A day trip to the Moray Inca Ruins should be high on your to-do list during your time in Peru. Located in the picturesque Sacred Valley in the department of Cusco, the Moray ruins are a mesmerising archaeological site. In particular, the Moray terraces are an awe-inspiring set of Inca ruins bound to leave you awestruck. Add in a cheeky trip to the Maras Salt Mines after your exploration of the Moray Inca Ruins and you’ll have yourself one of the most extraordinary days exploring Peru.
Look, we know there is a tonne of amazing Inca ruins to check out in Peru. In the department of Cusco alone, you have Machu Picchu along the Inca Trail, the Pisac Ruins, Ollantaytambo Ruins, the Chinchero Archaeological Site, etc. But, still, we highly recommend the Inca ruins at Moray in Peru. The circular depressions observed at the Moray terraces are truly a sight to behold!
In this guide, we’ll provide all the necessary travel information for the Moray Inca Ruins. After a brief introduction, we’ll provide all the details for visiting independently and doing a Moray and Maras Tour. That way, you can decide what’s best for you – to DIY or visit with a tour company. Then, we’ll provide some fun facts about the Moray Inca Ruins, discuss the best time of year to visit and cover other things to do in the area, other than visiting the immense Maras Salt Mines.
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Introduction: Moray Inca Ruins Peru
The Moray Inca Ruins are easily one of the best places to visit in Peru. When it comes to Inca ruins, the Moray terraces near Cusco are some of the most famous. Surrounded by the sublime Sacred Valley, the Moray ruins are beautifully positioned with gorgeous natural scenery around. So, whether you’re in it for the historical experience or a nature fix, a trip to the Moray Inca Ruins will have you sorted.
When you visit the Moray Inca Ruins, you’ll explore groups of incredible circular terraces. There are around half a dozen sets of terraces on-site. Although, most tourists simply check out the biggest and best terrace. Essentially, there’s one huge circular terrace, easily found near the entrance. It’s about 150 metres in depth, with a diameter of around 182 metres. This is the crowning glory of the Moray ruins. It’s the one you’ll find most tourists gawking at. And, if you’ve seen photos of the Moray Inca Ruins, it’s likely that the photo is of this main terrace.
But, keep in mind, there are other smaller, yet, equally impressive terraces to explore. There are another three easily recognisable circular terraces that are positioned next to the main attraction. Each offers something a little different in terms of appearance and significance. The remaining two terraces on-site are not well preserved and are some distance from the main terraces. So, they are rarely explored. To be honest, though, seeing the main terraces on-site will more than satisfy your cravings for Inca ruins.
So, what’s the deal with the Moray Inca Ruins anyway? What’s the historical or cultural significance? Alas, you’ll find a little history lesson below!
Moray Inca Ruins History
The Inca Empire had no written language. Without any written information from the Incas, the purpose of the Moray Inca Ruins remains a mystery. The historical, cultural and practical significance of the Moray ruins and terraces has caused much debate over the years. Anthropologists, archaeologists, geologists, believers of aliens, locals and travellers alike, discuss the possible reasons for the existence of the ruins.
There are a few popular theories regarding the purpose of the Inca Moray Ruins. All with their own merits. Of course, these ideas are unproven. So, the debate rages on. Indeed, each theory is super interesting and we will discuss these here: Moray Archaeological Site: What Was Its Purpose?
But, first, let’s look at how to visit these amazing Moray Inca Ruins. So, where are they located?
Where Are The Moray Inca Ruins?
The Moray Inca Ruins are located around 50km northwest of Cusco in Peru. Most tourists will visit the Moray ruins from Cusco or the Sacred Valley. From Cusco, it’s really easy to visit Moray on a day trip, either independently or with a tour company. Let’s look at these two options below. That way, you can figure out what will work best for you.
How to Get to Moray Independently
Visiting the Moray Inca Ruins independently is straightforward and by far the cheapest way to explore the area. There are a couple of public transport options. You have the colectivo and public bus. Either way, you’ll need to choose the service heading to Urubamba. Both the colectivo and public bus head through the historic town of Chinchero. After passing through this town, you’ll need to alight at the fork of Moray-Maras. So, keep an eye out and let the driver know in advance.
