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Camelids of Peru: Llamas & More!

Camelids of Peru: Llamas & More!

Camelids of Peru Llamas & More!

We would like to tell you about our friends, the camelid from the highlands of the Andes. If you ever plan to travel to Peru or another Andean destination you may encounter members of the extended camelid family, the stately llama, the soft alpaca, the wild and elegant vicuña, or the guanaco roaming freely. To the untrained eye, their similarities could breed confusion. But fear not, mis amigos, for we shall illuminate the distinct traits of each sublime creature. Camelids are a large and strictly herbivorous species of animals known for having slender necks and long legs.


An icon woven deep into the tapestry of Andean culture. Cast your gaze upon this magnificent woolly creature, native to our sacred lands. Towering over five feet tall, the llama was first domesticated a 6,000 years ago by the ingenious Quechua, the ancestors of south America.

Incredibly, a llama can carry up to 30% of its own weight or 35 Kg. As well, can across vast distances from carrying heavy loads across 32 kilometers in a day’s journey. Their sustainable grazing habits and minimal water needs made them exceedingly reliable pack animals. It was the humble llama that provided invaluable strength and sustenance, allowing the great Inca Empire to flourish across this harsh yet magnificent landscape.

Its luxuriously warm fleece yields superior wool, carefully handcrafted into rugs, ropes and garments embracing our traditions. The incredibly durable hide fashions supple leathers as resilient as the animal itself.

The largest of South America’s camelids, boast long legs and distinctively curved ears setting them apart. Though their outer fleece may seem coarse, once shorn it unveils exquisite softness akin to the alpaca.

If well trained, llamas are characterized for being friendly with people, extremely curious and easy to be around. Yet we must understand their protective boundaries, lest overfamiliarity rouses their instinctive spitting, kicking or neck-wrestling.

The llama’s domestication is woven through our ancient past and present. Alongside the alpaca, they comprise the honored camelids first serving as indispensable animals of burden in pre-Incan times, now treasured in sacred rituals. More than just an animal, the llama emblematizes the persevering spirit of Peru itself. The llama is our legacy, our living history, our enduring pride.


Allow us to enlighten you about another treasured member of our noble camelid family, the furry alpaca.

Though easily mistaken for its larger llama cousin, the alpaca is a distinct creature that visitors to our magnificent wonder of Machu Picchu must be aware of. These delightful animals are found predominantly in large herds grazing the high alpine lands of Peru, Ecuador and northern Chile.

While the alpaca’s diminutive stature may seem unassuming, it is precisely this smaller size that renders them unsuitable as pack animals like the mighty llama. Instead, these gentle creatures are prudently bred for their incredibly soft and luxuriously fleecy coats.

The alpaca’s coat is woven with 22 colors bestowed by Mother Earth herself. Their exquisite woven garments are eagerly sought by visitors at our artisan markets. Also, these sturdy animals are also raised for their succulent and nutrient-rich meat. You can savor the taste of traditional alpaca steak dishes gracing the menus of many of our Tourist Andean restaurants.


Though resembling our gentle alpaca in its delicate, deer-like stature, the vicuña stands apart as one of the protected wild camelids. These endangered creatures can be spotted roaming the picturesque highlands of Peru and Bolivia, as well as Ecuador, northern Chile and northwest Argentina.

Of all the precious wool of our noble family of camelids, vicuña wool is considered the most valuable and coveted wool in the world for its luxuriously fine and soft fleece of nature.

This fiber was so prized in ancient times that it was strictly reserved for our Incan royalty alone to wear its unmatched warmth and softness. Such demand for this luxury nearly brought the vicuña to the brink of extinction by the 1960s. It is only through vital conservation efforts by the Peruvian government and private partners that this animal has been able to flourish once more. Today, Peru is blessed to shelter nearly 80% of the vicuña population across the rugged Andean landscape they have graced for millennia.  

Like their wild guanaco cousins, vicuñas have evolved behaviors finely tuned to these harsh highlands. They lick salt-rich rocks, drink from saline pools, and nourish themselves on the hearty tufted grasses thriving at extreme altitudes.


The spirited and hardy guanaco – the other remarkable wild camelid gracing the vastness of Latin America and closer in appearance to a llama, these slender creatures tend to grow to approximately four foot, with a coarse coat their wool is not prized like the vicuña’s, however they are recognized for their speedy nature, if you’re heading deep into the south to Tierra de Fuego, Patagonia or Peru you will see guanacos thriving in arid and dry landscapes.

Much like their wild vicuña kin, the guanacos have behaviors aligning with the harsh alpine elements. They slake their thirst from saline pools, lick salt-rich mineral deposits, and nourish themselves on the tufted grasses eking out existence at the roof of the Andes.

So, while unrivaled luxury may send others in pursuit of the vicuña’s precious fiber, the guanaco’s own coarser yet incredibly soft, insulating undercoat, second only to vicuña wool, it remains a cherished national resource, providing superior, all-natural warmth.

As you gaze upon Machu Picchu’s breathtaking stone mastery, or follow the markings of the fabled Inca Trail, remember that the guanacos you may encounter have the same indomitable spirit that allowed them to reach these imposing and unforgiving peaks.

You can join on this adventure to learn more about these magnificent camelids on our tours through the Peruvian Andes only with us – we are Natourandes!