The Patacancha weaving community is a traditional Quechua community located about a one hour drive up a dirt road from the town of Ollantaytambo. This highland community has lived the same way for hundreds of years working the land and selling whatever agricultural products they don’t use.
The community is known for its colourful high-quality textiles which are hand-woven primarily by the women in the community and for their traditional lifestyle. If you want to really see how local communities in most parts of the Sacred Valley live, this is a real eye-opener well off the beaten track.
The non-profit organisation Awamaki organise excellent tours to Patacancha (and the neighbouring community of Huilloc) as part of their Sustainable Tourism programme. Their Quechua Community Visits aim to share the ancient weaving tradition and Andean indigenous culture with tourists to the region. Tours start in Ollantaytambo for the picturesque one hour drive up to the Patacancha or Huilloc communities.
Awamaki work with a local women’s cooperative made up of 28 local women whom they have helped to train. The women greet you at the Awamaki weaving centre, share a little about their lives with a visit to their homes and take you through the entire weaving process. This includes the spinning of raw alpaca wool into yarn (more difficult than it looks!) on the traditional spindle or ‘phuska’, dying the fibers with natural plant dyes, an explanation of the techniques and tools used to weave the yarn into cloth and at the end you learn to weave your own bracelet. It was only by trying to weave that we fully understood the huge amount of skill and work that goes into creating each textile and were able to fully appreciate the craftsmanship and time involved!
These traditional Andean communities speak mainly Quechua, the local indigenous language with some basic Spanish so communication is unfortunately quite limited. It would be nice to be able to chat with the women and get a deeper feel for their day to day lives but due to the language barrier communication goes through the Awamaki volunteers who run the tours.
Best of Peru Travel Recommends:
- During rainy season from December – March it can be difficult to visit the Patacancha community so check road conditions with Awamaki before you leave.
- Awamaki can also organise for your group to have a traditional pachamanca lunch with the community, comprising of chicken, potatoes and vegetables, cooked in a typical earth oven.
- There are also other great tours on offer including a dyeing immersion programme and a carving and basket making workshop. You can find more information on other Awamaki tours here.