Colectivo: simply head to the taxi station on Pavitos Street. The colectivo service to Urubamba runs from dawn until 6:30pm and the price is around S/5–10 ($2–3USD). Expect the journey to take around an hour. You’ll just have to wait for the colectivo to fill up before it departs. So, you might be waiting a little while!
Public bus: head to the bus terminal on Grau Avenue. The pubic bus is fairly frequent, leaving approx. every 15 minutes from dawn to around 6:30pm. Costs are cheaper than the colectivo at around S/3–8 ($1–2USD). But, the public bus takes longer (1.5 hours).
Whether you take the colectivo or public bus, you’ll alight at the same fork of Moray-Moras. From there, you have several options on how to plan out your day. Of course, if you’re visiting this area, we highly recommend that you also visit the Maras Salt Mines. You don’t need a whole day at the Moray Inca Ruins. Just a couple of hours should do it. So, why not visit the Mara Salt Pans too?
Maras Salt Mines
Next to the Moray Inca Ruins, you’ll find the incredible Maras Salt Mines. Located in the Sacred Valley, you’ll find around 6,000 salt ponds. Each one is just over one square meter and 30cm deep. Families from the small village of Maras own the ponds. They harvest and sell this famous Peruvian salt all over the world. Similar to the Moray Inca Ruins, the backdrop of the irresistible Sacred Valley adds something special to your visit.
So, that’s the Maras Salt Mines in a nutshell. We hope we’ve convinced you to maximise your day at Moray Inca Ruins, by adding a side trip to the Maras Salt Mines. There are many different options on how to explore both Moray and Maras on a day trip. Below, we’ll tell you the best way to visit Maras and Moray in a single day.
For more information on the Maras Salt Mines, near Moray, read our guide: Salt Mines of Maras – How To Visit These Awesome Salt Ponds
The Best Way to Visit Maras and Moray In One Day
Logistically, there are many different ways to explore Maras and Moray on an independent day trip. We don’t plan on explaining each option. Better yet, let us tell you the best way to explore Maras and Moray in one epic day trip!
Once you’ve arrived at the fork of Moray-Moras, we recommend catching a local bus (approx. S/5) or taxi (approx. S/10) to Moray. By doing so, you’ll bypass Maras. There’s a good reason for this (see below). You’ll find local buses going between Moray and Moras fairly regularly. But, you’ll have to wait until it fills before it departs. That’s why a taxi may be a better option. Either way, by catching a local bus or taxi to Moray, you can arrive at the ruins before the tour groups start to appear around 9–10am. The Moray Inca Ruins open at 7am. So, if you can arrive and explore between 7–9am, even approaching 9:30am, you’ll have a much quieter visit.
Then, once the hoards of tourists arrive, it’s time to head to the Maras Salt Mines. From the Moray Inca Ruins, it’s possible to get a taxi to the Maras Salt Mines. If there are no taxis at the entrance of the Moray Inca Ruins, you’ll have to walk back to or catch the local bus to Maras. From there, it’ll be easier to find a taxi to take you to the salt pans. The taxi driver can even wait for you at the entrance of the salt pans and then drive you back to Maras for around S/50–100 ($13–26USD). But, we recommend hiking to the Maras Salt Mines for the best experience!
Maras and Moray Hike
- Type: One-way
- Distance: 11.5km
- Time: 3 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 140m
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Moray Inca Ruins
- Map: Wikiloc
For maximal enjoyment of your surroundings in the Sacred Valley region, you should hike from the Moray Inca Ruins to the Maras Salt Mines. Initially, you’ll find a fairly flat and wide dirt trail leading away from the Moray Inca Ruins. The trail is also used for mountain biking and horseback riding. Once you pass by or through the town of Maras, the dirt trail narrows and descends into the valley.
Once you arrive at and explore the Maras Salt Mines, simply continue down the valley to Media Luna. Here, you’ll find a bus stop next to Restaurant Tunupa. Then, simply jump on the next colectivo you see heading towards Urubamba. The journey should only take 5–10 minutes and cost S/1–2 ($0.50USD). From Urubamba, you can then catch a colectivo or bus back to Cusco.
