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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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!).