Most people head to Cusco to visit famous Machu Picchu or to witness the magnificent Inti Raymi Celebrations held every year. However, there is much more around the ancient Inca capital for the curious traveller to experience.
Two nearby Inca sites are Moray and Maras. Moray was once a laboratory to test different growing conditions for crops. Maras is a stunning network of artificial salt flats built during Inca days and is still in use today.
The best way for an adventurous traveller to reach these two fascinating sites is by four wheeled “Quad” motorcycle. A local tour company, Maras Adventure, runs quad bike tours up to both locations, and includes a helmet and gloves for use during the trip as part of the deal. They will also pick you up at your hostel or hotel and bring you to the village of Maras, the quad departure point. There is also an optional visit to the company’s ziplines, some of the longest in Peru, for an additional fee.
The trip starts out with a short lesson on driving and handling a quad and safety, and an experienced instructor will accompany you for the trip. After departure, you will head towards Moray, through winding roads, canyons, cliffs and hills.
Moray itself is quite the treat for those who love archeology. It is composed of terraces sinking into the ground in concentric circles, each slightly deeper than the one before it. When you begin descending you’ll notice that the temperature at the bottoms is usually at least 15 degrees different than at the surface. It is believed that the Inca built this amazing structure as a laboratory to find the ideal growing conditions for a large variety of plants that grew in their empire, and to experiment with creating hybrids of these plants.
From there you’ll head back to the main square of the village, get a snack, and then head out to the famous “Salineras” or salt flats of Maras. Like Moray, the Salineras were constructed by the Inca long ago, however, unlike Moray, they are still very much in use. A saltwater spring gushes from the side of the mountain here, where it is carefully divided by channels into an array of around 4000 shallow man made pools. In these pools the water is left to evaporate in the hot Cusco sun, and the salt miners gather the salt left behind to ship all over Peru.
If you choose to, you can pay an extra fee and visit Maras Adventure’s ziplines, which are some of the longest in Peru. These are an exhilarating ride, and the longest, the Condor is over a kilometer long (almost a mile)! Before you take the Condor however you will work your way up with the other three, which are 500, 580, and 600 meters each, respectively.
The 500 meter line is mostly to prepare you for the others and get you used to the sensation of nearly flying. The 580 meter line is designed to give an amazing view of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The third, at 600 meters is faster than the two before it, to get you ready for the thrill that is the Condor. Finally, the Condor itself is waiting for you.
The Flight of the Condor combines the amazing view of the second line with the high speed thrills of the first, reaching speeds of over 100 kilometers per hour as you soar over the beautiful Sacred Valley, and it is long enough that you can take in the scenery, even at these high speeds.
The best way to access these trips and many others in the Cusco area is through our partner FindLocalTrips.com. Find Local Trips is a service for finding local tours and activities owned and operated by locals, instead of exploitive international tour companies. All excursions found on Find Local Trips are checked regularly for safety, ethics and quality, and ensure that money spent benefits the local economy. Find Local Trips has events and activities all over Latin America, not only in Peru.
The most enjoyable and safest way to get to Cusco from Lima is with Peru Hop’s hop on, hop off service. With stops in Paracas, Huacachina, Nazca, and Puno on the way, and Copacabana and La Paz with Bolivia Hop , you can get off wherever you like, spend as long as you want at one spot, then hop back on to continue to your destination. Our local guides, fluent in Spanish and English, will give you activity tips and stories about the history and culture of the stops and places you pass.