When your Peru tours take you to Arequipa, you will have arrived at the center of the world’s alpaca industry. Much of the fleece sheared raised on the alpacas of Peru’s altiplano is shipped to the major processing mills in and around Arequipa, Peru’s second largest city. Many who travel to Peru never make it as far as this attractive, colonial city in the south. That is changing now that eco-travelers wishing to fit some Peru hiking into their itinerary have discovered nearby Colca Canyon and are making an international name for this inland destination.
In Arequipa’s alpaca factories, the fleece is given first to the sorters whose experienced hands can identify its quality by touch. Once the fleece is cleaned and combed, alpaca may or may not be dyed before being prepared for spinning. After spinning, the yarn undergoes more processing. Some of Arequipa’s major alpaca textile factories welcome visitors. These include the country’s two largest producers, the Michell Alpaca Factory with its Mundo Alpaca factory outlet store complex and Incalpaca, Grupo Inca’s operation in the Tahuaycani suburb of Arequipa near Yanahuara.
Most of the alpaca industry’s finished work takes place in Italy and China. Eighty percent of Peru’s export revenue in alpaca is derived from yarn sold to China, Italy, Great Britain and the United States. The other twenty percent comes from garments sold to the United States, Germany, Great Britain and Japan. There is no export trade yet in Peruvian alpaca meat or alpaca leather.
The alpaca industry is not comprised of only large operators. Sierra Exportadora, an agency of the Peruvian government, helps to connect Andean communities with buyers for their alpaca products. Among its accomplishments, it aided the female weavers of the Maquicentro de Callalli, a textile factory in the Cayomma Province of Arequipa Department, to develop a larger market for its goods.
In addition to being Peru’s export center for alpaca, Arequipa is also a major retail center for Andean knits, with many shops that sell alpaca as well as vicuna goods, in a wide range of quality. Knitters on Peru tours wishing to take home yarn instead of a finished garment as a souvenir may want to consider an alpaca-blend yarn instead of pure alpaca. Mixing alpaca with other fibers makes it easier to knit.
The whims of fashion make alpaca prices fluctuate. When demand increases and prices go up, eventually clothing manufacturers and consumers seek less pricey alternatives. That means there is no better time to purchase alpaca than during Peru tours. Here in Arequipa, visitors will find lower prices than at Peru travel destinations that attract more tourists.
Southern Explorations’ offers several Peru tours of interest for those wishing to visit heart of Peru’s alpaca industry. These are the ten-day Machu Picchu and Colca Canyon, the thirteen-day Inca Trail and Colca Canyon, the fourteen-day Best of Peru and the eighteen-day Adventure Peru trips. All visit Cusco and indigenous craft markets in the Sacred Valley during the Machu Picchu tours where alpaca knits are in abundance. We also offer a four-day Arequipa and Colca Canyon tour extension that may be added to any of our Peru tours.