The Maras salt mines, located about an hour and a half from Cusco, boast a uniquely beautiful landscape, created by the very item that is harvested from it.
The mines here are owned by approximately 200 families, each owning about 5-7 pools. These pools have been owned by the families of Maras for generations, and they seem to share a collective pride in that – though they must still work other jobs to survive.
The Maras people believe that the salt comes from 6 lakes which sit in the mountains, above the mines. They attribute this gift of salt to Pacha Mama (mother earth), and do not believe that the salt water comes up through the mountain from the sea (as specialists have determined).
The small stream which creates these pools runs down the mountain and separates to provide salt rich water to each section. The segments are divided by small rock walls, which are covered in white crystals and the water inside is left to evaporate, leaving ponds of only salt.
When all of the liquid in a section has evaporated, the salt is ready to be harvested and sold. The government may buy one pool of salt for about 100 soles, and sell it for 1,000. Most of Peru’s salt is used within the country; though some is packaged to be bought by tourists as gifts (the iodized salt is usually pushed on the tourists, though pink salt and raw rock salt is also available).