wari people sometime between 500 and 1100 CE.
When the Incans took over the territory, they recognized the value of the mines and took over production. Responsibility for the mines was given to local families, many of whom still live in the area and work the mines to this day.
Not only are the 5,000 white ponds an incredible site to behold, but watching the local people maneuver the irrigation system and harvest the salt the same way it has been done for hundreds of years is an incredible experience!
We spent about 45 minutes at the Maras salt mines. There are plenty of signs directing you where to walk and unfortunately, you can no longer walk among the ponds themselves due to contamination.
As you exit, there are a number of stalls selling different types of salt from the mines and other local goods.
Once you’re done exploring Maras Salt Mines, head on back to Cusco or wherever your next destination may be!
Other Peru resources
Looking for more awesome things to do in near Cusco? Check out the resources below for more inspiration!
- Peru Itinerary | 10 Days in Peru: the Best of the Sacred Valley
- Machu Picchu | Hike to Huayna Picchu: Machu Picchu’s Mountain
- Machu Picchu | How to Get to Machu Picchu from Cusco: Everything You Need to Know
- Cusco | Complete Guide to the Huchuy Qosqo Trek
- Cusco | How to Visit the Stunning Laguna Humantay from Cusco
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