There as so many cool Inca Ruins in the Sacred Valley, it was worth splitting this series into two! (If you missed the first post, click here.) And just in case you missed the first, I’m not trying to convince you not to go to Machu Picchu by any means – Machu Picchu is incredible! However, don’t let Machu Picchu be the only Inca ruin on your Sacred Valley trip!
Moray is an archaeological site that’s a bit off the beaten path. Out of all the places mentioned, this one seems to be the least known about by tourists. But that certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a stop…it just means there will be fewer tourists!
I think Moray is fascinating. Experts aren’t entirely sure how Moray was built. The most widely accepted idea is that thousands of years ago a meteor hit this area and created this crater. Then, the Incas built their terraces around it. (But no one knows for sure.)
The circular terraces remind me of a stadium but they were actually used for agriculture. Each one has a different microclimate, allowing the Incas to grow a wide variety of food. Interestingly enough, too, no one is quite sure what the water source was either. There are no lakes anywhere near Moray anymore.
Moray is by no means a long visit. There are two other archaeological sites, but they’re all within a few minutes walking time of each other. I think we spent about 45 minutes here and that was enough to take it all in. It was a really interesting place!
Salineras de Mara (Inca Salt Mines)
“Salineras de Mara” or salt mines, are thousands of individual salt pools on a hillside, that date back to Incan times. These are quite close to Moray.
It’s incredible to think these salt mines have been used for hundreds and hundreds of years! They are still being used today.
The mines are fed by an incredibly salty stream that runs down from the mountains. We stuck our fingers in it and licked them….and my goodness gracious is that some salty water! Haha.
I thought it was interesting that people were allowed to walk around the salt mines too. The salt mines are not deep, but jeez, be careful if you walk off the paths. There were some folks who were giving me a heart attack with the way they were climbing around trying to take photos. (Safety first, folks!)
You can also buy packets of salt and other fun salt products (like salty chocolate) after you’re done touring the mines. I highly recommend the chocolate, haha!
Chinchero is actually a small town not terribly far from Cusco (about 40 minutes in a car). It has a lot of interesting things going on. There are beautiful Inca ruins, a colonial church, a traditional weaving/demonstration area and a very nice market.
You will see many farming terraces left over from Incan times that are actually still used today! Chinchero is supposed to have the most fertile farming soil in all of the Sacred Valley.
The church that sits atop the Inca Ruins was built by the Spanish around 1600. I didn’t actually go inside it. However, there are some nice paintings on the outside of it.
The Market was not “in full swing” yet when we were there. The locals were actually getting ready for a large celebration that was taking place the next day. So, there were only a few vendors operating at the time. However, it’s said to be a very good market!
The Traditional Weaving Demonstration
There is a center near the market where you can also see how alpaca wool is made. The ladies at the center are dressed in traditional dress and will serve you mate de coca (coca tea) while explaining (in English) what they are doing. From washing the wool to dying it and spinning it…they take you through the whole process. I really enjoyed seeing this and also seeing the alpacas!
However, after the demonstration, you can then buy “alpaca goods.” I was a bit turned off by the fact that they were selling “maybe alpaca.” (If you missed my post on real vs. fake alpaca wool, click here.) They were trying to say that it was all handmade and “real” alpaca wool. However, it was most definitely machine-made and likely an alpaca blend (if it wasn’t all synthetic). As I mentioned in my previous alpaca post, you’ll have that, but the prices should reflect it. (We were able to bargain for much lower prices in Cusco for the exact same products.)
Either way, it was still cool to see the wool-making process! And the ladies were funny and very kind! (The girl pictured below was cracking jokes in English left and right! She was awesome!)
Feel free to click on the photos above to make them larger and to read the descriptions.
Had you heard of any of these places before this post? (I hadn’t until I started booking this trip!) Would you be interested in seeing any of them? Let me know in the comments!
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