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The Maras Salt Mine
Maras Salt Mine, Peru

At first glance we thought these landforms were travertine terraces formed from geothermal springs. The most spectacular examples are invariably referred to as Wonders of the World, attracting intrepid tourists until they are destroyed by the same geological forces that created them.

Edgar Mazo and Luis Callejas, two-thirds of Paisajes Emergentes, pointed out that they are in fact evaporation ponds carved out of the mountains. Located near the town of Maras high in the Peruvian Andes, about 40 km north of Cuzco, they remind one of the Banaue Rice Terraces in the Philippines, but here salt is cultivated and harvested.

Maras Salt Mine, Peru

The salt mines, we are also told, have been in operation since at least the Inca period. Numbering in the thousands, the ponds are supplied with water diverted from a subterranean stream through a system of channels. The water is then drawn out through natural evaporation, leaving behind the salt to be collected and later sold at the market.

Maras Salt Mine, Peru

According to Wikipedia, “The salt mines are available to any person wishing to harvest salt. There are many unused salt pools that are available to be farmed. Any prospective farmer need only find an unoccupied pool to start working.”

Maras Salt Mine, Peru

Rather than work on an existing pool, why not hollow out new ones? Carve out thousands more and turn the entire valley into a giant outdoor amphitheater, perhaps in imitation of the nearby Inca ruin of Moray.

Moray, Peru

The entire surface of which will be encrusted with salt, so when the sun shines fully on the valley, the effect will either be magically mesmerizing or blindingly overpowering. Most of the ponds will still be used to gather salt, but a few — those seemingly propped up by pillars of stalactites, the Rococo paw feet of a crystalline tub — might be used for “therapeutic” saline bath by weary travelers.

  • Tom
  • March 14, 2011 at 12:54:00 AM CDT
  • I was here two years ago. We were able to buy a 1 kilo bag of salt at the mine. Carrying it through the airport made for an interesting trip through customs!

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