Staying three nights in Peru’s Sacred Valley meant that in addition to my day at Machu Picchu, I would also have another day to visit some other key sites in the area. While I contemplated doing the traditional “tourist route” which was a visit to the Pisac Inca ruins and its famous market, I ultimately decided against it. I had read that Pisac’s Sunday market had become immensely popular with visitors and while this is undoubtedly good for the villagers of Pisac from a financial standpoint, I know that more tourists often equates to less authenticity.
So, I concentrated my efforts on finding a tour that would take me to Moray, one of the most unique Inca sites (we also visited the impressive salt mines at Salineras but I’ll be writing about them in a separate post). Moray consists of several massive terraced circular depressions, the largest of which is roughly 98 feet deep! And as the Inca were absolutely brilliant in terms of smarts, just like many other Inca ruins, Moray has a rather complex irrigation system.
To this day, researchers are unsure about the purpose of Moray; however, a popular theory is that it was an Inca agricultural site where experiments on crops were conducted. This theory is supported by the fact that the depth, design, and orientation of the depressions with respect to the wind and sun creates a difference in temperatures of as much as 27 degrees F (15 degrees C) between the top and the bottom. It’s believed that its microclimatic conditions led to the use of Moray being a center for the ancient study of domestication, acclimatization, and hybridization of wild vegetable species that were modified or adapted for human consumption.
I’m not sure there are any words that can do Moray justice besides the background I provided above. This may sound trite and cliche, but visiting Moray was an unforgettable experience. If you didn’t know its origins, you would think it had been constructed in more recent times. That there was no way an ancient civilization could have constructed such a sophisticated and complex structure and system, especially without the use of modern technology. And yet, the Inca did. They did at Moray and at countless other sights in Peru’s Sacred Valley.
While the terraces don’t seem that big from up above, once you climb down, you can immediately see how utterly massive they are, not to mention the depressions would make anyone feel like a dwarf in comparison.
Sure, these aren’t ruins in the “traditional” sense and yes, there’s not a whole lot to do there except climb down and then climb back up and yet the terraces at Moray are probably the most unique place you will ever visit.
Tips for visiting!
-I traveled to Moray as part of a private tour. But it still is pretty easy and relatively inexpensive to hire a driver to take you to Moray and Salineras (they’re about 45 minutes apart). Just ask at your hotel.
-Moray is at an altitude of 11,500 feet. Between the very steep and difficult climbing and the high altitudes, take it easy. Don’t rush to climb back up. Our tour guide was from Cusco and obviously immune to any altitude issues so while he seemed to almost dash back to the top, we had to regularly stop for no other reason than feeling majorly exerted. I also noticed I was more short of breath here. Listen to your body, don’t watch the itinerary clock.
-Bring lots of water. There are some locals selling bottled water but always bring your own just in case. With the altitude, you want to drink water regularly.
-Peru is basically right beneath the ozone layer which means the sun is that much more intense. It wasn’t terribly hot the day we visited but we still covered up for no other reason than to protect against the sun.
-Tickets for Moray are part of the Boleto Turistico. For 70 soles (about $23 USD), your 2 day boleto turistico (tourist ticket) is valid at entrance for Moray, Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and Chinchero, all sites in the Sacred Valley.