The Landscapes of Moray and Maras

Although we liked the contrast Cusco provided compared to our time in La Paz, we were intrigued by a few attractions outside the city. We decided to book a half-day tour for Sunday (3/12) which included visits to two Inca sites, Moray and the Salinas de Maras, as well as a stopover in the small town of Chinchero.

While in Chinchero we visited a small group of women who provided a demonstration of the processes involved in making textiles. The centerpiece of the presentation was a table topped with bowls of various spices, plants, etc which they used to dye the wool. The woman taking the lead role showed how intensely and quickly the wool will take up the colors, and how adding even a small amount of a different ingredient can drastically change the end result. She appeared to have a good sense of humor as the rest of the group frequently laughed, but ninety percent of the presentation was in Spanish and about sixty percent of what she said was lost on me.

A woman in Chinchero showing us the natural local ingredients used to dye the wool.

After buying a beautifully made textile from the women of Chinchero, we headed to the complex of Moray. I had seen pictures and models of this archaeological site before but did not at all appreciate its scale. It consists of a series of amazingly symmetrical circular terraces which are not seen until you walk right up to the edges of the surrounding hillsides. Although there is uncertainty about the original purpose of these terraces, one belief is that the Incas used them to experiment with growing different varieties of crops. Because of the way the sun and wind interact with the shape of the land, temperatures can vary by nearly 30° F from the top terrace to the bottom terrace, allowing for a wider variety of growing conditions to simulate other areas of the Andes where crops could be grown. Regardless of its intended purpose, I was amazed at the symmetry, design and scale of the landscape.

The circular terraces of Moray, built into a natural depression of the land.

The circular terraces of Moray.

Impressive symmetry in the landscapes of Moray.

Taking the stairs to exit one of the shallower terraces.

Enjoying a stroll in the sun around the grounds of Moray.

We were allowed a little time to wander through the terraces, then were back on the bus for a short drive to the Salinas de Maras. This was another experience in underestimating the scale of a landmark. Salinas de Maras is a steep hillside with more than three thousand terraced pools of salt water. A subterranean saltwater stream feeds the pools and salt is harvested once the water has evaporated. All of the pools date back to Inca (possibly pre-Inca) times and are currently owned by residents of the community.

The salt ponds of Maras.

The salt ponds of Maras.

The salt ponds of Maras.

The bus ride back to Cusco felt a bit long but was uneventful. We made it back to our hostel by mid-afternoon, giving us plenty of time for an early dinner and to ensure our bags were prepped for the next day. We had an early morning ahead of us; Machu Picchu was calling.



  1. big sis · March 20, 2017

    Yes, yes, beautiful and fascinating…but I can’t get past the yarn. You’ve spent time at least twice now with local yarn makers – please tell me there’s a ball or skein of handmade yarn tucked away in your suitcase somewhere! 😀


    • Erin · March 20, 2017

      Um, maybe don’t get too excited….


  2. big sis · March 20, 2017

    Seriously, though, those salt ponds are awesome!


  3. Leslie Moore · March 20, 2017

    it is amazing to me that the landscaping, so intricate, dates back so far! love your pictures. (knew your sis would be drooling at the yarn ) nice!! – but seriously, Laura, how would you ever get the same dye lot ?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. big sis · March 21, 2017

    Leslie, that’s why it would be best for her to just go ahead and fill an entire bag with the same yarn. And that way all of us could have some. 🙂


  5. Leslie Moore · March 21, 2017

    Laura, I know I could not do justice to the yarn. YOU could however. (I like the fact that we have eliminated “the other one” off of her own BLOG 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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