Peru is one of those classic adventure destinations that has a lot to offer travelers. From the beaches of the Pacific Coast, to the snowcapped peaks of the Andes, to the sprawling rainforest of the Amazon, the diversity of landscapes, wildlife, and activities is practically unmatched anywhere else on the planet. But when should you visit? The best time to visit Peru is between May and October, but as you'll see, there are a number of variables to weigh before booking your trip.
The most popular time to visit Peru is during the dry season, which runs from May through October. That just so happens to correlate with winter in the Southern Hemisphere, though for the most part, the conditions are as stable and dry as they get at any time of the year. If you're looking for predictable weather, and you want to maximize your chances of having sunshine and clear skies, then this is the best time to go.
Conversely, the rainy season occurs between December and March, with the highest amount of precipitation coming in January and February. During this time of the year the conditions are much less stable, and rainfall can often be quite heavy. That can make hiking the Inca Trail or visiting Machu Picchu even more unpleasant than battling large crowds. Hard rains can also make travel in the mountains unsafe or force trail closures as well, adding new challenges to any trip.
In addition to the dry and rainy seasons, Peru also has two short shoulder seasons in April and November. Those months of the year serve as transitions between the predominant weather conditions. While a bit less predicable, the weather is generally good but a little unstable at those times of the year.
As you might expect, the dry season is easily the busiest time of the year when it comes to travels visiting Peru. That means popular sites like Cusco, Machu Picchu, and the Inca Trail are often very crowded. This is especially true in July and August, when crowds can be quite large at popular tourist spots across the entire country. If your main goal is to avoid lines and overcrowding as much as possible, you may not want to go to Peru during the dry season.
On the other hand, the rainy season—and to a lesser extent, the two shoulder seasons—are much less crowded. Even the most popular sites like Machu Picchu are open, accessible, and easy to navigate, making it a great time to visit for those who really want to avoid crowds, but don't mind dealing with potentially bad weather.
The other time of the year to be aware of is late December into early January. Around the holidays each year, Peru sees another influx of visitors, which can lead to crowded hotels, packed restaurants, and fully booked tours. If that is when you intend to go, keep in mind that the popular attractions may be busier than you expected.
Inca Trail Closures
If hiking the Inca Trail is your primary goal, it is important to be aware that the route is closed throughout the month of February. Due to the very heavy rainfalls that occur during that month, the Peruvian government has made the decision to not issue any permits for the trail during that month. The reason for this closure is two-fold. First, it protects the trail and ensures that it won't get overly damaged when it is most vulnerable following major rain storms. Secondly, the closure also helps to keep trekkers safe by keeping them off the trail when it is at its most treacherous.
The Coast, Mountains, or Rainforest?
Part of Peru's attraction is that it has several unique climate zones to explore, and each of them has its own "best time to visit." For example, if you're mainly staying close to Peruvian Pacific Coast, then November through March will be your best bet in terms of sunshine and warmth. Yes, that is the rainy season throughout much of the rest of the country, but in Lima and along the ocean, it is a great time to be in country.
If Cusco, the Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, and the Andes are your intended destination, then avoid the rainy season if you can help it. The dry season is much more accommodating to visitors and with more stable conditions throughout and warmer temperatures, too. May through September marks the best time to be in the mountains, though it can be quite nice in April and October as well.
Likewise, the Amazon Rainforest is best visited in the dry season, and preferably from May to September. It is always warm and tropical in the Amazon, but less rain means it is also more accessible and enjoyable too. Temperatures are a bit cooler during the rainy season of course, but humidity is quite high all year round.
Festivals and Holidays
As with most countries, Peru has its fair share of national holidays and popular festivals. For the most part, they don't tend to interfere with travel and can actually make for highly memorable experiences. There are two festivals that travelers should certainly be aware of, particularly if they want to take part in them.
The first of those is the Festival of the Sun, which occurs on June 24 each year. This is the biggest and most lavish celebration of the year in Cusco, attracting thousands of visitors to take in its spectacle. The festival marks the passing of the winter solstice and has been celebrated for more than 500 years, which means it has a deep and lasting significance for the indigenous people.
The other festival/holiday to be aware of is Semana Santa, which occurs at Easter, with some celebrations and ceremonies taking place throughout Holy Week, and many hotels, flights, and restaurants are booked solid throughout. While it is another interesting festival to witness first-hand, it is best to be aware of it if you're going to travel to Peru during that sacred time of year.
Dry Season (Winter)
As noted, Peru's dry season occurs from roughly May to October each year. This, of course, makes it the most popular time to visit the country with travelers flocking in to take advantage of the good weather. Because of this, you can expect heavier than normal traffic at all of the top tourist spots, as well as airports, hotels, trains, and restaurants.
During this period, daytime temperatures in the mountains tend to be between 68 degrees F and 77 degrees F, but in the Amazon, things can get a bit warmer, ranging from 86 degrees F to 100 degrees F with lots of humidity. Over on the Pacific Coast, temperatures tend to be fairly mild with lows in the mid-60s and highs in the mid-70s.
Events to check out:
- Festival of the Sun (June 24): Observed throughout the country, the Festival of the Sun is Peru's biggest and most popular festival.
- Independence Day (July 28-29): A major holiday in Peru that celebrates the country's independence from Spain. It is typically marked with parades, special events, and parties, with many businesses being closed.
- Mistura Culinary Festival (September): Held annually in the city of Lima, the Mistura Culinary Festival includes more than 200 restaurants offering up some of the most amazing food.
Rainy Season (Summer)
With the arrival of the rainy season in December that lasts through March, conditions change fairly dramatically. In the mountains, the temperatures drop to an average of 64 degrees F to 68 degrees F during the day, while in the Amazon, the mercury stays pretty consistent with the dry season (mid-80s F to mid-90s F). Along the coast, things improve nicely, with sun and clear skies bringing temperatures ranging from 77 degrees F to 95 degrees F. Despite it being the rainy season, however, it is generally dry along the Pacific at that time.
Because of the shift in temperatures and precipitation, this tends to be the quietest time of the year at Peru's major tourist attractions. If you don't mind battling the weather (pack a good rain jacket!) it can be a rewarding time to be there, but heavy rains have the potential to also make it a miserable experience.
Events to check out:
- Puno Day and Week (Nov. 5): This festival celebrates the life of Manco Cápac, who is viewed as the first Incan Emperor. Puno Day is typically celebrated on Nov. 5, with parades and celebrations taking place all week long surrounding that day.
- Day of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8): A major religious holiday and feast day on the Catholic calendar that remains sacred and holy in Peru to this day.
- Fiesta de la Candelaria (February): Taking place in the town of Puno, this popular celebration is held in honor of the patron saint of that city. It routinely sees more than 40,000 people taking part in the festivities.
When to Go
After all of this, if you're still wondering when to go, then the question comes down to do you value good weather or smaller crowds? If the answer is weather, then avoid the rainy season and be prepared to be patient at Peru's biggest attractions, as they are likely to be very busy. On the other hand, if you would rather not deal with a throng of people, then going during the rainy season (or better yet, one of the shoulder seasons) may be right for you. Just pack appropriately, and accept the fact that you'll likely encounter rain and poor weather at times.
Weather Spark. "Average Weather in Cusco, Peru, Year Round." Retrieved February 17, 2021.
Ticket Machu Picchu. "The truth about the closure of the Inca trail to Machu Picchu." Retrieved February 17, 2021.
Cusco Peru. "Inti Raymi - Sun Festival, Feast of the Incas." Retrieved February 17, 2021.