While Chile’s handicrafts (artesanía) are nowhere near as diverse or colourful as in Peru or Bolivia, you can still find a range of beautiful souvenirs, which are usually sold in ferias artesanales (craft markets) on or near the central squares of the main towns. As for day-to-day essentials, you’ll be able to locate just about everything you need, from sun block to contact lens solution, in the main towns across the country.
Artesanía and other souvenirs
The finest and arguably most beautiful goods you can buy in Chile are the items – mainly jewellery – made of lapis lazuli, the deep-blue semi-precious stone found only in Chile and Afghanistan. The best place to buy these is in Bellavista, Santiago: note that the deeper the colour of the stone, the better its quality. Though certainly less expensive than lapis exports sold abroad, they’re still pricey.
Most artesanía is considerably less expensive. In the Norte Grande, the most common articles are alpaca sweaters, gloves and scarves, which you’ll find in altiplano villages like Parinacota, or in Arica and Iquique. The quality is usually fairly low, but they’re inexpensive and very attractive all the same. In the Norte Chico, you can pick up some beautiful leather goods, particularly in the crafts markets of La Serena. You might also be tempted to buy a bottle of pisco there, so that you can recreate that pisco sour experience back home – though you’re probably better off getting it at a supermarket in Santiago before you leave, to save yourself carting it about. The Central Valley, as the agricultural heartland of Chile, is famous for its huaso gear, and you’ll find brightly coloured ponchos and stiff straw hats in the numerous working huaso shops. The highlight in the Lake District is the traditional Mapuche silver jewellery, while the far south is a good place to buy chunky, colourful knitwear.
A range of these goods can also be bought in the major crafts markets in Santiago, notably Los Dominicos market. Also worth checking out are Santiago’s little flea markets.
Hard haggling is neither commonly practised nor expected in Chile, though a bit of bargaining is in order at many markets. It’s also worth trying to bargain down the price of hotel rooms, especially outside the peak months of January and February.