Maras and Moray Tour
The most convenient and easiest way to visit both the Moray Inca Ruins and the Maras Salt Mines is by doing a tour. In fact, the Maras Moray Tour is one of the most popular Peru tours on offer. In Cusco, you’ll find loads of tour companies offering the Tour Maras Moray as a group tour for around S/50–100 ($13–26USD). Included is roundtrip transportation to and from Cusco, transportation between Moray and Maras, and a local guide. Although, these group tours don’t include the entrance fees.
The entrance fee for the Moray Inca Ruins is S/70 ($18USD). Whereas, the Maras Salt Mines entrance fee is much cheaper at S/10 ($2.50USD).
Of course, it’s possible to find tours that exclusively visit the Moray Inca Ruins. But, a Moray Tour is a bit harder to come by. Anyway, considering you only need a couple of hours at the Moray ruins, you may as well do the combined Moray and Maras Tour!
Although, the cheap group tours can be absolutely heaving with people. Beck and I saw groups of 30–40 people moving around the Moray Inca Ruins like herds of sheep. For the best tour experience, we recommend doing an all-inclusive private tour. Apu Andino Travel Peru is an excellent family-run, tour operator in Cusco that offers premium tours and tour packages. Beck and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the Moray Inca Ruins and Maras Salt Mines with Apu Andino Travel Peru.
To book a private Maras and Moray Tour, simply contact Apu Andino Travel Peru on Whatsapp (+51 984 609 485 or +51 984 067 472). Otherwise, drop into their office in Cusco (Centro Commercial Imasumaq, Office #216) to find out more information. Also, feel free to check them out on Facebook and Instagram.
Moray Peru Facts
From archaeological excavations, it’s suggested that some of the lower Moray terraces were actually created by a culture predating the Incas! Likely, the Wari culture, which lived during the 6th–10th Century was responsible for the construction of some of the Moray terraces. But, what remains of the Moray terraces were likely developed by the Inca Empire during the 12th–14th Century.
Of course, the Moray Inca Ruins were known by locals for many years. But, the Moray terraces were brought to the attention of the world in the 1930s. At this time, aerial observation from American and Peruvian researchers helped to discover the Moray Inca Ruins, as well as the Nazca Lines, near Lima. When the Moray terraces were discovered, local communities were using the area for agriculture. In fact, farming in the area only completely ceased around 2017!
Similar to the terraces at Machu Picchu, the Moray terraces were carved out of the mountainside. The terraces were then consolidated with stones and soil. Water channels were also created throughout the site for irrigation and drainage.
These are some of the most accepted facts regarding the Moray Inca Ruins. But, questions remain about the actual purpose of the site.
Moray Archaeological Site: What Was Its Purpose?
There are different ideas about the purpose of the Moray Inca Ruins. Let’s explore some of the most popular theories below.
Experimental Agricultural Site: Farming
The most popular theory regarding the Moray Inca Ruins is that it was used as an experimental site for agriculture. This idea originates from the anthropologist John Earls in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He believed this for a few reasons.
Firstly, there’s an obvious irrigation system present at the Moray ruins. Secondly, there’s a temperature difference (approx. 12°C) between the top and bottom of the Moray terraces. Also, it’s been observed that the sun strikes each terrace at different angles, producing varying levels of heat. Essentially, each of the Moray terraces has unique microclimates. In this way, the Incas studied the effects of altitude and temperature on crop growth to determine the best agricultural conditions and practices. Smart, hey? Well, that’s just one theory. Could the Moray Inca Ruins be more of a ceremonial or cultural site?
Ceremonial and Cultural Site
The idea of Moray as a ceremonial site is given strength by local communities in the area. Locals tell stories, dating back to the time of the Incas, which describe celebrations and ceremonies taking place at the Moray ruins. In fact, celebrations still take place today. Annually, in October, locals gather at the Moray Inca Ruins to celebrate Moray Raymi.
Of course, it’s unlikely that the Moray terraces were purely developed for the purpose of ceremony. That’s because Moray is located far away from Cusco – the former Inca heartland. Indeed, Moray would have been an inconvenient place for ceremonies for the Incas. So, perhaps it was mainly used for agriculture and doubled up as a sometimes place for ceremonies? Who knows!
