The Vicuna


Vicunas live in semi-arid grasslands of the Andes on or near hillsides at 11,000 to 19,000 feet in Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile and Ecuador in a range that has shrunk over the past several centuries. They can survive the extremes of temperatures found at these elevations thanks to soft fleece that traps warm air against their bodies. The vicuna uses its speed and exceptional eyesight to protect itself from its predators, the puma and Magellan fox, and communicates with its herd by emitting sounds appropriate to the situation.

The Camelids of South America


Most of what we know about South American camelids is their hair. The fleece of these animals contains no lanolin, so it is hypoallergenic, and though not waterproof, it makes warm lightweight garments. The llama and guanaco both have an outer layer of coarser hair and an inner layer of softer hair. The alpaca and vicuna have no outer layer. The softness of guanaco fleece is between that of the alpaca and vicuna. Though one needn’t travel to Argentina or schedule Peru tours to purchase a wonderful South American camelid garment, you’ll find much lower prices if you do.

The Guanaco


After the Spanish invasion of guanaco habitat centuries ago, the specie’s population shrank from millions to thousands. Most of the continent’s remaining guanacos are found in the southerly regions, making them a much more common sight during travel to Patagonia than Peru Tours. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), of South America’s remaining 400,000 and 600,000 guanacos, almost all are found in Argentina with about 66,000 in Chile.

South America’s Camelids of Yore


Over the years, various evolutionary theories have been put forth. Because the guanaco appeared first in the fossil record, some believe that llamas, alpacas and vicunas all evolved from that species. Scientists believe that between ten and perhaps more than thirty million guanacos once roamed various regions of South America from northern Peru to Patagonia.

Camelid Ceremonies


Far from the shoppers combing through alpaca merchandise in Lima and elsewhere during their travel to Peru, come February, the alpaca herders give thanks, thanks for their livelihood, thanks for their herds, thanks for the species. Rooted in indigenous traditions, the Hayarisqa ceremony is an annual event that takes place in the Andean herder communities.

Fleece Crafts in Andean Cultures


In the Andes, gender roles in the knitting and weaving professions vary by culture and village. In some communities, as visitors who travel to Lake Titicaca will observe, the weavers are primarily men. Travelers on Machu Picchu tours who visit the hill town of Huilloc will see the woolen handicrafts of women. In many communities, the whole family learns to knit, often using bicycle spokes for needles. Children usually gain proficiency by age ten. This family occupation is a valued segment of the indigenous economy, passed down through generations.


<p justify;"="">Reading about and preparing for your adventure is half the fun. For more book suggestions go to Ecuador


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