Machu Picchu Llamas: The Fluffy Side Of Your Peru Adventure

Ah, Machu Picchu Llamas! These charming creatures are as iconic as the ancient Incan citadel they roam. Let’s explore everything you need to know about these photogenic residents of Machu Picchu.
machu picchu llamas

Machu Picchu Llamas: What You Should Know

Before you embark on your adventure to the iconic Machu Picchu Mountain, let’s delve into the captivating world of its most charming residents—the llamas.

The Llama Experience: What to Expect

When you step foot into the mystical world of Machu Picchu, you’ll quickly notice you’re not alone. The llamas are there to greet you on the Machu Picchu steps, and they’re as much a part of the landscape as the stone temples and terraces. 
These friendly Machu Picchu animals don't have any trouble with Machu Picchu altitude sickness and are often seen grazing on the lush grass or casually photobombing tourists’ pictures.
But what can you expect from these four-legged locals? 
First off, they’re incredibly social creatures. Don’t be surprised if a llama seems curious about you; they’re known to approach visitors, albeit cautiously. 
They’re also quite photogenic, so add your camera to your Inca trail packing list for epic llama selfies. 
If you’re lucky, you might even witness some llama drama! These animals are known to express emotions through playful behaviour like ‘hugging’ each other with their necks or engaging in a bit of ‘wrestling.’ It’s a sight that’s both entertaining and endearing.
Caution: While llamas are generally friendly, they can spit if they feel threatened. So, maintain a respectful distance and observe their body language. If a llama turns its head away or lowers its ears, it’s a sign that you should back off.
Machu Picchu llama

Llamas vs. Alpacas: Know the Difference

We often get asked by hikers taking on the iconic hike to Machu Picchu, “Is it a llama or an alpaca?” 
While both are irresistibly cute and belong to the camelid family, some key differences set them apart. Let’s break it down, shall we?

Physical Differences:

  1. Size: Llamas are generally larger, weighing between 200 to 350 lbs, while alpacas weigh around 100 to 175 lbs.

  2. Ears: Llamas have long, curved ears, almost like bananas, while alpacas have short, spear-shaped ears.

  3. Coat: Alpacas have a soft, dense, fast-growing coat, perfect for that luxurious alpaca wool. Llamas, on the other hand, have a coarser outer coat.

Behavioural Differences:

  1. Social Dynamics: Llamas are more independent and can be aloof, while alpacas are more timid and prefer to stay in groups.

  2. Spitting Habits: Both can spit, but it’s more common among llamas, especially when they feel threatened.

  3. Utility: Historically, llamas were used more for carrying loads and as a meat source, while alpacas were primarily valued for their wool.

So, the next time you’re at Machu Picchu and spot one of these adorable creatures, you’ll know what you’re looking at. Whether it’s the larger, more independent llama or the smaller, woolly alpaca, both add a unique charm and are part of the reasons to visit Machu Picchu.

A Historical Perspective: Llamas and the Incas

When it comes to the Incas, llamas were the backbone of an empire. These resilient animals played a pivotal role in the growth and sustenance of the Inca civilisation, and their impact can still be felt today when you visit places on Machu Picchu circuits.

Role in Agriculture

Llamas were not just pack animals; their manure was a valuable fertiliser that enabled the cultivation of corn at high altitudes. This agricultural boost allowed the Incas to expand their territories and sustain larger populations.

Transport and Trade

Llamas were the primary means of transporting goods across the challenging Andean terrain. They could carry about a quarter of their body weight and walk long distances, making them indispensable for trade and construction projects.

Religious Significance

Llamas were also deeply embedded in Inca spirituality. They were often sacrificed to the gods, especially during significant ceremonies like Inti Raymi, the Festival of the Sun. Their fur and bones were used in various rituals, adding another layer to their importance.


Even after the fall of the Inca Empire, the significance of llamas persisted. Today, they continue to be a symbol of Andean culture and a living testament to the ingenuity of the Incas.
Kind weather offers a beautiful view of Machu Picchu
What's Your Adventure Travel Personality?
What's Your Adventure Travel Personality?

