‘What are the best souvenirs I can buy in Peru?’ is probably not the most urgent question you have before your travels but it doesn’t make it less important anyways. It’s totally normal to want to buy something nice to bring back home or something to make your friends and family happy, I get that. That’s why I’ve put together this comprehensive and informative list for you. I’ve asked travelers and consulted travel experts on whats and hows on the whole ‘Peru souvenirs’ topic and this is what I’ve found out. In this article you will read:
- What souvenirs to buy in Peru
- Where are the best places to do so
- How to bargain like a pro
- General tips for the best shopping experience
In case you have additional questions, please write in the comments below.
Souvenirs to buy in Peru
Alpaca products are a trademark of Peruvian production. They are very light and easy to fold which makes them transportation friendly. Baby Alpaca is the material made from the first shearing and it’s the softest and the most expensive type of Alpaca. When it comes to souvenirs you can choose from wide range of products – sweaters, hats, gloves and so on. Chullo is a typical Andean hat you can recognize by its ear flaps.
Nowadays, you will find many synthetic substitutes to real alpaca on markets (combinations of alpaca, wool and acrylic) so the best way to be sure you bought the real stuff is to go to an expensive gallery store and see what the real alpaca products look and feel like. This is how you won’t end up buying the substitutes. In general, the safest option is to buy it in a boutique or collective shops so you can be sure it’s made of real alpaca. You can find those shops in Cuzco and Arequipa, as well as in Lima although the prices might be a bit higher.
Peru is well-known for textile production. It’s very common in regions around Cuzco and in the Sacred Valley. Everything is handmade and it can take months for producing one item. The process usually starts when they gather the wool from local flocks, spun it by hand and dye (mostly with natural coloring). These highly quality textiles are used for scarves, tapestries and many other items.
In order to promote and preserve this trait, Peruvians formed couple of co-ops from which you can buy very high-quality items and thus support local people that produce them. More information about this you can get on these links: Threads of Peru and Cuzco’s Center of Traditional Textiles. During the history of Peru, people used these embroideries for storytelling and folklore and in certain areas the tradition is still alive today as well. In Cuzco, Pisac and other Andean villages you can find beautiful but less detailed tapestries as well. The style of a ‘stuffed wool weaving’ is one of traditional Peruvian techniques and it originates from San Pedro de las Cajas.
What’s the better souvenir from Peru than a beautiful sweater you can later wear and tell people where you bought it? You can find really nice ones for £10 to £20 but make sure to check how they are colored as some of them would need to be dry-cleaned later on.
You would like to go to Peru, but you’re still not sure where? Check out our top things to do in Peru post for the best of Peru sights and activities!
Among the other reasons, Peru was conquered by Spaniards for its precious metals from the Andes. Today, Peru is the second largest producer of silver in the world so it doesn’t come as surprise that many shops around the country offer so many silver products. If you want to get yourself some authentic Peru souvenir – buy silver. When discussing the price, bear in mind that silver used for most tourist products is not of the best quality. Traditional elements featured in the designs are the Andean cross, the rainbow colors of the Cuzco flag or the green Inca stone. You can find really good jewelry pieces in Cuzco and Lima shops. (The rule of thumb is to look for the 925 stamp on silver products, that’s a sign of good quality. It actually means it’s composed of 92.5% pure silver, and 7.5% other metals, usually copper)
Except silver you can also find nice ceramics and enamel jewelry pieces, or seed jewelry from jungle that is also quite popular. Just explore the market a bit and you’ll certainly find something you like.
In Peru you can find beautiful canvases featuring local landmarks, everyday life in Peru and religious motives. For the easiest transportation back home, plan to frame it later and buy it without the frame here. They are quite cheap and you can get them for just a few pounds.
Known also as mates burilados, carved gourds are very nice and affordable idea for souvenirs to bring from Peru. Cheaper versions are painted (rather than carved) figurines and they can cost few pounds. Painted pottery you may buy is very fragile so bear that in mind as well and pack it in your hand luggage. During the Christmas season, you will find lots of figurines with detailed religious scenes in red and green. In some places you can ask the artisans to carve your name into the guard as well.
