“Salineras” means Salt Evaporation Pond.
A rather “out of this world” place. Almost ghostly.
Explanation is than when the Andes were forming a lot of sea water was trapped in the rocks. And since pre-Inca times there has been a very salty spring just outside Maras. But it’s far saltier than sea water.
The rather slow flowing spring is diverted down the valley and used to fill crude evaporation ponds a few inches deep. Ponds are filled then evaporate over 3 days before the salt is harvested. The salt is harvested in 3 “qualities”. The top layer is very clean and white and called “flower of salt” and is very expensive outside Maras. Next layer a bit yellow but still used for food and a bit cheaper whilst the bottom layer is quite yellow and muddy and used for purposes like salt health baths.
In December/January when the rains start production is abandoned due the the amount of rain and some of the evaporation ponds are washed away.
The salt is said to be particularly rich in minerals except for iodine; and the lack of iodine has caused significant health problems in the local population. The Inca avoided this as they brought in foods from other areas. Today iodine is added to the produced salt.
But the technical facts of the site detract from what a strange surreal place the valley has become.
For other South American posts see South America Map.