Despite being one of the most popular combination day trips out of Cusco, even after a year I still hadn’t visited these two very unique places. Recently I decided to quit putting it off and took advantage of the really cheap cost (25 soles/$7.50 USD plus entry fees to each site) to see them.
Like almost every place here in the Cusco region, there is a reason why these places are so popular. They certainly didn’t disappoint and I had a great time visiting each.
If you take a tour, keep in mind that a big part of their business is taking you to specific businesses in the hope that you will make purchases. Some — like visits to weaving cooperatives in Chinchero where you are shown how dyes are made and the weaving process takes place — are very educational and informative, while others are stops at businesses to buy souvenirs.
In each case, a part of your purchase is given back to the tour operators/guides which helps subsidize cheap tours. In either case, the vast majority of the money goes to support local businesses and local peoples so I encourage you to buy products that catch your interest.
Moray is a very interesting spot as it consists of four sets of descending concentric rings varying greatly in size and depth (up to 30 meters from top to bottom).
The most common theory — and the one promoted by all the tour guides — is that this was a place where Incas conducted agricultural experimentation, but this theory has some serious (and obvious) flaws born out by actual scientific research instead of mythology.
I have to admit that I was blown away by the enormity of the Moray site, particularly the largest of the rings. It was much larger than I expected.
Tours usually run the groups through very quickly and you can count on the site being very crowded if you come in the busy April to October season. Be sure to take your time and get some good pics of the site. (Making sure you have people in your photos will help give others a better perspective of just how big it is.)
Despite being impressed with Moray and determined to return again very soon, I was most interested in seeing the salt mines of Maras.
This place has been a source of salt for centuries — long before the rise of the Inca civilization.
Heavy concentrations of salt in the streaming water supply is channeled down the valley into thousands of individual family owned small basins. Families gather the salt that remains after the water evaporates and sell it locally and across the region.
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It’s always interesting to me to watch tourists who think places like this are basically amusements parks and don’t realize that they are watching real people do real work in the same way that their ancestors have done for hundreds and hundreds of years.