The best souvenirs and mementos to buy in Peru...
Souvenir-hunters and memento-seekers have Peru’s long and colourful history, geographical variety and the preservation of its indigenous handiwork skills to thank for an abundance of purchasable possibilities – from jewellery to textiles and ceramics. The district of Miraflores in Lima is festooned with craft outlets, but Cuzco and nearby Pisac in particular feature goods for sale that seem that bit more authentic given the continuing traditions of the more rural communities that live in this area.
Keep a beady eye out for the following...
Jumpers and hats made from llama, the softer-fibred alpaca and super-soft vicuña wool. These garments are typically decorated with colourful geometric patterns or images of the Inca’s beasts of burden. The classic woven hat with earflaps is called a ‘Chullo’.
Various items of Quechua clothing are available, from colourful skirts (Polleras) to a wide range of hats (Monteras) and the far less festive-looking sandals made from tyres (ajotas) – which are often worn by porters on the Inca Trail, in all weathers.
Rugs and throws are typically made from alpaca fur, and range in design from plain to square or diamond patterns.
Geometric designs also feature heavily on the ceramics available. Pots and plates with anthropomorphic handles certainly look the Pre-Columbian part, as do the bulbous-bodied, wide-necked aryballus jars once used to store chica.
Peru has plenty of traditional-looking jewellery – there are centuries of Pre-columbian imagery at the disposal of the designers and makers of such objects. Alternatively, you could plump for a ‘Tumi’ – a ceremonial axe used in sacrificial acts that has since become Peru’s national symbol. The figure who stands atop the semi-circular blade represents the sun – which has been revered in Andean mythology from pre-Inca times. These days in Peru, hanging a Tumi on your wall represents not impending blood sacrifice but good luck, so the neighbours can sleep easy.
Animal carvings and colourfully decorated pipes abound in craft shops and markets. Look at it this way: drunken renditions of Abba’s Chiquitita just won’t be the same without a Peruvian panpipe to hand.
No self-respecting quaffer should return home without a bottle of Pisco. The 40%-plus grape brandy spirit is Peru’s answer to whisky – complete with similarly extensive tasting notes. The Ica region, home to the city of Pisco, is the heartland of Peru’s pisco production. Of the many varietals produced here, the Quebranta-based Bianca Pisco has perhaps the most loyal following.