Cusco shopping: Andean handicrafts and garments galore

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In Cusco, native wools, such as luxuriously soft baby alpaca, art and jewelry, and of course, foodstuffs are in high demand. City streets are filled with a variety of stores and open markets. This creates great shopping opportunities for everyone from the wanderlust backpacker to the refined art collector. But with so many options, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

Consider these points before embarking on your own Cusco shopping expedition:

1. What you want to buy

2. What type of quality you want

3. What your budget is

Read on to get a taste of all the variety of trinkets, silver jewelry and unique handicrafts that Cusco has to offer and get ready to shop ‘til you drop.

THE WIDEST SELECTION OF AUTHENTIC ANDEAN WOOLS

Stacks of colorful woven sweaters will greet you at just about any Cusco market. In the world of Andean knits, the textures of fabrics feel quite different. Alpaca or llama wool can feel a bit scratchy and may irritate sensitive skin. Blended with synthetic wool, clothing woven with alpaca will feel much softer. “Vicuna”:http://www.peruforless.com/blog/vicuna-wool-fabric-fit-for-inca-royalty/ knits are by far the highest quality wool for sale and are as soft (if not softer) than cashmere.

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_(Photo: Ana Castañeda Cano/Peru For Less)_

High quality alpaca knits are upwards of $100; baby alpaca is even more expensive! Remember that just because a garment is labeled baby alpaca doesn’t always make it so. Buyers looking for quality Andean wool products should shop in manicured boutiques.

Sol Alpaca (134 Mantas Street) sells trendy, finely knit alpaca clothing and accessories that will help you stay warm on a chilly Cusco night. The store works in partnership with local communities and weavers, promoting the teaching and conservation of traditional weaving techniques.

Kuna (115 Portal de Belén, Main Square) is another high-end store in Cusco offering the finest alpaca and vicuña knit wears. Their designs incorporate motifs used by the ancient cultures of the Andes into elegant, graceful garments. While distinctly Peruvian, these clothes still display a modern, cosmopolitan character.

ORIGINAL ARTS & HANDICRAFTS

The San Blas district (located up the hill behind the Cusco Cathedral in the main plaza) is a great place to find artwork and crafts in Cusco. Visit galleries displaying the work of local painters and preuse shops that specialize in Inca-style ceramics, wood-workings, and religious art. Some stores may sell similar handcrafts and trinkets, so visit various vendors to get the best bargains.

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_(Photo: Ana Castañeda Cano/Peru For Less)_

Artesanías Mendivil (Plazoleta San Blas 619) is a must-see in the San Blas neighborhood. Check out the famous long-necked religious figurines that the Mendivil family have been producing for generations!

For more, check out Centro Artesanal Cusco (located at the end of Avenida Sol). It is the city’s largest group of handicrafts stalls and prices are slightly cheaper than those near Plaza de Armas.

PRECIOUS SILVER & GOLD JEWELRY

Cusco is a great place to purchase sterling silver and gold jewelry (10-24 karats) at a range of prices. Handcrafted necklaces, bracelets and rings adorned with semiprecious regional stones are another local specialty. Jewelry prices offered by stores and street sellers will often tell you about the quality of the piece.

Esma Jewelry (120 Hatunrumiyoc Street) is a small, boutique shop by local designer, Rocío Pérez, who has a distinct, bold design. The silver jewelry and semiprecious stones are full of personality.

Ilaria (130 Medio Street) is a reputable jewelry store chain. Jewelry designs are strongly influenced by colonial-era art, in the Andean Baroque tradition, and often incorporate native hardwoods, minerals and seashells.

FOODSTUFFS

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_(Photo: Richard Droker/Flickr)_

San Pedro Market may attract a lot of foreigners, but it’s no tourist trap. On a typical morning Cusqueñian housewives do their shopping here and locals stop in for a juice drink. For a Cusco visitor, the San Pedro Market (a few blocks walk from Plaza de Armas) is a sensory experience quite unlike anything else in the historic center. Buy some exotic looking fruit, like Chirimoya or Aguaymanto, for a taste and check out other stalls selling dry goods, herbs and spices and potions, souvenirs, and flowers.

“Chocolate”:http://www.peruforless.com/blog/peruvian-chocolate-a-cusco-treat/ in Peru is gaining popularity and the cacao bean produced in the Cusco region is second to none. Refine your culinary skills with a chocolate-making workshop at Choco Museo (Calle Garcilaso 210, 2nd floor) and then enjoy your favorite sweet treats.

Looking for a quick caffeine fix to power you through your Cusco Tour? Skip Starbucks and head to Cocla (137 Mesón de la Estrella street) instead for your own cup of delicious, locally grown and organic Peruvian coffee. You’ll probably want to buy a bag or two to take home with you.

Cusco may be a remote Andean town, but the city does not fall short in the wide variety of handicrafts, products and delicious goodies to buy. Start your shopping experience in the Plaza de Armas and continue your exploration along the cobbled streets that fan out from this bustling epicenter. You’re bound to find something you like no matter what direction you go!

For more helpful tips and know-how, visit our “Cusco page”:http://www.peruforless.com/destinations/cusco-tours/, to make the most of your time in this unique city.

_Britt Fracolli is a writer and editor for Peru for Less. She is a travel enthusiast on a mission to explore the length and width of Peru and always plotting out her next adventure. Interested in a trip to Peru? Contact “www.peruforless.com”:http://www.peruforless.com the Peru travel experts._

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