Did you know the different types of llamas? We introduce you to them

Alpacas in a field in South America

This post is also available in: Español

Today we bring you a lesson on South American camelids. Eing? There are different types of llamas in South America, in fact llamas are just one type of the four species there are. We hope with this post that you will call them (hehe) by their name because meeting an alpaca and treating it like a llama is not a good way to start a friendship.

Traveling to Argentina, to Chile, to Peru or to Bolivia and not seeing any of the different types of llamas, would be like going to Italy and not seeing the Tower of Pisa. These animals are exclusive to South America, and before we begin, we would like to point out that vicuñas and guanacos are wild, while llamas and alpacas do not exist free in nature.


The llama is the best known species, and is the largest of the four. It is also the strongest and is generally used as a transport animal by native Andean peoples. They can reach almost two meters in length, weigh 190 kilograms and spit if they get angry. Be nice to them!

Llama in Machu Picchu

You can have your photo taken at the tour to Machu Picchu, but also in many other parts of Peru and in other countries such as Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Argentina and Colombia. You will know they are llamas by their size, but also by their pointed ears and their long necks and legs.


The alpaca is smaller and less strong than the llama. It is almost never used as a pack animal. The alpaca gives a very fine, recognized and quality wool, far superior to that of the llama, it uses better shampoo! If the quality of their wool does not help you tell them apart then you may notice that their legs and necks are shorter.

Three alpacas

Of the four species, the llama and the alpaca are the most difficult to differentiate. Here’s a trick: the alpaca’s head is smaller and less stretched than that of the llama. Don’t be overwhelmed, it’s really very complicated to distinguish them if you don’t have both species together!


The guanaco is the wild version of the llama and the alpaca, in fact the llama is born of artificial selection by the natives. It is also the most adventurous and is present along the Andes Mountains, in the Altiplano and even in Patagonia where it does not share space with any other species of camelids.

In the W Trek Torres del Paine pay attention because guanacos can often be seen roaming in large herds. They live in groups with one dominant male for several females, so if you see an unaccompanied guanaco it will be a young male with no female companions yet.

Guanaco in Torres del Paine


The vicuña is the most elegant and the smallest, weighing about 50 kilograms! It is very easy to distinguish it from other species. Its fragile appearance should not deceive you, and is undoubtedly the most resistant of the four species, there are vicuñas up to 5,700 meters of altitude! Get ready to see them on the Salar de Uyuni or during the climb to Chimborazo volcano in Ecuador, didn’t you expect it?

Vicuña in South America

With this knowledge you will find it easier to know the different types of llamas in South America, but we warn you that it is a difficult task and that it is possible that you take a picture with an alpaca thinking it is a llama, and vice versa. What we do assure you is that it won’t be a vicuña or a guanaco, remember that they are two wild species?


Journalist, nomad and adventurer. Paula would never say no to a camping trip and is an expert in setting up a tent in less than 10 seconds.

Besides that, she loves to dance and maybe that's why she loves Latin America so much. One of her best trips was to Argentina, but she has many more destinations behind her, which she talks about in this blog.

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