If you’re seeking to find high-quality Andean textiles, here are some places near Cusco that are not to miss.
The Mapacho Valley
I don’t have the authority to objectively verify this claim, but I’m willing to say that textiles woven by indigenous women in the Mapacho valley are among the highest quality that exist on the continent. In the villages of Bon Bon, Parabamba, and Chimor, you’ll find colorful textiles that are dyed naturally, from plants that weavers collect in the region. Within each textile, you’ll find designs reflecting the animals, natural wonders, and rich stories that weavers carry from their ancestors. If you’re willing to take time to stop and listen, you’re might have a life-changing experience.
how to get there
Booking an organized tour
There are several options to book tours to visit indigenous communities of the Mapacho valley, where you’ll have the chance to learn about the art of weaving, about traditional agriculture, and about the many medicinal plants of the region.
I recommend that you get ahold of EnthoCo, an organization run by North America expat Scott Lite and his Peruvian wife Isabella Vicente. Along with organizing workshops and tours across the jungles and Andes of Peru, they also offer trips into the Mapacho Valley for those who are interested in the weaving traditions, plants, and indigenous wisdom of the jungles and the Andes. To find out more about their tours, visit here: EthnoCo website.
You can also get ahold of me. I organize periodic multi-day trips through these parts of the Andes. You can find more out by visiting my website Voyage With Scott.
From Calca, take a collectivo (shared van) to the town of Ayamparis, about 2 hours away. From Ayamparis, you’ll need to wait for another bus (which usually only passes through in the morning) that will take you into the Mapacho Valley.
As of yet, there is very little infrastructure for tourism within the Mapacho valley. Therefore, we recommend you make this into a day trip unless you don’t mind staying in a basic hostel or camping at the hot springs. And be sure to leave from Calca by 8-9am in order to give yourself enough time to spend at the springs, and to visit weavers in the communities of Chimor, Bon Bon, or Parabamba.
The Potato Park
In the mountains above the Sacred Valley of Peru lies an expansive territory where communities live in the way that they traditionally have for many years. It’s a great place to visit for the day if you want to learn about traditional agriculture, weaving, go hiking, learn about Andean traditions, and learn about medicinal plants.
The Potato Park is a bio-cultural reserve located in the heights above the Sacred Valley of Peru. Though it has a strange name, it is a great place to visit for those who are interested in learning about Andean traditions. More than 6,000 people live within the boundaries of the park, spread between twelve different communities. Though some communities are more traditional than others, most everybody who lives in this territory is subsistence farmers, living in the same ways that their ancestors have.
They collect wool from their own llamas, alpacas, and sheep in order to make stunning garments that are colored with natural dies which they produce from plants that grow in the region.
If you visit the communities of Chauhuaytire, Paru Paru, or Amaru, you can easily encounter families who will teach you all about their weaving traditions. In general, people are very generous, and you’re likely to be offered a place to stay for the night. If you have an opportunity to do this, I highly recommend that you take the opportunity to do it. Also, do keep in mind that most families that live within the Potato Park are very poor. Please be mindful of this, and offer your hosts a generous payment for offering their hospitality.
Chinchero is a great village to visit in order to find more out about Andean weaving, because of its proximity to Cusco, and because many weavers are well-organized. The Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco (The Cusco Textile Center) is one organization that helped bring weavers together by empowering traditional weavers by providing training, and a platform for selling their art. Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez, who helped to start the collective, has written several books about weavers in the Sacred Valley, including one about the weavers of Chinchero.
How to get there and when to go
Chinchero is located about 45 minutes away from Cusco. Since Chinchero is on the way to Urubamba can take any collectivo going in this direction and get off when you pass through Chincero. You can also hire a private taxi from Cusco.
Baratillo Saturday Market, Cusco
If you want to invest in something that is rich in history, then this is a good place to go. The huge market takes up more than 15 city blocks, and there are 4 streets dedicated exclusively to textiles.
You’ll find a wide variety of garments, from handmade and naturally died clothing, to machine made synthetic sweaters. If you are not experienced at telling the differences between high-quality and low-quality textiles, bring a knowledgeable friend if you can.
How to get there and when to go
The market is located on Prolongación Pera street, along Ejercito Ave, and near the Santiago Bridge. It is a five block walk away from the San Pedro market. There is a market every Saturday.