Where are you going?
Or, let us surprise youSpin the Globe ®

Chinchero

The Birthplace of the Rainbow
One of the first stops outside of Cusco was on the Anta plain at 12,375 ft. The 16th century ruin of Chinchero is rumored to be the birthplace of the rainbow. I would be hard pressed to argue those refractions of light could have a more beautiful beginning. A wonderful outdoor market overlooks the ruins and there are many weaving cooperatives to explore in the village. Locals work hard to preserve cultural customs speaking Quechua and wearing colorful traditional dress. By supporting the talented women and buying local you assist in making their lives more self sufficient through their craft. If you’re looking for colorful blankets, I thought this market had one of the best selections.

Chinchero
This town, located on the high plains as you cross into the Sacred Valley from Cuzco, has more to offer than you may guess by its diminutive size. An Incan archaeological site and a pretty colonial church provide a great feel for life here in the past, but Chinchero’s real draw is the regional weavers who gather here to work and sell their textiles in the square and along the streets, as well as in cooperatives like the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales. In Chinchero, you can buy directly from the weaver and often at better prices than when dealing with middlemen. On Sunday mornings, a traditional market draws people down from highland communities to sell and buy produce, meats, and other necessities.

Knitting Co-ops in the Sacred Valley, Peru
Every color is represented in hand-dyed alpaca wool yarn, which hang in a rainbow from the stucco wall. Four to five women demonstrate yarn washing, dying, and knitting techniques passed down generation to generation, mostly orally. At these cooperatives, the demonstration is followed by shopping. And when viewing the bags, table runners, sweaters, and scarves, one appreciates the intense work and time required to make each colorful piece.

Chinchero Weaving Cooperative
One of the most engaging sights in Peru was my stop at the Chinchero Weaving Cooperative, in Chinchero. There were around 25 women of varying ages, most working on some type of loom. The lady who greeted us gave us a fascinating presentation that explained how these women create such stunning, intricate pieces. She explained how the alpaca and llama wool are turned into yarn, how the yarns are dyed, and how some of the looms operate. I later learned that Chinchero means “Village of the Rainbow,” a perfect name and quite befitting of my experience. Colin Roohan traveled to Peru courtesy of PromPeru, Travcoa, and LAN as part of AFAR’s partnership with The United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA), whose members provide travelers with unparalleled access, insider knowledge, and peace-of-mind to destinations across the globe. Hear more about Colin’s journey on the USTOA blog.

Incan Ruins Chinchero, Peru
Small Andean village at sunset with beautiful views overlooking the Sacred Valley of the Incas with snow topped mountain peaks.

Making natural dyes for textiles
On our way to Ollantaytambo from Cuzco, our local guide stopped at Chinchero after learning that I was fascinated by local textiles. Here, we visited his friend's house who was in the process of dying the yarn to use in the intricate patterned weavings that the town is well known for. She has visitors often so she was very detailed in the manner in which she showed us the fruits, plants, and roots that she uses to create the vivid hues of the yarns. I am always intrigued by the ways in which the creation of the dyes, the patterns of the weavings, and the methods for creating the textiles reflect something deeper about a culture and its environment. Afterward, we visited the Chinchero market in the sleepy town square, which is one of the best variety of handmade textiles we experienced in South America.

Woman from Chinchero Weaving Collective
In Peru, I gave my boxed lunch to a Quechua woman on the plane. I went to the bathroom when we landed. When I came out, the Quechua woman was standing there . I asked her in Spanish if everything was ok. She nodded. We walked through the terminal and into the luggage area together in silence . We walked over to where my group was and then she left. I thought about it for a long time. I was a stranger from another country. In her culture, people exist by helping each other. It didn’t matter who I was. I gave her my lunch. She made sure I got to where I needed to go. There was no speaking. It is just something you do For more info go http://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/

Dyed in the Wool
When we got off the bus in Chinchero, we hardly saw anyone at all, much less other travelers. We'd come on a weekday, hoping that we might be able to find a market in some shape or form. On the main plaza, sellers' plots were clearly laid out, but all covered in blue tarps - and not a soul was around. We wandered the streets, stopped into the church (a true spectacle, covered in paintings) and wandered some more. And then a sign caught my eye: "Textile center, 100 meters." We followed the arrow and came to a doorway, where a woman invited us in. It seemed we had arrived at lunch time - a group women and children were gathered in a courtyard enjoying some fragrant chicken soup. The woman who invited us in led us further on, and we came to another courtyard, where about 20 women were engaged in everything from preparing looms to dyeing wool to weaving. It was enough to make any textile fanatic's heart skip a beat. We were shown all parts of the process and eventually came away with beautiful manta. It was not one of the gorgeous indigo showpieces, but one that had been set aside, bound up to carry spindles and loose yarn - a perfect example of how these extraordinary textiles are still a functional part of everyday life.

Hesitation before entering the Sunday Market...
When in Cuzco, we went to the Chinchero Sunday Market. It was well worth it. This is not a market set up for tourists, the locals are here to shop, eat and socialize. We had some delicious local foods. The shop keepers don't appreciate tourists roaming taking pictures, so mingle and make a few purchases; it will be so worth it! The local guide that accompanied us said that this market is the social event of the week. I saw this girl pause before entering and wondered what she was thinking....

Museo De Textile
Textile dying demonstration

Ruta Santisimo Downhill 2, Chinchero, Peru