You can’t travel to Peru without taking time to see animals native to the Andes. And, unless you plan on heading deep into the countryside, the very best (and easiest place) to see them is at Awanakancha, a small camelid farm dedicated to the animals and intricate textiles produced from their wool. Find out why you should take some time to visit!
What to see
On arrival at the farm, you will have the opportunity to meet the resident animals; alpaca, llama and Vicuña. Separated by species and sex in large pens, the friendly animals are keen to meet visitors in the hope of receiving a tasty grassy snack. After getting to know the animals, you can take some time to visit some of the small onsite exhibits, where you can understand how the animals wool is refined and naturally dyed, before finally being expertly woven into fabrics, tapestry’s, clothing or a variety of other products. Women from native communities offer live examples of traditional (and intricate) weaving techniques, using basic tools and wooden looms. Of-course as you would expect there is also an onsite shop selling the products that have been made at the farm. However, unlike most other markets and shops in Cusco and the Sacred Valley, the items up for sale are unique, very different from the standard things you find elsewhere and often very beautiful. If you are not tempted to buy anything, do take some time to wonder around the shop, as some of the items for sale are quite impressive. Look out for the large hand woven telas (weavings) that cost upwards of US$ 7,000 ea, and are crafted by one artist taking 6-7 months to complete.
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There are no onsite guides to show you around, as most people arrive at the farm as part of a pre-arranged guided tour of the Sacred Valley. However, do take some time to talk with the workers and animal keepers at the farm, as their insight is just as good if not more rewarding than listening to a guide.
Awanakancha is located about two-thirds of the way to the Sacred Valley on the Cusco to Pisac road. From Cusco it takes about 30-40 minutes to get there, and from Pisac about 20 minutes. The compound of the farm is surrounded by a long brown adobe (mud) wall, which although would seem very obvious at the outset, can easily be missed if you are not familiar with the area. If you are on a bus, ask to be dropped off at Km. 23 on the Cusco – Pisac road. The official address is Km. 23 Pista Cusco- Pisac.
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How to get there
If you are travelling independently Awanakancha can be easily reached by taking a taxi or a shared combi from Cusco or Pisac. A taxi from Cusco would cost about S/. 35-40 (US$ 13-15) and from Pisac a little less at around S/. 25-30 (US$ 9 – 11). If you are a budget minded traveller, then you can take one of the many shared combis that run from Cusco to Pisac. Simply ask the driver to drop you off at Awanakancha at the road market Km. 23. In Cusco, from Calle Puputi (meaning belly button) shared combis leave about every 20-30 minutes and cost 4-5 Soles per person. The combi drivers are used to foreigners looking bewildered and confused about how to take a combi, but are keen to help and will quickly get you aboard the right combi. In Pisac, combis leave on the edge of the town, just before the bridge crossing the Urubamba River.
Rack of colorful naturally dyed alapaca wool
How much does it cost?
Entrance to Awanakancha is free, but it is customary to leave a small donation for your visit. S/. 10-15 (US$ 4 – 5) per person is acceptable. There is also an onsite snack shop, which also helps to fund the running and up-keep of the site. Buy a bottle of water or a candy bar whilst you’re there, everything helps.
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How long do I need
Awanakancha can be visited from Cusco or Pisac in half a day, though to make the trip really worthwhile it is probably best to combine it with a trip to Pisac or the Sacred Valley. You only need 1 -2 hours at Awanakancha to see and understand everything you need to know!
Opening times, Contact information
Awanakancha is open from 9 am until 5pm daily (contact them beforehand on national and public holidays). You can contact their offices in Cusco on + 51 (0)84 253611, or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org. For further information you can also visit their English language website at awanakancha.com.
Paul Jones (the author) and Jessica feeding alpaca