The Mysterious Caves of Pichingoto – Salt Mines

We love to take our clients to hidden, well-kept secret places in the heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. There are hundreds of secret sites in the Sacred Valley, but this one is very easy to access and so interesting that we often wonder, why is it the least visited place? This magnificent site is called Pichingoto and is located near the famous Maras salt ponds.

To start, the old name of this place was Pichintoco, “the caves of the birds”. The town has ancient buildings belonging to different eras, houses made of stone and earth attached to the rock sides of the large basalt rock cliffs and overhangs. The first period from the XII-XIV century belonged to the pre-Incan Wari people which had tiny caves with little square doorways, more like windows allowing you to enter to sit and rest. Legend has it, that the first people of Pichintoco were highly spiritual and connected to nature and truly believed they were decedents of birds. The second phase of Pichintoco shows the houses that are significantly large and more comfortable, starting on the ground, niches attached to the rock. The overhanging rock cliff leans over the houses, almost like a cave that offer shelter.

Nowadays, some of those houses can still be visited and are from around the 15th century when the Incas had arrived and taken over the salt ponds.

The recent phase of Pichingoto includes a small Spanish church from the XVII century that has recently been renovated where some people still live in. In 2010 there was a fire in the old village that forced out many families that resided here.  You could still see some damage from the fire.

It is said that the Pichintoco people discovered the salt source, a stream of very salty water called the ‘Qori puqio’ or ‘golden spring’. During that time, they had a simple diet that didn´t include salt and was very bland. Then the Pinchintoco people added the salt to their diet which contains important minerals that are beneficial for the body.

This story is told in parts in various places in the Sacred Valley and the surrounding area around Pichingoto. All that can be said with certainty is how it feels visiting an ancient and mysterious ghost town.

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