Quite possibly the world capital of alpaca wool production, Arequipa is an excellent place to buy alpaca garments. The articles are always of good quality and cheaper than in Cusco or Lima, because most of the main production companies were established in Arequipa. All garments made from alpaca wool need to be carefully hand washed to preserve them.
Alpaca wool is soft and warm, but baby alpaca is considered better. It comes from the first shearing of baby alpaca, and is much softer and warmer, although more costly. The best wool in the world and also the most expensive is vicuna wool. Until recently it was illegal to shear vicunas, as the vicuna was close to extinction in the 1960’s. Thanks to strict laws put in place, they are no longer on the brink of extinction.
Vicuna wool is the finest in the world, having a diameter of 11 to 13 micrometres in comparison to the 30 micrometres of sheep wool, 17 to 19 micrometres for alpaca wool and 16 for the cachimia. A scarf made from vicuna wool would cost on average more than $400. Recently, wool from the guanaco, another relative of the llama, has become more popular in clothing and has around the same quality as alpaca and vicuna . Llama wool is not used in clothing because when it gets wet, it produces a horrible smell.
A good craft market is the Fundo el Fierro, next to the church of San Francisco, and especially in August when there are a lot more stalls. Here, one can discover many treasures such as woven carpets of alpaca, typical of the Cotahuasi area. Other craft markets include the one in the Portal de Flores, and you can also find art in the market in Mercaderes. There are also many in Santa Catalina and in Pasaje de la Catedral.
A lot of the gold and silver jewellery is imported from Italy, so is therefore slightly more expensive than you would find in other countries. However, replicas of Inca and pre-Hispanic jewellery can be found in Oro Pesa, which can be found in the Panoramico shopping centre and Oro Fino, in las Galerias de la Compañía, who also have some very fine examples.
There are some old shops in in Santa Catalina that sell colonial artifacts, although they can be very expensive. There are also a number of shops that sell reproductions of paintings from the Cusco School of Painting which are reasonably priced. Note that it is illegal to take originals out of the country, so it is highly necessary to get a certificate stating that it is in fact a copy.
Markets are the centre of life in Arequipa, and almost anything can be purchased in one. Most inhabitants of Arequipa still buy all their food in markets rather than supermarkets as the selection of fruit and vegetables is wonderful.
The San Camilo market is a market surrounded by food shops, as well as stalls that sell flowers and small crafts.
Most people of Arequipa still make their food purchases in markets, which is why there is little need for large supermarkets. However, there are a number of smaller supermarkets that offer most of the necessary amenities. These supermarkets tend to be more expensive than markets, but they are more convenient. There are two supermarkets in the centre of Arequipa with a good variety of products. One is in the Plaza de Armas and the other is in San Francisco de Pierola. In Yanahuara there is a supermarket that is not very big, but if you are looking for something in particular or something that is very hard to find, this is your best option.