Chinchero, Maras Salineras, and Moray in Peru

CHINCHERO, MARAS SALINERAS, and MORAY: This was our first day-trip in Peru after spending a night in Lima and landing in Cusco the following morning. These small villages are not so touristy but has magnificent Incan sites. While the highlight of Chinchero is its colorful outdoor market, Maras Salineras is an awe-struck site of thousands of years of salt fields, and Moray Terrace displays the innovative and scientific minds of the Incans.

Moray Terrace surrounded by Andes, in Peru

Moray Terrace surrounded by Andes, in Peru

The cab drive/tour guide was reserved before we reached Cusco airport. It was relaxing but once we were near Moray and Maras, I felt the altitude sickness little bit with dizziness and light-headed feeling. My girls and I fell asleep during our drive from Maras Salineras to Moray because we were feeling really dizzy.

Also, if you are going to be in Peru for few days and are planning to visit multiple Inca sites, it’s cheaper to buy the Boleto Turistico pass for 130 Sols for adult and 70 Sols for kids, which gives you free access to many ancient sites for 10 days.

Scenic drive to Ollantaytambo at the end of the day

TIME of TRAVEL: We visited Peru end of August, 2017. It was winter there and very pleasant for us. We did carry sweaters for all of us since it can get a bit windy in the mountains and chilly at night.

OUR HOTEL: We really didn’t stay in any of these places, since it was just a day-trip on our way from Cusco to Ollantaytambo. Please check my upcoming post on Ollantaytambo to see our hotel. Tourists don’t usually stay in these places and I’m sure there aren’t many options here either. Ollantaytambo is within an hour drive and has lots of choices for lodging.

EATING and SHOPPING: We had lunch in the open market of Chinchero before visiting Santa Cataline Monastery on the hill. The food in Chinchero market were all street foods and women were cooking right there…openly. Food was very cheap with a nice big portion. We had fried trout with rice and potatoes. I also ordered a stuffed bell pepper with vegetables (deep fried). Don’t expect nice sitting arrangements and cleanliness, but it’s an experience we loved. We were just happy to actually get a table with 4 plastic chairs and sat down with few other locals and tourists.

Fried trout with rice, boiled potato, and veges in Chinchero market, Peru

Fried trout with rice, boiled potato, and veges in Chinchero market, Peru

Chinchero is a good place for buying small trinkets and hand craft items. You can find jewelries, home decors, wall hangings, shawls and sweaters, potteries, stuffed llamas, and lots of local goodies here. But do bargain, especially if you are buying multiple items from one vendor. When you are in Maras Salineras, buy few packages of natural salt from the mine at the entrance.

Vendors at Chinchero open market with their crafts

Vendors at Chinchero open market with their crafts

PLACES WE’VE VISITED: As I mentioned before, we were picked up from the Cusco airport in the morning by a previously appointed tour guide and went off to explore ancient and present Peru with all the luggage and backups. We reached our hotel in Ollantaytambo in the evening after visiting the below sites. It was not packed or tiring at all. We took it slow and enjoyed every bit of these country-sides and majestic Peruvian Andes.

Just one thing to remember is that, some people may get mild to severe altitude sickness in these areas. So, it’s better to drink some chlorophyll or coca tea right from the beginning of your trip. We got ours from the Vitamin World and coca leaves can be found in all the hotels or departmental stores near Cusco. I even saw free coca leaves in the airport also. It’ll help a lot, better to be feeling good than drowsy in your trip.

  1. CUSCO TEXTILE: It’s called Figueroa Alpaca Textile. As we entered the complex, we were greeted by llamas, baby alpaca, and guinea pigs. There was a small shaded area with all the materials to demonstrate how alpaca wool get processed into making different items. A lady in traditional Peruvian clothes walked in and introduced herself with her broken English. As she started to demonstrate the process, another lady walked in with 4 cups of mint tea in beautiful blue and white clay-made tea cups (which inspired me to buy those tea cup from Chinchero market). One thing that was really remarkable is that they use all natural product starting from cleaning the alpaca wool (juice from a plant) to dying them in different colors (all natural colors), to weaving them into different products.
A weaver working with alpaca wool at Figueroa Alpaca Textile in Peru

A weaver working with alpaca wool at Figueroa Alpaca Textile in Peru

After the demo, we were taken to a lady who was knitting a shawl from the alpaca wool. I was just eager to get to their store and explore some goodies. We ended up buying ponchos, shawls, sweaters, table clothes, and few small things for really good price. Items made with baby alpaca are very soft (softer than lamb wool) but can be expensive depending on location and complexity of the design.

An alpaca in Figueroa Alpaca Textile, Peru

An alpaca in Figueroa Alpaca Textile, Peru

  1. CHINCHERO: Chinchero is situated on higher ground than Cusco at almost 12,500 feet elevation. The Inca ruins here consist of nested terraces rising up to a plateau which can be viewed from the Santa Cataline Monastery. This is a church that was built in the early 1600s. We didn’t go inside and not sure if it’s even an active church or a museum. The site is included in Boleto Turistico pass.
Santa Cataline Monastery in Chinchero, Peru

Santa Cataline Monastery in Chinchero, Peru

Before climbing the hilly path to the monastery, we stopped at the open market area which is a heaven for souvenir hunters. Prices are not necessarily cheap here, but most of these items are hand crafted by the surrounding villagers. You can find potteries, shawls, table clothes, and other decors. I bought two traditional tea cups (without handles) for 20 USD both…not that cheap.

A lady in Chinchero market selling street food

A lady in Chinchero market selling street food

  1. MARAS SALINERAS: About an hour drive from narrow mountainous roads of Chinchero was the Salineras. This is a natural terraced salt mine in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We could see the salt terraces from far as we were passing thru the mountains. Once you are at the gate, you have to walk for few minutes to get to the site, which I couldn’t do because my exhausted girls fell asleep in the car. You have to see the nestled salt pans in the canyon to understand how the salt from water at the Salineras spring has been transformed into salt crystals for thousands of years.
Driving to thru Andes towards MARAS SALINERAS in Peru

Driving to thru Andes towards MARAS SALINERAS in Peru

Salineras can be done in less than an hour.  Enjoy the high mountains and the drive to get here, it looks dangerous being so high up on the mountains and driving by the edge. But breathe in and trust your cab driver/tour guide and enjoy the peaks, cliffs, valleys, and fresh air.

Salt pans of MARAS SALINERAS in Peru

  1. MORAY TERRACE: Moray is very close to the town of Maras and sits in the Sacred Valley of the Incas about 3500 meters above sea-level. This was more like an experimental site for different types of produces for the Incans. Other than this archeological site of Moray, enjoy the surrounding giant Andes Mountains and small farms.
MORAY TERRACE in Peru, sits in the Sacred Valley of the Incas about 3500 meters above sea-level

MORAY TERRACE in Peru, sits in the Sacred Valley of the Incas about 3500 meters above sea-level

We stayed in Moray Terrace about half an hour. We didn’t go down to the terraces, but there are stairs for that. The site is included in Boleto Turistico.

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