The Sacred Valley is known for its friendly, colourful markets and one of the best takes place every Sunday morning in Chinchero. Set at 3700 metres the large green plain looks towards the stunning snow-capped mountains beyond. Start by visiting one of the local women’s weaving cooperatives where women and children show you how they make beautiful throws, scarfs and table runners made from Alpaca wool. First they weave the wool into thread. Then a young girl, Juliana, aged 10 showed me how she dyes the cloth using local plants such as purple sweetcorn and the cocineal beetle which lives on cacti to colour the thread purple and red. They then use an alpaca bone as a shuttle to take the thread side to side as they create intricate patterns representing nature. The Chakana or the 3 stepped Inka Cross is the representation of 3 worlds: the lower world, the world in which we live and the higher world. These worlds are represented by the snake, the puma and the condor and these important symbols are often displayed on the intricate weavings.
Afterwards spend time soaking up the atmosphere at the nearby local market. Walking down the old Inca road, with channels running down the middle leads you down to the main square where local people sit under rustic thatched covers with their wares laid out before them. This is not just a tourist market but also where local people come to buy their weekly fruit and vegetables. Giant sweetcorn is turned into the biggest popcorn I’d ever seen and it was sweet and delicious. Women chose large bunches of fresh flowers, bargained with a smile over vegetables in the local Quechua language and ate delicious quinoa cake. There are so many lovely things to buy – the main problem is choosing what. Colourful striped bags, hand-made dolls carrying babies, silky soft baby alpaca jumpers, woven rugs, jewellery, hats, soft toys and other local handicrafts. This market is particularly popular with children on Peru family holidays. Stallholders wear typical Chinchero dress – red woven waistcoats, A-line skirts, woollen leggings, patterned shawls and hats – red, high brimmed and framed with ribbons.
People often ask how to bargain in Peru. The first rule of thumb is always to bargain with a smile. Most stallholders are genuinely friendly people and would be surprised by aggressive bargaining. There is no need to negotiate very hard here but a bit of friendly exchange adds to the experience and locals welcome it. Visiting a market like Chinchero you are already likely to get better prices than in the shops and city markets. People are not trying to rip you off – maybe take off 20% of the price they are offering you and come to a compromise somewhere in between.
There are other markets that run daily in Peru such as Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Aguas Calientes and Cusco but Chinchero would be my choice for a truly authentic experience. Sadly work is due to start on the new airport at the end of 2016 so go there now while it’s still small and magical. Email us or call us for our special offers on Peru Tours.