Most people travelling to Peru will probably want to buy some gifts to take back home to remind them of their Peru Vacation. I have put together a short list of 5 alternative (and reasonably priced) gift ideas that you may want to consider.
You will notice when you arrive in the city of Cusco on your way to Machu Picchu that you will be overwhelmed by street vendors trying to sell you all sorts of things. You will soon learn to say ‘no gracias’ as you walk the many cobbled streets of the historic centre, with locals approaching you trying to sell you anything from finger puppets to large alpaca rugs.
Many of the goods that you will see packed into the shops around Plaza de Armas are mass produced items, some made in Peru but the majority imported from Bolivia where factories mass-produce items just for the tourism market.
Most of the items on offer are low quality and cheap, but there are some bargains to be had, and taking your time to look around may get you a great gift that you will treasure for years to come.
From an insider living in Cusco, here are my 5 tops tips for an alternative quality gift for your Peru vacation.
1) Baby Alpaca Clothing
Alpaca wool is largely used in Peru for the manufacture of high quality clothing, and was used extensively in the US and Europe before the invention of fleece. Located around the colonial centre of Cusco you will find many quality shops selling Alpaca clothing. Shops like Kuna, Sol Alpaca, Galaria Latina and Alpaca Treasure are genuine retailers of alpaca products. Baby Alpaca is the softest of the materials available and is noticeably higher in quality that regular alpaca products. Although some items of clothing are quite expensive, smaller items like gloves and scarfs are really quite affordable (US$20 – 30) and make great elegant gifts. Avoid street stalls and smaller shops as they will be happy to claim the material is baby alpaca (even with tags) when actually it is something completely different.
2) Peruvian Hand-made Jewelry
Jewellry is another item that you will see for sale on just about every street corner in Cusco. The quality of items can vary greatly, and it is often difficult to decide if the price they are trying to charge is right, or too much. So where do you go for quality jewelry that you know will not turn green as soon as you get it home? I recommend that you may want to check out Ilaria, an Italian owned jewelry shop that specializes in products made purely from silver. All the items of jewelry on sale are hand-made in Peru at the Ilaria factory in Lima, and each piece is unique. Although the shop sells very expensive items like large mirrors and candle holders etc. there is also a selection of really nice smaller items, like rings, earrings and pretty bracelets. I have picked up really nice piece of jewelry there from around US$30 – 50. Hand-made in Peru by an Italian designer – what could be nicer! The main shop can easily be found on Cusco’s main plaza or in LarcoMar in Lima.
3) Unique Hand-made Peruvian Pottery
In Urubamba in the Sacred Valley is the family run business of Seminario, a Peruvian pottery company that produces one-off hand-made and painted items. The owner Pablo and his wife together have produced beautiful pieces of unique pottery for the Peruvian tourism market for years, and now are world-famous exporting their brightly colored products all over the world. On Cusco’s main plaza you can head to their flagship store (next to Peru Rail and McDonalds) where you can browse the many pieces of beautiful items for sale. Small gifts cost no more than US$ 15 – 20 and include cups, plates, photo frames, ash trays and jugs etc. If you want to splash out a little then US$ 100 will get you a really colorful three-piece wall decoration or perhaps a really nice large fruit bowl.
4) Ayacucho Style Knitting
Different regions of Peru specialize in different things! Ayacucho is famous for it style of hand-made knitted products which can make excellent gifts. Although not the easiest of products to find amongst the mountain of other knitted products within the streets of Cusco, it is worth the time to look around. Ayacucho knitted products are typically knitted from alpaca and regular sheep’s wool, and a brightly colored with features that stand proud of the backing material. A cushion cover will set you back US$ 50 – 75, but smaller items like a small money purse can be purchased for US$ 10 – 15. One of the best shops in Cusco that sell these products can be found in the same inner-courtyard as the well-known Cicciolina restaurant. As you enter the courtyard from the Calle Triunfo head to the far right corner.
The last Peru vacation gift idea is something that you might not have even heard of before! Peru, especially the regions of Lima, Ica, Pisco and Arequipa are famous for a type of white brandy – known as Pisco. Largely un-available in North America or Europe, this strong liquor is a perfect gift idea that can easily be found in any supermarket for US$ 15 a bottle. Impress your friends with the traditional cocktail of Pisco Sour, or mix it with a tin of peaches in syrup to create a sweet and tasty party drink.
I hope that you like my alternative gift ideas that I have suggested. If you have an idea that you think is better please let me know! I am always open to great suggestions and ideas.