Are you part Eager Otter, part Bucket List Bee, and part Lone Wolf? Discover your travel nature and motivators (+ get trip ideas tailored to your unique calling) 🤩

How to Interact Safely with Llamas

So, you’ve made it to Machu Picchu and you want to know how to prepare for Machu Picchu and make some furry friends. But wait! Before you rush over to snap that perfect selfie, remember some crucial guidelines to ensure a safe and respectful interaction with the llamas.
  • Approach Slowly: Llamas are generally curious but can be startled by sudden movements. Approach them slowly and calmly, ideally from the side rather than head-on, which can be perceived as threatening.

  • Read the Signs: Pay attention to the llama’s body language. If they turn their head away, lower their ears, or start to walk away, it’s a sign that they’re not interested in interacting. Respect their space and back off.

  • No Touching, Please: While it might be tempting to pet these fluffy creatures, it’s best to keep your hands to yourself unless the llama initiates the contact. Some llamas are more social than others and may come close enough for a pat but let them make the first move.

  • The Selfie Rule: If you’re itching to capture the moment, make sure to keep a respectful distance. Llamas are surprisingly photogenic and often seem to be posing for the camera. Just remember to be quick and discreet so you don’t disturb them.

  • Spit Happens: Yes, llamas do spit, but usually only when they feel threatened. Maintain a respectful distance, and the chances of a llama sharing its saliva with you are minimal.

  • Treats or No Treats? It’s generally not advisable to feed the llamas. They have a specific diet, and human food can harm them.

taking photos at machu picchu

Capturing the Moment: Llama Photography Tips

Ah, the elusive perfect llama selfie! It’s the cherry on top of your Machu Picchu experience. But capturing that Instagram-worthy shot requires more than just pointing and clicking. Here are some tips to help you snap that frame-worthy photo while being respectful to our fluffy friends.
  • The Rule of Thirds: Place the llama at one of the intersecting lines on your camera’s grid to create a more dynamic composition. This rule of thirds will make your photo more engaging.

  • Natural Light is Your Friend: Early morning or late afternoon provides the best natural light for photography. The soft, diffused light will help avoid harsh shadows and bring out the details in the llama’s coat.

  • Keep a Safe Distance: Use your camera’s zoom function to get a close-up shot without invading the llama’s personal space. Remember, a startled llama is not a photogenic llama.

  • Be Patient: Llamas are curious creatures and often make amusing expressions or poses. Wait for the right moment when the llama looks relaxed or especially cute.

  • Background Matters: Machu Picchu provides a stunning backdrop, so include some iconic ruins or terraces in your shot. It adds context and makes the photo even more memorable.

  • Portrait vs. Landscape: Try both orientations to see which works best for your composition. A portrait shot is excellent for emphasising the llama, while a landscape shot can capture more of the scenic background.

  • No Flash, Please: Using a flash can startle the llama and result in a less-than-stellar photo. Stick to natural light whenever possible.


Llama Characteristics: What Makes Them Unique

Just when you thought llamas couldn’t get any more fascinating, we have some intriguing tidbits that will make you appreciate these Andean wonders even more. So, what sets llamas apart from the animal kingdom?

Physical Traits:

  1. Two-Coat Fur: Llamas have a unique two-layer coat. The outer layer is coarse and protects them from the elements, while the inner layer is soft and insulating.

  2. Padded Feet: Unlike hooved animals, llamas have soft, padded feet that minimise their environmental impact, making them eco-friendly grazers.

Behavioural Traits:

  1. Humming: Yes, you read that right! Llamas communicate by humming. Each hum has a different meaning, from curiosity to discomfort.

  2. Body Language: Llamas are expressive creatures. They use their ears, tail, and posture to communicate a range of emotions.

Did You Know?

Llamas are excellent swimmers! Despite their heavy coats and mountainous habitat, these animals are adept in the water. So, the next time you see a llama near a stream at Machu Picchu, don’t be surprised if it decides to take a little dip.


Meeting the llamas of Machu Picchu is a highlight of any Peru adventure with Skyhook Adventure. These charming creatures offer a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty that enriches your journey. 
So, as you explore the ancient ruins, take our travel Machu Picchu tips to heart so you can appreciate these fascinating animals that are as integral to the Andean landscape as the stones of Machu Picchu itself.

Other Machu Picchu Articles