Another theory is that the site was once used as an open-pit mine by Incan or pre-Incan cultures. Once the mine’s resources were depleted, the terraces were built on top of the mines for agricultural and ceremonial purposes. Beck and I thought this theory had some merit. Well, more merit than the alien landing site theory!
Alien Landing Site
Probably the weakest theory regarding the Moray ruins near Cusco, is that the site was a former alien landing spot. Apparently, a UFO landing is supported by the circular depressions of the Moray terraces. Yeah, don’t know about that one! Well, it’s not only Beck and I that disagree with this theory. So do geologists. They suggest meteorites created the holes seen at Moray. Then, it was the clever Incas who built terraces out of these existing depressions in the land.
Whichever theory you subscribe to, there’s certainly an enduring mystery at the Moray Inca ruins! It’s one of the reasons why visiting this site is so interesting! So, have you heard of any different theories? Let us know in the comments below!
Weather at the Moray Inca Ruins
Moray experiences fairly constant annual temperatures. You can expect daytime temperatures of around 18–21°C and nighttime temperatures of around 1–8°C. When Beck and I visited, it was a bit chilly when the sun went walkabouts. But, otherwise, when the sun is shining at Moray and Maras, you should feel pretty warm!
Dry Season and Rainy Season
In Peru, and in this part of the world, there’s a dry and rainy season. The dry season runs from May to October. Your chances of experiencing rain are low. But, the dry season also coincides with Winter! So, the sunshine keeps temperatures high during the day. While temperatures can really dip during the evening. In case you spend all day at Moray and Maras, better pack a few layers in case your journey back to Cusco times with nightfall.
The rainy season is from November to April. You can expect frequent rainfall during this time. So, make sure to pack a waterproof jacket if you visit the Moray Inca Ruins in the rainy season! But, on the flip side, temperatures are generally warmer throughout the day.
Best Time to Visit Moray Inca Ruins
The best time to visit the Moray Inca Ruins is at the beginning of the dry season (May–June) or right at the end of the rainy season (April). Of course, it’s pretty obvious why visiting in the dry season is a more pleasant time to visit. But, why specifically visit at the start of the dry season? Well, by the midpoint and end of the dry season (July–October), the landscapes turn fairly barren and brown from the lack of rain. By visiting at the start of the dry season, the Scared Valley landscapes are still green and lush from the rainy season. But, you shouldn’t experience any of the rainy weather!
The benefit of visiting Moray and Maras in April (shoulder season), is the chance of dry weather and visiting at a quieter time. Generally speaking, tourists begin to flock to Peru for the dry season in May. So, by visiting in April, hopefully, you’ll avoid the rain and have a much more peaceful and quieter visit.
Moray Peru Altitude
The highland town of Moray is positioned on a plateau northwest of Cusco at a height of 3,500 metres above sea level. Indeed, Moray is a high altitude area. So, you should properly acclimatise before exploring Moray and Maras.
Tips For Acclimatising Properly
It’s important to acclimatise properly before exploring the Moray Inca Ruins and Maras Salt Mines. Altitude sickness (AKA Acute Mountain Sickness) is a common illness experienced by travellers heading to high altitudes. The main symptoms include headache, shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, dizziness, indigestion and loss of appetite. It’s impossible to predict who will get altitude sickness. Even if you have avoided altitude sickness at higher altitudes previously, that doesn’t guarantee you won’t get it the next time!
You’ll read many different tips online about how to avoid altitude sickness. But, the most important way to reduce your chance of getting altitude sickness is to simply avoid going up too high, too fast! As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t go higher than 500 metres a day, once you’re beyond 2,000 metres above sea level.
In practice, if you fly into Cusco (3,400 metres above sea level), you should have three rest days before you explore or hike. This should give your body enough time to adjust and acclimatise. In theory, by the fourth day, your body should be able to better tolerate around 3,900 metres (500 metres higher than Cusco). So, by this time, you should be good as gold to visit the Moray Inca Ruins (3,500 metres).
Besides this, there are other tips to help manage and reduce the chances of symptoms at high altitudes in Peru. Firstly, don’t rush around. Walk slowly and take it easy. Secondly, eat lighter meals. Don’t eat meals too fast and drink plenty of water. Factor in coca tea and sweets. The locals will tell you this helps with dealing with altitude. Finally, there are altitude sickness tablets (such as Diamox) available. But, if you acclimatise properly, progressively reaching higher altitudes slowly over time, you shouldn’t need these.
