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Cusco Shopping: How to Buy Authentic Peruvian Knitwear

travel in peru, cusco

Cusco is known for its amazing scenery and access to the incredible Macchu Picchu. While in the city, you can also do a little shopping.

Because the mountain air in Cusco is cooler than other parts of Peru, you may find yourself wanting an extra layer of protection. To meet this need, Cusco has numerous indoor/outdoor markets offering handcrafted knitwear. While waiting for the next phase of your trip, you can shop for unique sweaters, hats and scarves.

yellow sweater, shopping in Cusco Peru

On day two in Cusco, I found myself wandering into a market stacked wall-to-wall with colorful handmade sweaters, scarves, gloves, hats and blankets.

man tries on a sweater in outdoor market Peru

Many of these garments are locally woven with Alpaca fiber. However, the origin and materials are not fully disclosed. Unlike your typical designer clothing products, these don’t have informative little tags inside. Most of them have no discernible brand.

mountain city of cusco shopping experience

I paid about 30 Peruvian soles for the sweater pictured. Shopkeepers are willing to negotiate and they’re eager to make a sale. If you’re traveling in a group, and everyone wants to get a sweater, make an offer to buy a few items and they’ll give you a good deal. If you have time, check out more than one shop before you buy.

Tourists shop for colorful sweaters in Cusco, Peru

Before booking the trip to Machu Picchu or the Inca Trail, every traveler needs a sweater to handle the cooler mountain temperatures.

cable sweaters at the centro artesanal market avenida el sol tullumayo cuzco

The city has knitwear at every price point, from luxurious Vicuna to the affordable flea market Alpaca knits. For bargains, check out the Centro Artesanal Market located at the intersection of Avenida El Sol and Tullumayo. This enormous barn is home to many small overstocked dealers who are ready to make a deal.

sol alpaca sweater boutique cusco

Like all the big cities in Peru, Cusco has boutiques selling fashionable alpaca knitwear. These high end shops primarily cater to tourists around the Plaza de Armas. Sol Alpaca, for example, is one you’ll see throughout the country.

Center for Traditional Textiles

To shop for authentic woven garments made in the authentic Incan style, take a quick walk down Av El Sol to the Center for Traditional Textiles in Cusco.

woman practicing traditional incan weaving at weaving institute for traditional textiles

If you’re lucky, you can watch a traditional weaving demonstration while shopping and learning more about this 2,000-year old craft.

cusco woman's weaving institute, Peru

By selling these quality products, the center is preserving a craft that was nearly lost to globalization. Exporters aren’t interested in these traditional styles; they demand simpler, trendier garments, which typically use synthetic fabrics and aniline dyes.

Products made here are one-of-a-kind. Watch the ladies work for a few minutes and you’ll better understand the effort, time and skill required to make a single hat, shawl, table runner or potato sack.

man wearing a colorful hat woven in wool, alpaca

This Australian tourist did some shopping. Now he’s wearing a colorful woven hat.

various traditional Peruvian scarves for sale

Products made in the traditional method, selling at the local history museum. 

Man in Yankees hat selling knits from a market in central Cusco, Peru.

Yankees fan selling knits from an open market in central Cusco, Peru.