The Salineras de Maras, or the saltpans of Maras, are a geological freak of nature found in the Andes above the Urubamba (or Vilcanota) valley, at a height of 3400m above sea level. Which is a pretty weird place to find sea salt!
These saltpans have been harvested for between 700-1000years by indigenous peolple, since pre-Inca times, and this continues to be the case. They are owned & managed collectively by the local community of the nearby village of Maras, and sold locally in shops & markets, and further afield (info here). The final product often comes in a pink tinge as a result of the local chemical ingredients in the ground such as calcium, magnesium, silicon, and potassium.
So where does the salt come from? These days irrigation channels fed by a local spring allow water to trickle down the hillside filling the pans as required, then as the water evapourates the salt crystalises and is harvested. Unlike ‘trickle-down’ economic theory, this trickle down works! The actual salt deposits in the mountainsides date back upto 100+million years ago, when the Andes mountains here were formed by enormous earth movements, and some of the sea water that covered the land was trapped. As this water evapourated salt deposits were left in the ground, and are now released via the underground springs. See this info.
The saltpans are located amidst stunning Andean scenery, after our visit we walked steeply downhill from the saltpans to the Urubamba (or Vilcanota) river, and then across it to the local road to hitch a lift back to our hostel in the town of Urubamba. Here’s some saltpan pics!