What To Do In Moray Peru
Other than exploring the Moray terraces and hiking to the Maras Salt Mines, there are many other things to do in Moray, Peru. If you have the time to explore the area in more depth, find below our suggestions of other things to keep you busy in Moray.
Inca Food and Agriculture at Moray
Inspired by the food farmed by the Incas at Moray Inca Ruins, you’ll notice a bit of a foodie scene at Moray. Potatoes, quinoa and corn were the most popular crops farmed at Moray. This appreciation of the foods grown by the Incas is exemplified perfectly by the MIL Restaurant.
Located next to the Moray Inca Ruins, you’ll find the famous MIL Restaurant – Food Lab and Interpretation Center. In 2018, world-class chef Virgilio Martinez, well-known as the owner of Central, founded the MIL Restaurant. Working with local communities, Mr Martinez combines traditional crop cultivation practices, the use of high-quality ingredients and specialist execution to create unique dishes. You won’t find the food served at the MIL Restaurant anywhere else in Peru, let alone in the world.
By the sounds of it, the MIL Restaurant is no ordinary establishment. Don’t expect to simply rock up for a quick lunch and dash. The MIL Immersion is a 6-hour food tour where you’ll indulge in eight courses! If that’s a bit too far a stretch for you, then there’s a 2–3 hour MIL Lunch experience where you still get to try eight courses. Indeed, if you have time to dine at this restaurant, you’ll have an exquisite culinary and cultural experience.
If it’s more adventure and outdoor fun that you’re after, then consider mountain biking in Moray! In fact, the dirt trails connecting Moray and Maras are perfect for mountain biking. With the sensational Sacred Valley surrounds, it’s hard to find a better place to mountain bike around Cusco. Generally speaking, tours depart Cusco and head to Chinchero. This is where you’ll pick up your gear, meet your guide and head out to Maras and Moray. In this tour, you’ll get to explore the Moray Inca Ruins, the Maras Salt Mines, and, everything in between.
Likewise, there are epic ATV Tours, which take advantage of the same flat dirt trails separating Moray and Maras. Similar to the mountain bike tours of Moray and Maras, you’ll depart from Cusco and head to Chinchero to get your gear and guide. You’ll then explore the Moray Inca Ruins and the Maras Salt Mines on your quad bike!
If you’re a fan of horseback riding, then consider this as an option for exploring the Moray area. Although companies in Cusco offer the horseback riding tour in Moray and Maras, the tours offered at Salineras Ranch are possibly the best. Using different paths, you’ll explore Moray, Maras and off the beaten places on horseback. This is truly a memorable and special way to explore the Moray Inca Ruins and Maras Salt Mines in the department of Cusco.
Maras is one of the most visited small towns in the Sacred Valley. Of course, most tourists will visit the area to check out the Maras Salt Mines. But, the town of Maras itself is worth a look. It’s actually located roughly halfway between Moray and the Maras Salt Mines. In the town, you’ll get a fascinating insight into the daily happenings of the residents. Most of them, are members of the families which own and operate a portion of the salt pans. During your visit, check out Plaza de Armas (Main Square) and simply marvel at the sun-dried mud-brick houses.
What to Wear and Pack For Moray Inca Ruins
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
When exploring the high altitude areas of Moray and Maras, near Cusco, you should also take water, snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat.
For a more complete gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Or, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a trip to Peru, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
Bonus Tips For Moray Inca Ruins
- It’s forbidden to walk on the Moray terraces or the Maras Salt Mines. These rules were introduced a few years ago to help with the preservation of both sites. Only families, who own the salt pans can walk on them. There’s even talk that some, if not all, of the Inca Moray Ruins, will be closed to the public in further efforts to preserve them. So, go visit now before it’s too late!
- Explore Peru: the Moray Inca Ruins barely scratches the surface of what’s on offer in Peru. Go and explore Machu Picchu, Lima, Nazca, Lake Titicaca, etc.
- Travel Insurance: given the potential for altitude sickness in and around Moray and Cusco, you’ll want travel insurance. We recommend SafetyWing as a reputable and dependable provider.