Fed by a small local stream, the field of angular, interlocking earthen evaporation pools near the small Peruvian town of Maras has been providing the local inhabitants with salt and visitors with a stunning background for over a century.
Cascading down a hillside valley like uneven steps, the Salinas de Maras, as they are known in the local tongue, were first created sometime in the 1400s by the Incas. While there is no transcribed record of the creation of the ponds, they seem to have been passed down and expanded within a small number of owners down their hundreds of years in existence. Salt is harvested from the patchwork of shallow pools via a process of evaporation. A natural spring feeds a salt-rich stream which flows down into the pools which are themselves, opened and dammed individually as needed. Once one of the pools is filled, the water is allowed to evaporate and the remaining salt crystals are simply scraped off the ground with simple instruments and the process is repeated.
The area is not widely industrialized and the salt is still just bagged up, packaged, and sold at market. Today there are about 3,000 pools that are still harvested by a community of local families who control the salt pans, the transport roads to the valley, generally the entire salt production from the site, which is much the same as as it had been since the Inca discovered the process over a thousand years before.