Handicrafts and souvenirs
Chile's criollo culture shines in the simple and exquisite handicrafts on offer in this long, narrow Andean land.
Friday, September 30, 2011
Whether you’re living in Chile or just here for a couple of weeks, don’t miss the unique and beautiful crafts and souvenirs on offer.
Heavily influenced by indigenous culture, Chile’s markets sell a wide variety of products made from native materials like alpaca wool, leather, clay, wood, silver, copper and lapis lazuli.
Here, we pick out a selection of the best - and where to find them.
Gorro chilote: Traditional woolen hats from Chiloé, with long earpieces to keep out the cold. They are so well-loved in Chile that they even have their own song, Jorge Yañez’s “El Gorro de Lana”.
Mapuche poncho: Traditional ponchos woven by the Mapuche indigenous people, used to keep warm and dry in the cold winters of the Chilean south.
Lapis lazuli moai: Chile is famous for its lapis lazuli, the bright blue semi-precious stone found only in Chile and Afghanistan. Lapis lazuli is used to make beautiful jewelry of all kinds, but for a very special Chilean souvernir, pick up a hand-carved Easter Island moai.
Pottery: Chile’s central regions are great for pottery, from large home and kitchen pieces to small statues and trinkets. The Mapuche are also famous for their distinctive pottery traditions, and their designs can be found in the southern area around Temuco.
Handicraft markets in and around Santiago
Santa Lucía: On the corner of Alameda and Carmen in downtown Santiago, near Santa Lucía Metro station. There is also a Mapuche market just across the street, at Cerro Santa Lucía. Open from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Monday through Sunday.
Patio Bellavista: Between Pío Nono and Ernesto Pinto Lagarrique streets in Barrio Bellavista, near Baquedano Metro station. There are restaurants, art shops and several stores that sell modern handicrafts.
Centro Artesanal Los Dominicos: A classic attraction that is popular every day of the year, this lovely market is set in a converted monastery and home to hundreds of upscale, top-quality products. There are also cafés and restaurants inside the leafy walkways for a much needed break from shopping! In eastern Santiago at Avenida Nueva Apoquindo 9085, Los Dominicos Metro station.
Pomaire: The small town of Pomaire is one of many popular craft centers in Chile´s central regions. Located 50 miles (80 km) south-west of Santiago, along Ruta 78, the town is renowned for its baking dishes, pots, glasses and plates made from dark clay. It is also famous for its typical food, with cazuelas and giant empanadas. Buses to Pomaire leave from the San Borja Terminal at Estación Central Metro station.
Top handicrafts centers outside Santiago
San Pedro de Atacama: The belle of the desert is brimming with handicrafts and walking through the streets of the little adobe town provides shoppers with endless options. A great place to find copper and silver jewelry, including some top class pieces, as well as alpaca woolens and bright woven wrist bands.
Valparaíso: The Valparaíso harbor front is a great place to pick up artisanal goods and bright artworks, and there are numerous boutique clothing, art and jewelry shops. Wander the streets of Cerro Alegre for some of the more upmarket options.
Temuco and the Lakes District: Temuco is the heartland of the indigenous Mapuche people, and the city and surrounding region are excellent places to find traditional pottery and handcrafted silver, as well as carved wooden goods and ornaments.
Chiloé: As evidenced by the famous gorro chillote hats, Chiloé (and its principal city, Castro) is famous for its wool. Some weavers have maintained the old-fashioned style of working the wool and when passing through the island, pick up some traditional socks, sweaters and ponchos to keep you warm on the chilly southern nights.