Pots, cups or bowls are mostly made of clay or metal with pre-Columbian and Incan motives. Make sure what you are buying are replicas as the original artifacts are illegal and you may get in a trouble because of it. (Luggage is carefully checked at the airport.)
Hand made statues in various sizes are also carved by hand and they can be a great gift from Peru. Most popular figures are usually showing llamas, pumas and condors.
Peru is known for two types of drinks. One is Inca Cola with rather strong, a bit medicinal taste. Majority of visitors don’t like it at first so they don’t take it home with them. More popular option however is Pisco, and you can get it pretty much everywhere. It’s used for making famous Pisco Sours and it’s a really cool gift idea. You can buy either pre-made pisco sour boxes or a pisco mixology book and then impress friends with your bartending skills. You can buy a good quality Pisco Sour for £5 to £10 while at the airport it might be a bit more expensive.
Other types of Peru souvenirs
On many markets around Peru you can find lots of cool and cute little things with Peruvian motives. Here you can get the standard souvenirs you can buy elsewhere in the world, things like beer openers, calendars, magnets, postcards, dolls, pens and so on. There are many small ceramics figures. If you’re chocolate lover you shouldn’t miss paste for hot chocolate. Considering the fact that Peru is the home of first chocolate in the world, they must have learned something along the way For chess lovers get them wooden chess boards that can be of great quality. For kids, you can get parchis, a board game.
As you can see, you can choose from plenty of things! In case you want to take something for lots of people and you are stressing out how you’ll do it, don’t worry. Make a plan and stick with small and interesting pieces that won’t cost you a fortune or weigh too much but will still be a nice gift for your loved ones. Some of the ideas might be: socks with Peruvian motives, ornaments or finger-puppets, scarves, hats, gloves or some local foods like chocolate, cacao beans, Peruvian salt or already mentioned drinks. The most important thing: plan ahead but don’t stress too much. Enjoy the process
Note: you might want to take some coca tea with you, please bear in mind taking it to other countries is illegal. Some people buy it in shops, packed in boxes like other types of tea and they may take it like that, however think if you’d risk it. Anyways, I wouldn’t advise you to do so.
Best places to find souvenirs in Peru
First thing first – Peru is a touristic destination and you will find souvenirs everywhere you go. However, due to differences in prices, quality and overall offer, there are some tips you can find useful when heading to Peru.
If you plan on spending couple of weeks or longer there, you probably won’t be too happy dragging around souvenirs you bought in ten different places. Majority of people are leaving Peru from Lima and so they decide to do the entire shopping in Lima. City has a great Indian Market in Avenue Petit Thouars in Miraflores. Prices don’t differ much from elsewhere in the country and they literally have everything at one place. If you have time, check out the Parque Kennedy in Miraflores as well, it’s located near the Indian Market and some travelers say they found many great, if not better, stuff here.
Planning to buy all your souvenirs in the capital of Peru? Look up 49 other things to do in Lima while there.
South from the Indian Market you can find many smaller shops selling antiquities, so called antigüedades. It’s a perfect location for shopping statement jewelry from the swinging 20s, contemporary art pieces from mod-era or some very old furniture. This is a perfect idea if you want to take a piece of Peruvian history with yourself.
San Isidro neighborhood in Lima is a destination for everyone looking for quality art and silver. If you really want to invest in some high quality silver products, don’t miss the Ilaria Gallery. It’s specialized in working with silver for many generations and they are known for attracting loyal local as well as international customers. Avenida Larco has many shops for alpaca wool products but you have to be careful from whom and what you are buying. Larcomar, a famous shopping mall in Lima is the place to go if you want to be sure what kind of wool are you buying, it’s a bit pricier but you’ll know you got the real deal. Avenida Larco has many small shops with all other Peru souvenirs you can look for. The crowds are fewer than at the Indian market but prices can be slightly higher too.
