Cuzco offers the most diverse craft and textile selection anywhere in Peru, not too mention fine jewelry and alpaca clothing. Be sure to bargain, as prices can often be inflated. Handicrafts from throughout the Andes can be found here and quality is usually very good.
The main markets are on Av. El Sol. The Centro Artesenal Cuzco (El Sol and Tullamayo; Open- 8am-10pm) is the largest and is covered. Prices are a little bit higher than other places, but the selection of mass produced handicrafts is incomparable. Closer to the plaza are two more markets opposite each other. They have better prices and the work is more unique. The stand on the northeast side of the street next door to one market, the older husband and wife team, have the best deals in the city. The selection isn’t as big as the markets, but the quality is just as good.There are also many small markets and shops on Procuradores, Plateros, and Loreto.
The Barrio San Blas has been Cuzco’s artisan district for centuries and still is. Almost every other doorway has some small workshop and showroom displaying a number of different crafts. Some of the best are Taller Mendival (on Plaza San Blas, 23-3247) and Taller Olave (also on the plaza). Each has a variety of colonial artwork, religious figurines, carvings, frames, ornaments, and jewelry. Taller Mendival is internationally known for the carved solemn saints with the elongated necks that it produces. Otherwise, take a walk up Carmen Alto from the plaza and also back down to the main square on Hatunrunmiyoc and Cuesta San Blas and you will find hundreds of shops selling every souvenir imaginable.
For books: Every bookstore is on the Plaza and there are several, however, English language books are for the most part very overpriced. My suggestion is to look for a book exchange, of which there are many.
For Alpaca Clothing:
Kuna – Has locations at Plaza Regocijo 202, Hotel Monasterio, Hotel Libertador, MAP, and the airport. Recommended
Alpaca’s Best – Confituria 221 (the plaza). Also in the Hotel Monasterio and Hotel Jose Antonio.
La Casa de la Llama – Palacio 121.
Other Shops of interest:
Centro de Textiles Tradicionales de Cusco – El Sol 603-A. Non-profit organization that helps preserve Incan textile traditions. Gallery, shop, and small museum. On-site weaving demonstrations. Expensive, but the quality is very high.
Werner & Ana – Plaza San Francisco 295-A. Boutique of a Dutch-Peruvian couple who blend traditional techniques and materials with high fashion for an interesting result.
Pablo Semanario – Portal de Carnes 244. The famed Urubamba ceramicist has a small shop on the plaza with his unique style and one of a kind pieces.
Coca Shop – Carmen Alto 115, www.kuychiwasi.org. Products and food made from coca leaves. Also a good source of information on coca.
Tattoo Outdoors and Travel – Plazoleta Las Nazarenas 211, 26-3099. Has pricey but quality clothing, tents, backpacks, and other gear for sale.
For equipment rentals, you can walk in to almost any travel agency or store on the plaza, Gringo alley, or Plateros. Prices should just be a few dollars per day per item.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.