Moray 3500m (11,500ft)
Maras 3300m (10,826ft)
On our Journey to Machu Picchu we visited lots of Incan sites. They are all unique and all equally impressive but there were a couple that stood out for my kids. For my son it was Moray, which consisted of three enormous pits, each with huge terraced circular depressions (similar to crop circles) – the largest is approximately 30m (98ft) deep.
Remarkably there is a difference of 15C (27F) in temperature between the top and the bottom of the terraces, leading researchers to speculate that Moray was a place where the Incas conducted agricultural experiments on crops.
Visitors are not allowed to walk on the terraces themselves but a path that runs around the outer edge makes for a very pleasant and – compared to many other Inca sites in the region – easy stroll, particularly for little legs.
Approximately 4 miles / 7 km away from Moray are the dazzling white salt flats of Maras (Las Salineras de Maras) – evaporation ponds that have been in use since the Inca times. This site was another favourite with my kids.
It requires a short walk down the side of the valley. Whilst there is little to do in the salt fields themselves, it’s a sight that has graced the covers of many glossy magazines and worth visiting if you are a photographer.
Tip! For warm, camera-friendly light time your visit around 3:30 / 4pm as come late afternoon (when we visited) the sun disappears behind the mountaintop casting the valley in shadow.
The Pink Salt of Maras is delicious and worth buying in bulk from one of the shops that operates half way down the valley slope. If you are passing through Cusco, you must seek out the shop Republica del Cacao which makes Pink Rock Salt Dark Chocolate using salt from these very mines. And send me some!
Both Moray and Maras are accessed via a long and dusty dirt track and the drive is one of the most scenic in The Sacred Valley. If time permits, this is a great region to explore further. There are many tour operators that offer mountain bike rides and horse riding in this area. Given the high altitudes and my curiosity to experience the unique gait of the Peruvian Paso horse I would personally have opted for the latter. Sadly though there was not enough time on this trip. (For recommended tour operators, see 10 things to do in the Sacred Valley – coming soon!).
If you want to walk around Moray allow 30-40 minutes, otherwise you can snap a quick pic from the car park and continue to Maras! In Maras allow 30 – 60 minutes.
We went all the back to Urubamba to eat. If only someone had told us about El Parador which is right on the doorstep of Moray!
Moray and Maras are located in the Sacred Valley between Chincheros and Ollantaytambo. Urubamba to Moray by car takes around 20 minutes.
Take a video tour of Moray and Maras in The Sacred Valley, Peru.
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Family Guide to Peru
To view all our blog posts and videos in the Peru With Kids series see our destination guide to Peru for Families.