Peru is a wonderful place to buy handicrafts which have developed over thousands of years since the origins of the ancient Inca civilization. In particular, clothing and textiles made from alpaca wool, the warmest natural fiber known to man. Alpacas are native animals that roam the mountains. They were domesticated over 8,000 years ago for food and wool, much like the sheep in Europe. It is useful for surviving the brashness of the Andean altiplano and makes for a good gift to survive the cold winters back home. The traditional garments display a pictogram pattern weaved in multiples that embrace the trim or hem, and may even depict an alpaca. Otherwise, main patterns are linear with bold contrasting colors.
You’ll find locally crafted textiles all over Peru, but a great place to shop for these is the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (Avenida El Sol 603, Cusco), which showcases age-old quality weaving techniques. Local weavers from the surrounding area give daily demonstrations, including their use of plant products to make natural dyes. The products are available for sale and proceeds go back into the community. The center is open every day between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Around Cusco you’ll find several other quality craft shops, particularly along Triunfo Street, or you can head to Kuna (Portal de Panes 127) on Plaza de Armas, the main square in Cusco. The store Werner & Ana (Plaza de San Francisco 295, Cusco) offers trendy variants of timeless alpaca styles for modern fashionable clothing.
If you are in Lima, La Case de la Mujer Artesana Manuela Ramos (Juan Pablo Fernandini, Lima), sells artisan products from the central highlands. The largest craft markets are in Miraflores on Petit Thouars Street where you’ll find alpaca clothing, as well as silver jewelry and ceramics. For a larger selection of jewelry, head to Manos Peruanas (Petit Thouars 5411, Lima), which has contemporary designs of silver earrings, necklaces and bracelets. Peru ArtCrafts (Malecon de la Reserva 610, Lima) also has a good range of products such as jewelry, textiles, and other crafts and is located inside a modern shopping mall, Larcomar in Miraflores.