Another great location for souvenir shopping in Peru is Cuzco. Lined up the streets of the city are various small shops offering all kinds of products. Most of them you probably already saw in Lima, although in Cuzco you can also find lots of hiking gear as well. Market in Cuzco you definitely shouldn’t miss is Mercado Central de San Pedro. It’s a perfect place to taste local foods you will hardly ever find at home and also to buy lovely gifts. You can even have some better deals on most of the prices here than for example at the famous Plaza de Armas.
In case you are spending some time in Cuzco, definitely don’t miss the hillside area of San Blas, you can expect a picturesque neighborhood crowded with artists’ studios and galleries. Some artists directly sell their work from the workshops. It’s definitely a place less-touristy and more authentic, especially for the people interested in arts and crafts. And if you happen to be in the Cuzco area during the weekend, you can visit Pisac and its famous Sunday market, gathering vendors from the entire region. People say it has the lowest prices and is one of the most vibrant markets in Peru.
Lake Titicaca is another great destination for finding souvenirs. All the products sold here are handmade and part of a community project so you’ll definitely know your money is staying in the right hands – with local people.
How to bargain like a pro
Let’s be clear on one thing – when shopping on markets you are expected to bargain. It’s part of the culture and the price they tell you at first is usually the highest one. It’s as simple as just asking for a discount, and if you are too shy to do so, you can try different ways to lower the price of your item.
It’s important to know that it’s much easier to negotiate for a price if you’re paying in cash than with a card (bear in mind cards are not accepted everywhere in Peru). Also, try having change with you as in the shops they might not have to pay you back if you have only big bills.
The easiest way may be to count how much 20 to 25 percent cost reduction would be and ask for it. Another version would be to buy several items and ask if you can get 4 for the price of 3, or however you find it fair and reasonable.
You can always try the ‘walk away’ option – just leave the store and see if they will come after you offering lower price. If you go to several places you will soon get the idea of the prices and what will be fair to pay for it.
Don’t stress too much about it, simply go around, see the prices and what you like and go to the place offering the best deal. When you find the souvenir you want to purchase instead of asking ‘cuanto cuesta?’ (how much does it cost?) ask ‘cuanto para me?’ (how much for me).
Some people find bargaining to last too long and they feel like wasting their time. Don’t be too serious about it and have some fun, after all those are just things. Use this time to meet the locals and talk with them, just think – how often in life do you find yourself in Peru?
- Pay attention to your belongings. Shops, malls and markets in Peru are generally safe but they can be a pickpocketing haven as well. Simply pay attention where your stuff are and you shouldn’t have to worry about it
You can find more general advices on how to stay safe while exploring Peru here.
- Don’t keep all of your cash at one place, it’s much easier to bargain when you don’t open a wallet fueled with bills.
- Talking about bargain – it’s totally okay to do it, you’re even expected to negotiate for a smaller price. Bargaining is a part of culture so go on do it, but show some sense of humour while doing so.
- In general, carry both – US dollars and Peruvian soles. For some bigger items, you may get the better price if purchasing in US dollars. Don’t rely too much on credit cards, especially in rural areas.
- You can get a better price for some items if you buy several at once.
- Don’t look too excited when you find something you like, it’ll be more difficult to get a lower price on such items.
- If you are taking a photo of locals in their costumes, plan to tip them. If staying in Peru for some time, you’ll learn the word ‘propina’ which means a small tip. A propina for you: locals will not be shy about asking for one 😉
- Buying souvenirs made out of endangered plants or animals is illegal so have it in mind before doing so.
- When going home, make sure you are not carrying items that might be illegal to bring into other countries, such as coca leaves for example.
- If you are visiting Peru via group guided tour, just ask your guide about the best places/items to buy, they have all the insiders’ info.
- Have fun and enjoy it!
I hope you find this post useful and interesting. If you’ve heard of other fun souvenirs to buy while in Peru, please share it in the comments.