What are the buzzwords that come to mind when you think of Peru? Probably Machu Picchu and alpacas or llamas, right? On your journey through the Peruvian mountains, you will see these cute animals quite often.
Although they look very similar at first glance, there are some striking differences between llamas and alpacas that we will list below. We’ll also give you some tips on where to find them in Cusco. So, let’s begin!
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Difference between Llama & Alpaca
At Machu Picchu, you will most certainly see Llamas walking around between the impressive ruins.
Size & Weight:
The first difference you will notice when comparing alpacas and llamas is the difference in size, because llamas are much bigger than alpacas.
Llamas are on average around 41-46 inches tall, alpacas around 33-36 inches. In addition, the two animals differ significantly in weight. Llamas are much heavier and weigh around 286-440 lbs, alpacas only 105-185 lbs.
Llamas have rather elongated faces and are marked with a big mouth. In addition, their fur is much shorter in the region of the forehead.
You can recognize an alpaca by their round and dented face. Furthermore, they have soft fur on their face and around the forehead area.
Llamas have characteristically long, big and banana-shaped ears.
Alpacas, on the other hand, have short and pointed ears. One interesting feature is that their ears are fluffier, while llamas have more straight and smooth ears.
A close up shot of an alpaca with typical short ears.
One of the biggest differences between these animals is their fur! You will soon be able to convince yourself which animal is fluffier.
While llamas have rather rough fur, alpacas have very fine and long-growing, dense fur.
Watch out: Both animals can spit at you if they are angry! However, there is no need to worry, as this happens less often than you think.
Alpacas tend to be shy and reserved. You will often see them in larger herds as they are very social animals.
Llamas, on the other hand, are the complete opposite. They are very independent animals and because of their size they can better defend themselves.
Llamas tend to spit at other llamas when they feel threatened in order to gain respect and control. By the way, did you know that female llamas only spit to show their disinterest in the male?
Alpacas on the other hand spit only when this is their last resort.
In general, the temperament of alpacas and llamas depend on socialization and training with other conspecifics. If you meet one of the animals, try to keep a healthy distance and don’t frighten or threaten them.
If some of the animals are curious and feel safe around you, then they will try to take the first step and seek contact with you.
A small part of a mixed alpaca and llama herd in Cusco’s hills.
Since llamas are bigger, they were previously used as pack animals. In fact, their purpose went back well into the Inca empire. During the Spanish conquest, they were used as pack animals in the mines or to transport gold. To a lesser extent, llama wool was used to make textiles and their meat was only eaten occasionally.
As alpacas are much smaller and slender, they weren’t used as pack animals. The Incas were able to use their fine fur to make soft and warm textiles, as the animals are only shorn once a year!
You can find different alpaca textiles all over Peru. Further below, we will talk about where you can buy the best products. What you should definitely try when in Cusco is a delicious alpaca steak, a very lean and tasty source of protein. You can find it in numerous restaurants in Cusco.
Alpaca vs. Llama: Comparative Table
|Size & Weight||33-36 inches tall and weigh 105-185 lbs.||41-46 inches tall and weigh 286-440 lbs.|
|Face||Round and indented face.||Elongated face.|
|Ears||Short and pointed ears.||Big, long and banana-shaped ears.|
|Fur||Very fluffy and soft fur.||Rough fur.|
|Temperament||Reserved and shy.||Curious, sometimes intrusive.|
|Spit||Spit only when it is the last resort for them.||Have a tendency to spit when they feel threatened or to reprimand lower-ranking members of the herd.|
|Use||Production of diverse textiles and meat is consumed.||Production of diverse textiles and as pack animals.|
Where can you find Alpacas and Llamas in Cusco?
During your time in Peru, you want to get as close as possible to alpacas and llamas! For that reason, we have created a small list with places where your dreams will come true.
Hiking with an alpaca during our Rainbow Mountain Palccoyo tour in Cusco is the tour’s highlight for many travelers.
Exploor Peru Tours in Cusco
During our tour to the alternative rainbow mountain Palccoyo, you will not only see 3 impressive rainbow mountains, but in addition to that you have the unique opportunity to take an alpaca or a llama for a walk. Don’t worry, there is enough time for petting and for your unforgettable photo with your new friend on the rainbow mountain Palccoyo.
You have another opportunity to see the fluffy animals during our tour to the Vinicunca rainbow mountain. Once you get to the top, you will have the chance to take pictures with alpacas from the local community.
On the way back through the “Red Valley”, where you will most likely be the only travelers, you will be surrounded by numerous alpacas and llamas. It’s just a breathtaking experience!
In our Sacred Valley tour, you can feed alpacas and take pictures of them when we visit the local textile center. In other trekking tours, such as the Salkantay Trek, the Inca Trail or also during your Machu Picchu tour, you will see plenty of llamas and/or alpacas. Always have your camera ready!
Alpaca Farm Awana Kancha
You can visit Awana Kancha, an alpaca farm, that is only 30 minutes away from Cusco. There, you will have the unique opportunity to get to know and feed not only alpacas or llamas, but also guanacos and vicuñas.
Alternatively, you have the option to learn more about the weaving process, e.g. how ponchos, blankets etc. are made out of wool. There are no guides on the farm, so it’s advisable to come with your own.
The entrance to the alpaca farm is free, but you will find some donation boxes with which the owners can buy food, medicine and much more for the animals.
If you want to see or feed alpacas and llamas in Cusco, then Awana Kancha is a good option.
In the City of Cusco
Last but not least, in Cusco you will have the opportunity to take a photo with baby alpacas or llamas. Here, you will find many locals, dressed in traditional clothes and with baby alpacas/llamas walking through the streets.
They offer photos for tourists and charge only a little money for them (1-2 Soles; $0.30-0.60). We are not saying that we support people running around with animals that belong in nature and not in the city, but you also have to consider that these people often have no other source of income.
Alpaca y Llama Textiles
In Cusco, you will basically find clothes with the typical patterns and colors of the Incas everywhere (on markets, side streets, small shops etc.). Many travelers love them as souvenirs for their friends and family back home.
The sellers will often tell you that the products are made from real alpaca or llama wool, but most of the time this is not the case. Most tourists don’t care, however, as it is just a souvenir or a casual piece of clothing and the price is usually quite low.
You can find many different types of clothes at different prices, depending on the quality. The softer the product, the better the quality.
We recommend that you look at the alpaca and llama clothes with good lighting. The following rule of thumb applies: if it has colored spots or sparkles, it is made of synthetic material. Also, the textiles of alpacas should feel cool, whereas synthetic materials are warm.
Peru: the Country of Alpacas and Llamas
We hope that by now you have a better idea of what’s the difference between a llama and an alpaca. In case you are not sure which animal it is, make sure to check its size: llamas are bigger and heavier than alpacas. Besides that, alpacas have short and pointed ears, whereas llamas have big, long and banana-shaped ears.
Without a doubt, there’s nothing like seeing these amazing animals in the wild, playing and having fun together. For that reason we recommend you to do one of our tours to the rainbow mountains in order to be as close as possible to alpacas and llamas.
Last but not least, don’t forget to bring your loved ones at home a souvenir from Peru, as this is a must. And if you’re looking to treat yourself with something special, we recommend a piece of clothing made from real alpaca wool.