One of the most visually fascinating Inca ruins is at Moray, a popular archaeological site in Peru located approximately 50 km northwest of Cuzco. This site is visited in conjunction with Salineras Maras as they are close together and normally both sites can be done in three hours.
There are many uncertainties concerning Moray’s enormous terraced circular depressions but many experts agree that it could be a place of agricultural experiments or research base. They may have served as an Inca agricultural centre for developing new crops. There are even speculations that crops were cross-bred to create new varieties and also to test the feasibility of foreign crops.
The terraces are constructed in a series of concentric depressions which is similar to a Roman amphitheater.
One of the most remarkable feature of the site is the vast difference in temperature that exists between the top and the bottom reaches of the structure, which can be as much as 15°C. This large temperature difference created micro climates, similar to what is achieved in greenhouses in modern times, that was possibly used by the Inca to study the effects of different climatic conditions on crops.
As the height of each terrace is high, steps are built on the wall of the terraces to enable people to walk up and down the terraces. The largest of these terraces are at the center and descend to a depth of approximately 150 meter, leading to a circular bottom so well drained that it never completely floods, no matter how heavy is the rainfall.
Another big question mark is how drainage for water flowing through the aqueducts functioned. Despite heavy rainfalls, the lowest level is always drained. This leads to speculation that there could be underground channels that carry the water away. Or it could be the extremely porous natural rock formation that absorbs the water into deeper level of the earth.
The eastern side of the principal circle collapsed in early 2010 and temporary wooden support structure was erected to prevent further destruction (see photo above). I was there in August 2014 and the wooden structures were still there. Apparently, the progress to restore and repair were hindered due to lack of funds and continuing heavy rainfall. My advice is to go and see this interesting crater landscape before any further deterioration happen (god forbid).
Tip to remember: This site is included in the Cuzco Tourist Ticket or boleto touristico. If you have some spare time after visiting Salineras Maras, don’t waste your ticket, go and see for yourself this fascinating landscape.
How to get there: I visited this place on my way back from Machu Picchu. My friend and I hired a private car in Ollantaytambo and we were driven to visit Moray and Salineras Maras. Wikitravel recommends two routes :
Route 1 (from Cuzco) Take a bus from Cuzco to Urubamba. At Urubamba, get off at the town center where there is a Y in the road and two statues resembling stonehenge. Await a bus to Moray for 1 sole. Stay awake as it is only a few km to the Moray turnoff. The bus will drop you off there. Taxis await at the blue and white bus station. It is 4km to town and 13km to the ruins as noted on the bus station. Skilled negotiators who arrive with a group of 5 persons or more will get 10 soles per person to get driven to both Moray and the Salt mines and back to the turnoff. Less skilled negotiators will get 15 soles to get driven to the Moray site and left there.
Route 2 (from Cuzco) Take a taxi or ask the locals for a bus station where buses go to Chinchero and Moray. Expect to pay 3 soles. Take the bus and get dropped off at the blue and white bus stop that is the turnoff for Moray. Then follow the above instructions.