About 6km (4 miles) down the main road toward Ollantaytambo (northwest of Urubamba) is the amazing sight of the Salineras de Maras-thousands of individual, ancient salt pans that from unique terraces in a hillside. The mines, small pools thickly coated with crystallized salt like dirty snow, have existed in the same spots since Inca days and are still operable. Families pass them down like deeds and continue the backbreaking and poorle remunerated tradition of salt extraction (crystallizing salt from subterranean spring water)
The famed terraced Inca salt pans of Salineras are still in use and also take advantage of a natural phenomenon: The Inca dug shallow pools into a sloped hillside. The pools filled with water, and upon evaporation salt crystallized and could be harvested. Maras is a striking salt extraction complex. The locals still remove salt from the pans in much the same way as they have for thousands of years. Neither site keeps opening hours or has an admission charge, but how to get to salinas de maras from cusco? They´re difficult to reach, and almost an impossibility during the rainy season. You can access it via a bridle path. The easiest way is by taxi or public transport from Chinchero to the village of Maras. You can also hike to Maras from Urubamba, which takes several hours. Ask locals for the best route. And yet another way is via horseback or mountain bike from either Cusco or Urubamba.
Many tourist ask how to get to salinas de Maras from Cusco. Actually, is very easy, to get to the salt pans, take a taxi (USD$2) to a point near the village of Tarabamba; you can either have the taxi wait for you or hail a combi on the main road for your return. From there, it´s a lovely 4km (2 mile) walk under a huge sky and along a footpath next to the river. There are no signs; cross the footbridge and bend right along the far side if the river and up through the mountains toward the salt pans. As you begin the gentle climb up the mountain, stick to the right path to avoid the cliff-hugging and only incheswide trail that forks to the left.
The valley has increasingly taken on a dual personality, depending on the time of day, day of week, and month of the year. Every Cusco travel agency offers a day tour of the Sacred Valley, that include a visit to the Salineras de Maras. You can almost always sign up for one of these tours at the last minute-even early on the morning of the tour- especially if you´re here in the September-to-May off season.