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Discover Moray, an ancient agricultural research center

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Discover Moray, an ancient agricultural research center

Throughout the Sacred Valley, the Incas left us a great legacy of archaeological and architectural sites that are preserved to this day. Thanks to them we have been able to learn much of the history and culture of this empire that inhabited Peru for around 100 years, between 1438 and 1533.


One of the most fascinating places you can find in the Sacred Valley is Moray, an archaeological complex used by the Incas as an agricultural research center.


Without any doubt, Moray is one of the must-see destinations on your visit to Cusco. So that you get to this place steeped in its history and its origin, here we tell you all you need to know.



It is located 53 km from the city of Cusco (1 hour by bus on the Cusco - Maras route), with an altitude of 3,385 meters above sea level.


Moray etymology

Like many other Cusco place names, the word Moray comes from Quechua. There are several versions about the origin of this term. On the one hand, there are those who say that it is a contraction of the words Muyu (round) and Uruy (below or in the lower part) and on the other, those who attribute it to terms such as Aymoray (corn harvest and month of May ) and Moraya or Moray (dehydrated potato).


The importance of Moray during the Inca period

When you walk through the different archaeological sites of Cusco, you will come across the famous Inca terraces, an example of the great architectural capacity of this empire.


The platforms distributed throughout the Sacred Valley, including those of Moray, were used as an agricultural research center. Each of them has a different temperature, so they could sow different types of products. Thus and according to studies, in Moray the Incas managed to cultivate more than 250 types of vegetables.


To irrigate all this area, they implemented complex hydraulic systems. In addition, at the bottom of the platforms they developed a method with which they managed to store and reuse rainwater.


But some scholars of the Inca Empire speak of Moray as a center also dedicated to astronomical observation and the prediction of meteorological phenomena.



Before the Incas, this part of the Sacred Valley of the Incas was inhabited by the ethnic group ‘Maras’ and ‘Ayamarcas’ which occupied a large part of the current territory of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.


After the Inca conquest, the construction of large buildings and platforms began in the territory of the Sacred Valley. Thus, the Moray platforms were built, which were used by the Incas as an important agricultural control center. There the production of the coca leaf was carried out, a plant considered sacred to the Incas.


The investigations do not clearly specify if during the colony (from 1532) the platforms of Moray were worked. The truth is that it was not until 1932 that the Shirppe Johnson’s expedition flew over the place discovering the existence of the platforms, then covered by thick vegetation.


During the 20th century, various investigations were carried out on Moray. Perhaps the most valuable of all was made by the anthropologist John Earls who established that it was an experimental agricultural center.


What was the function of the Moray terraces?

According to research, during the Inca period of Tahuantinsuyo, Moray produced 60% of the total vegetable species as well as more than 3,000 varieties including potatoes, corn and many other species.


For many years it was believed that Moray was caused by a meteorite that fell hundreds of years ago. However, the theory that suggests a center for acclimatization and domestication of various species of plants that were adapted for human consumption is currently accepted.


The main species of plant cultivated in Moray was the coca leaf, which is native to the hot regions of the Cusco jungle. The coca leaf was considered sacred by the Incas for its natural stimulating properties.


What products did they grow?

In Moray, each agricultural terrace (1.90 meters high) had a certain temperature. Deeper, the temperature increased. Thus, the production of tubers was very varied.


Among the products that were worked in Moray, the following stand out: potato, goose, quinoa, kiwicha, pumpkin, coca leaf and other herbs for medicinal use.


What microclimates does Moray have?

Talking about Moray is talking about Inca technology and being amazed, this because only in Moray there are up to 20 types of microclimates, something really surprising. The distribution of so many types of microclimates corresponds to the circular and concentric shape, which allows the temperature to gradually graduate from the outside (where there are high temperatures) to the inside (where there are lower temperatures).


A sector of Moray, to which the lower platforms correspond, is humid and of low temperature. The sector that follows has a higher temperature that ranges between 2º C to 3º C. Finally, the sector that follows has the highest temperature. This change in climate on the platforms allowed different products to be grown, including a great variety of tubers. Among the most harvested in Moray is kiwi, goose and coca leaf, among others.


What am I going to see in Moray?

Beautiful landscapes - The set of platforms that make up Moray are visually beautiful to human eyes and, of course, to the lens of a camera. Many people come there to take the postcard photo and post it on their social networks.


Circular platforms - The circular platforms of Moray were a very important place for Inca agriculture. It is believed that it was a center for experimental studies that the Incas used to sow products that, under other conditions, could not be cultivated.


Adventure sports - There are tours to the platforms of Moray that include adventure by bicycle or even ATV. These services can be obtained at any tourism agency located in the Historic Center of Cusco.


Customs in Moray

Every October 8, hundreds of residents who live in the neighboring communities of Moray attend the circular platforms in order to celebrate the 'Moray Raymi' or the 'Fiesta de Moray'.


This festival includes a show of folk dances related to the land, production, harvest and agricultural work.


During that date, in addition to local residents, dozens of tourists visit the platforms of Moray to learn a little more about the Inca traditions represented there.



As in the rest of Cusco, in Moray there are two different seasons: the dry season and the rainy season.


During the dry season, the average daytime temperature is 20ºC, while at night it falls to 1ºC. In the rainy season, the days have an average temperature of 21 ºC and the nights, 7 ºC. However, in the rainy season the roads are more muddy and, on some occasions, access can be difficult.


The routes to get to Moray

The Moray Archaeological Complex is located 57 km northwest of Cusco. To get here you have different options:


Excursion from Cusco: the most common and most used way by tourists who arrive in Cusco and want to visit Moray is to hire an excursion. In the Plaza de Armas of Cusco and in its surroundings you will find countless tourist agencies that offer this tour, usually combined with a visit to the Salineras de Maras and other archaeological sites.


Visit by ATV: an unforgettable option to visit Moray (and Maras) is to do it by ATV. Some of the agencies that you will find in Cusco offer this adventure with which you can travel a part of the Sacred Valley driving this vehicle yourself until you reach the archaeological complex.


The duration of the tours, either by ATV or by bus, is at least half a day.


Taxi: if you prefer to get to this destination on your own and without so many people, a very good option is the taxi. This alternative is perfect if you travel in a group of four people, since this means of transport is cheap in Peru and the price, divided between the four passengers, is quite affordable.


Tips and Recommendations

The Archaeological Complex of Moray will leave you with your mouth open. But for your visit to be perfect, we recommend that you take note of the following tips:

  • Buy the Tourist Ticket of Cusco. This ticket allows you to enter different tourist places in the city and its surroundings and some of them, such as Moray, can only be accessed with this ticket.
  • Hire professional guides. If you decide to visit Moray on an excursion with a guide, hire the services at an official tourist agency.
  • Be prepared for the changing weather of Cusco. In both the dry and rainy seasons, it is always advisable to carry a hat, sunscreen and a raincoat in your backpack. The climate in this region is unpredictable.
  • If you have a few days in Cusco, you can take advantage of the trip from the Imperial City to Ollantaytambo to make stops in the Sacred Valley and visit places as wonderful as Moray.
  • If you arrive in Moray on your own, take the opportunity to visit other nearby places in the Sacred Valley such as the Salineras de Maras or Chinchero.

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