La Feria Dominical de Huancayo
Feria Dominical is Peru’s largest outdoor market, which is in Huancayo every Sunday, from 9 am to 10 pm, and stretches about 12 blocks on Av. Huancavelica (usually from the Coliseo Wanka to Colegio Salesiano Tecnico Don Bosco). Huancavelica runs parallel with Real a five block walk from Plaza de la Constitución. To find it from there, stand with your back to Catedral de Puno and walk down either Puno to your right, or Breña to your left five blocks.
unique carved and painted gourd owls
While not specifically a tourist market, or a food market you can find a little bit (or a lot) of just about everything including arts, crafts, textiles, clothing, shoes, hats, housewares, street food, fruits, vegetables, dry goods, small pets and animals, wooden furniture, household appliances, tools, books, magazines and much more.
The largest outdoor market in Peru offers something for everyone!
The Sunday Outdoor Market was established in 1572 to promote trade in the region and continues to be one of the oldest markets as well as the largest in Peru.
If I’m headed there I might pick up fruits or vegetables (though there are two every day markets with hundreds of farmer vendors which offer much greater selections see: Mercado Mayorista and Mercado Modelo). Tourists can pick up inexpensively priced handicrafts at Feria Dominical, or at Casa del Artesano (offers a greater selection) across from Plaza de la Constitución, or in the local towns and villages where the crafts are made. Going to the villages is more fun, offers a vastly wider selection, and affords you the opportunity to meet the artisans and possibly see demonstrations. But you can beat the convenience of Feria Dominical!
Textiles and hand painted, hand carved, gourds.
Hand-painted, carved gourds are a specialty craft in several Mantaro Valley villages especially Cochas Chicas/Cochas Grandes. The tradition of carving gourds goes back to pre-Inca periods and today you can find a wide selection of purely artistic creations to artistic and useful items such as: gourd birdhouses, baskets, musical instruments, mobiles, wind chimes, desk accessories, kitchen accessories and more. I like them because they have intricate and interesting depictions of nature and Andean life. They make excellent, unique, economical gifts and your purchase supports the artists and their families, many of whom rely in this income to survive.
Gourd carving has been practiced for generations, and the skills have passed from area to area via trade routes and travel amongst the craftspeople. Today family members pass the skills intergenerationally along with the stories of Andean celebrations, traditions, rituals, myths, weddings and so on. It is fun to look and try and decipher what a specific gourd might be saying. If you purchase gourds from knowledgeable craftspeople or their family members they are usually able to tell you what is depicted.
All natural and handcrafted.
The Sunday market offers a few textiles, but if you are looking to pick up a handmade rug or other handwoven authentic textiles try to make it to small town of Hualhuas about 12 km North of Huancayo. There you will find beautifully crafted, original and traditionally designed had woven textiles made from handmade, hand dyed yarns. I’ve gotten one-of-a-kind, amazing handmade area rugs there for $100-$150. Compared to machine made tourist items you can’t beat a completely handmade piece, and Hualhaus has some of the most exciting designs in South America. The craftspeople are very friendly, honest and informative and I’ve never felt pressured into buying anything there.
A popular place for locals to shop for clothing, textiles, housewares, toys and etc.
If you are looking for hand and machine knitted sweaters, blankets or other clothing items you can a good selection at the Huancayo Sunday Outdoor Market, or may I suggest going to the second floor of the Mercado Modelo, where you may find a better selection (that is where I buy all my blankets). The sweaters are nice too, but I prefer to have my sweaters custom, knitted to my specifications by a wonderful woman in Lima (I pay her twice what she asks, $40 per sweater because of her work is so good). Look around when you pass market stalls all over Peru and you will see ladies knitting there in between customers. When you find someone with work that you like, ask if they are willing to make something custom for you. I had custom hoodie style sweaters knitted and they are really colorful and amazingly comfortable (Alpaca is nice to wear!).
The Good Life in Huancayo!
I’ve lived in Huancayo, Peru now for 18 months and I must say it is a safe, peaceful, relaxing, big-little city (with a greater Huancayo population of nearly 1/2 million people). At an elevation of 3,300 meters (which is 10,826 feet or over two miles high) travelers often need to acclimatize (by taking it easy) a day after arrival. Nestled in the scenic Mantaro Valley, about a 7 hour bus ride to the east of Lima and just over the crest of the Andes on the high eastern slope facing the jungle, this area is nearly ideal farmland growing a wide variety of crops year round.
My front yard in Huancayo, Peru
Once the area had three distinct seasons (wet, winter and dry), but now it increasingly seems to simply just have a wet and a winter season. Many inhabitants say that the climate is changing here, with the dry season nearly gone or reduced to a little bit drier season (where it can possibly rain just once or twice during the month of August). The rest of the year rainfall ranges from nearly daily to about every few days, with rain falling for about an hour per day. Daily temperatures generally range from the mid 40’s to high 70’s (with a few days per year falling outside this range). Nightly temperatures range from the low 30’s to mid 40’s year round (with a few nights per year falling outside this range).
While the dwindling Huaytapallana glacier can be seen (when it is not shrouded by clouds) from the streets of Huancayo, it rarely snows here (never in for me) though hail is often seen, beginning many rainstorms from November to April. While this seems like a cold and wet place, the range is actually very favorable for crops due in part to the ground never freezing and moderately warm days. For instance, in the Northeastern United States, peas have a short productive season, of about one month. Here, in Huancayo peas are harvested 9-10 months per year.
Here a donkey, two sheep, a two goats graze on a small family owned pasture.
The abundance of excellent farming, proximity to the jungle (about a three hour drive down the Eastern slope) and the rich farming culture makes a wide array of food very inexpensive here. However, being in the Andes means that any imported items are more expensive (technology, fuel, rice, and branded products like junk food). In addition to farming, the Mantaro Valley has rich pasture lands that are exclusively used for small scale family operated livestock rearing. So far, the big Agra complexes have not made it here. Milk, cheese, butter, meat, honey, grains, pseudograins, fruits, vegetables and to some extent coffee are all artisanally produced, using primarily time-honored, community and culturally based methods. The Andean way of life is by some people’s standards hard, there is poverty and other gender, child, ethnic and social inequalities. However, there is also a great sense of community, family, culture, and connection with the earth here that is all but lost most other places. I’m hoping that Andean life can improve where it needs to and at the same time hold on the qualities that make it so wonderful.
Culture in Huancayo, as seen daily
One thing that will stand out here is the difference in cultural values. You won’t find a single museum here (not one!), tourism to local sites and attractions is mostly undeveloped, bars will serve what most Peruvians consider horrible drinks, restaurants that serve a high standard of cuisine go empty all the while equally priced fast food seems to be gaining ground. Movies shown at the theater tend to be of the poorly produced Hollywood variety, where elsewhere in Peru independent films and thought provoking Hollywood comedies, dramas and documentaries are popular. Bands tend to only play covers, and many lip sync. All of this can leave visitors wondering what there is to do. But upon closer inspection, and once you start to interact with the locals here you begin to discover a whole different culture that is widespread, popular, vibrant and healthy. So come to Huancayo, to meet the people, taste the food and connect with the earth–there will be plenty of time to experience your own culture later–so set aside your expectations and experience Andean life!
Finally, just in case you think life here is solely rural, I want to show you this photo taken in the front yard of the first place I lived in Huancayo (a regular occurrence!), where the city and the farm are commingled:
Cow, lawn mower and manure spreader.