How to Get a Good Deal on Alpaca Souvenirs in Peru
Last week I attended the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s World Summit in Chiapas, Mexico. Yes, I was working. But, I was also a tourist. I wanted to bring home a souvenir from my trip. In Chiapas, the definitive souvenir is amber jewelry. The amber is produced locally, and plenty of jewelry stores and street vendors offer a wide selection of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.
I brought a bracelet for $20 from a reputable-looking shop. Within two days, the bracelet fell apart; so much for my souvenir.
In Peru, the definitive souvenir is something alpaca. You can buy alpaca sweaters, ponchos, hats, or scarves. But, how do you know that you are buying real alpaca and not some sort of synthetic blend billed as alpaca? Unless you are a textile expert, it can be hard to tell. This is why it is important to buy from a reliable source rather than from one of the many street vendors circling the Plaza de Armas in Cusco.
If you want a high quality alpaca coat, for example, you can’t do better than the Kuna store in the Larcomar mall in Miraflores or at the Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima. They have a fantastic selection of high-end alpaca fashion for shoppers with the most discerning taste. However, the prices are quite steep.
If you are in Cusco, another option is the store run by the nonprofit Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco located on the Avenida Sol. This organization works with rural communities in the Peruvian Andes to revive the communities’ weaving traditions. The center provides training to community members on how to form and operate a cooperative that makes, markets, and sells alpaca goods. The center’s efforts help rural communities benefit from tourist dollars flowing into Peru. The quality of the alpaca products in this store is quite good, and the prices are considerably lower than those of Alpaca 111.
A third option is to visit one of the rural communities that the center works with. There you can buy alpaca goods directly from the artisans. This option also gives you an opportunity to meet people in these remote communities and see how they live.
For example, on Llama Expeditions’ Sacred Valley tour, we take our guests to a community located several hours from Cusco. It is well off the beaten tourist path and not something you could access on your own. Our guests enjoy a delicious lunch with the community members, see a weaving demonstration, and have the opportunity to buy authentic alpaca products at incredible prices.I bought a stunningly beautiful alpaca poncho for just $100. Better yet was the once-in-a-lifetime experience. The people-to-people interactions stayed with me and made my vacation even more memorable.