Peru is one of our consistently bestselling destinations, and for good reason. The Andean nation is acclaimed for its wild landscapes, awe-inspiring Inca ruins, Amazonian Rainforest, inspiring cuisine, and fascinating indigenous culture. It’s a safe, friendly, and affordable destination that offers accommodation ranging from budget to 5-star luxury. With direct flights from US and Canadian cities, and situated in the same time zone as the North American east coast, Peru is an easily-accessed destination that offers great value for singles, couples, and families of all ages.
One of the most interesting pastimes while on a Peru vacation is browsing its colourful markets and boutiques. Peru is one of the top shopping destinations in South America. Traditional, fine weavings are carefully spun by skilled Peruvian women in an intricate process that yields exquisite patterns and designs. Peru’s ancient culture lives on through its indigenous Andean population, and many textile techniques and styles date back to the Incas. The unique and handmade wares, along with precious gold goods and gorgeous woolen garments, are showcased throughout the country in colourful markets and boutiques.
Textiles, Vicuña & Baby Alpaca
Throughout Peru, traditional alpaca and baby alpaca textile goods are on offer. These adorable native creatures (you’ll likely see them trotting around the Cusco area) yield unbelievably soft wool, considered finer than wool from lambs or llama. Baby alpaca wool (softer than adult alpaca wool) is made into brightly-coloured sweaters, hats, scarves, ponchos, shawls, blankets, and more. These items are great to wear during cool nights in the mountainous Cusco region. While the genuine article (authentic baby alpaca goods) can be expensive to purchase in Peru, they are still very cheap compared to in North America.
Vicuñas, an Andean cousin to the llama, produce very rare wool that’s considered the finest in the world. Because the animal can only be shorn every three years, and has to be caught in the wild, the extremely fine wool is expensive. The Inca valued vicuñas highly for their wool, and it was against the law for anyone but royalty to wear vicuña garments. The wool is prized for its incredible softness and warmth.
While on your Peru tour, visit Pisac Market in the Sacred Valley for a true cultural experience. Against the backdrop on the beautiful Andes, you’ll browse colourful Andean textiles, including rugs, alpaca sweaters, and ponchos. Many vendors, decked out in the dress typical of their region, come from remote villages high in the mountains to sell their wares here each Sunday.
Shopping in established city boutiques is the best way to source high quality alpaca, vicuña, gold, and silver goods that are of reputable quality. Though prices tend to be higher than in markets, boutiques in places like Arequipa, Cusco, and Lima can be the best place to get those gorgeous goods to bring home. Boutique shops can more likely guarantee you are getting the correct wool (vicuna or baby alpaca) or real silver or gold. Peru is the second largest producer of silver in the world, and the best silver jewelry and antiques shops are in the Miraflores district of Lima.
Like many countries in the world, bargaining is common practice when making purchases in Peru’s markets and some shops. There is a skill and style to this gentle, good-natured haggling over prices, and is accepted… and even expected.
Before setting out, it can be helpful to carry both U.S. dollars and Peruvian soles with you, as well as having small local change. Find out what prices other vendors and stalls are offering before purchasing. Once you’re ready to make a purchase, start the bargaining process at 50% of the price the vendor suggests and go from there. The final price is based on how tough you are and how much time you have. Understand that most market vendors speak some English so don’t “strategize” too loudly or openly. Also, be aware that although many merchants claim that their woven wool items are alpaca or baby alpaca, much of what is sold in many tourist centres is made of acrylic or other blends. Tip: If your new “alpaca” sweater stinks when it gets wet, it’s probably made of llama wool.
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