Head north, south or west of Lake Titicaca when you travel to Peru, and you will be surrounded by the soft, wooly creatures that provide the fleece for those divine alpaca sweaters. The alpaca farms of Peru are found primarily in Peru’s southern highlands, home to most of the world’s alpacas. Though Peru’s major commercial alpaca operations are run by large land owners, the herds themselves are tended by individual herders on separate farms or in village cooperatives.
Because these animals are raised in areas with little precipitation, herds are moved from one location to another, according to the weather. Between November and March, the wettest months of the year, herds graze at lower elevations where it doesn’t snow, and April to October, during the dry season, are moved to a higher elevation. This practice gives the pastures time to replenish and allows the alpacas to remain in soft ground, necessary for healthy feet. Herders establish a permanent residence in locations where weather conditions and year-round vegetation allow the herds to remain for longer periods of time. Herds are sheared starting in November and then mated as the wet season begins. This schedule gives the offspring born a year later a long period of adequate vegetation before the dry season begins.
Many of the country’s large alpaca ranches and cooperatives are located in the vicinity of Macusani, east of the highway that runs between Cusco and Lake Titicaca. This is the home of the famed Accoyo alpacas, from a ranch known for careful breeding practices and the purity of its stock. The largest concentration of alpacas is found around the town of Nunoa, some fifty miles south of Macusani. Based in Toledo, Ohio, the Nunoa Project is a charitable organization working to improve the health of the alpaca farmer families on the altiplano of Peru. It is also helping to provide adequate veterinary care and to develop eco-tourism destinations in this alpaca-raising area. For more information about their work, see www.nunoaproject.org.
Several of Southern Explorations’ Peru tours travel in the regions where visitors may encounter alpaca herds. These include the six Machu Picchu tours that travel to Lake Titicaca, with itineraries ranging from nine to eighteen days as well as the four Peru tours and one tour extension that travel south to visit Arequipa and Colca Canyon. Two of our popular Peru tours to Machu Picchu visit both Lake Titicaca and Colca Canyon, the fourteen-day Best of Peru trip and the eighteen day Adventure Peru trip. One option for lodgings on all of our Peru tours to Colca Canyon is the Colca Lodge, owned by the large alpaca company, Grupo Inca.