Animal Spotlight: Vicuñas – South America’s Royal Animal

Llamas can be cute, Alpacas definitely are, Guanacos – part of the same family – well, sort of… but what about their other cousins, the Vicuñas? Most Definitely! It’s common to find woven goods in South America made from these camelids (relatives of the camel), but as far as wool goes Vicuña wool is viewed as the best in the world! As you can imagine, the wool is rare and highly valued anywhere in the world. Of all the unique animals of South or Central America, this 4 legged altiplano cruising grass-eater is the most luxurious!

Vicuña wool is extremely fine, incredibly soft and very warm. It is also rare – partly due to the fact the animal can only be shorn (wool removed) every 3 years. So fine and exclusive was the wool to the ancient Incas, it was a crime for anyone but Incan royalty to wear clothing made from vicuna wool.

Today the animal is protected by law and several countries, most especially Peru have embarked on an aggressive breeding program as the demand for the top-quality wool increases around the world.

The shawl below is valued at $4900US and the coat at $3500. While bargains may be had when in Peru, be prepared to pay for the quality of a garment that will last you a lifetime and keep you warm on the cold in the coldest of Andean or North American nights. There’s little chance of finding Vicuñas wool in the many small open-aired markets in Peru and beyond, but there are some great, high-quality shops in major cities.

RUANAvicuña- 001



  • Its warmth properties come from the tiny scales in the hollow, air-filled fibers
  • It is finer than any other wool in the world.
  • Due to its sensitivity to chemical treatment, the wool is usually left in its natural color.
  • The vicuña will only produce about 0.5 kg of wool a year
  • The vicuña was believed to be the reincarnation of a beautiful young maiden who received a coat of pure gold

Other Animal Spotlights:

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Don Forster
Don Forster

Trade Training Manager — Born in Australia and raised in Canada and Papua New Guinea, Don took his first solo trip to Bali – aged just 13. Since then, Don’s travels have taken him to every continent. He’s been a backpacker in Asia, Europe and Egypt, an overland adventurer in East and Southern Africa, and an overland driver in South and Central America. He is especially fond of Peru, Patagonia and Namibia, though his longest adventure to date has been a London to Kathmandu run via the Middle East.

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