The salt pans in Maras was one of my favorite trips in Peru. There’s not much to do but to walk along the salt pans and admire the unusual beauty of the sun shining on the salty water. But I had never seen anything quite like it, and that is part of the reason I love traveling: I love being continuously surprised by the world.
Practicalities: We needed to be at the train station in Ollantaytambo (Olly) by 3:00 p.m. to catch our train to Machu Picchu. That gave us about half a day to tour the salt pans in Maras and the ruins in nearby Moray. While it is possible to see these sights using a mixture of public transportation, random taxis and the legs God gave us, I balked at the idea of taking random taxis in my valiant effort to avoid getting kidnapped. Plus, we had our luggage with us. Instead, our hotel called a driver for us who picked us up at our hotel at 9:30 a.m., drove us to the salt pans and to Moray, and then dropped us off at the train station in Olly, while we left our luggage in the trunk. This cost us 120 soles ($43.00) which isn’t dirt cheap, but split between two people, isn’t terrible either. Note: You will also have to pay for admission to the salt pans and the Moray ruins.
The salt pans is truly a sight to see. Based on my limited research (AKA Wikipedia), this is how it works: Salty water from a natural stream flows through a series of channels into terraced polygon-shaped puddles of water. The intense sun dries up the water, and the salt crystalizes on the surface, allowing locals to mine the deposits. While that may sound rather technical and uninteresting, the view is stunning. See for yourself.
After the salt pans, our driver took us to Moray, home to Incan ruins consisting of impressive terraced circles that look like modern day crop circles. It’s not clear what the circles were used for, but you can hike down and speculate for yourself.
The views of the surrounding area were equally, if not, more beautiful.