Ask around regarding where to visit in South America, and it will quickly become clear that one destination rises above the rest: Peru. The vertigo-inducing mountains, the ancient archaeology and vibrant living traditions, the cuisine and the arts - Peru is an endless wellspring of adventure! But what about the “when”? When is the best time to go to Peru? When is the best time to visit Machu Picchu?
Fortunately, in the case of Peru, best time to visit is an expansive idea. This amazing country has great weather almost year-round in its various regions, and an array of activities can be undertaken throughout most of the year.
If you’re considering visiting Peru, a bit of study will reveal that the country is made up of three general regions according to its geography.
The costa coastal region is a strip of land that adjoins the Pacific Ocean. With beaches, plains and foothills, it is generally arid with coastal fog that blankets the farmlands, valleys and gentle slopes. However, it rains little here, travel is easy on nice roads, and cultural activities galore can be found in the capital of Lima and at famous sites like the striking Nazca Lines.
The mountain region is where Cusco, the epicenter of Machu Picchu tours, is located, along with the famed Lake Titicaca. This is deservedly one of the more visited regions of Peru, with scores of sites that draw visitors to Peru’s natural and cultural treasures. Trekking and getting to spend time with the indigenous Quechua culture are top pursuits here. We’ll share more on the best time to travel to Machu Picchu later on.
The selva lowland rainforest region of the Amazon headwaters is home to many small towns like Puerto Maldonado and conservation areas like Tambopata National Reserve. The ecolodges here are top notch, mirroring the dazzling wildlife watching and river exploration.
One factor informing the decision making process of when to travel to Peru is flight cost. Due to weather and school/work schedules, the best time to travel to Peru are the Southern Hemisphere winter months of June through August. This is considered the “high” season.
However, if you’re looking for the cheapest time to fly to Peru, consider the “shoulder” and “low” seasons. With less favorable weather and the work/school schedules complicating things, fewer people travel at these times. Note: these cheaper seasons are not the best time of year to visit Machu Picchu; see below about poor weather and trail closures.
Weather-wise, each region of Peru has certain times of year that are better than others, with few windows being good to avoid.
The costa has cool, damp weather for most of the year, without distinct seasons. Temperatures average in the low 60s to mid-70s farenheit in the spring, fall and summer (remember: Southern Hemisphere seasons are the reverse of the Northern). Rain is rare, and the sunny, warm weather is typical after morning fog. In the winter, temperatures in the high 50s to mid-60s are common, with overcast, cool and damp weather. The costa weather is travel-friendly year round.
The sierra, with its mountain setting, has more distinct seasons. However, at the elevation of locales like Cusco (over 11,000 feet!), the greater variation is not in the high temperature, but the low. The fall, spring are cool to mild, with low temperatures in the low 40s, highs in the upper 60s to low 70s, and little rain. The summer temperatures are similar, but December through March’s rains make for muddy trails and a time period to avoid. February can even be time when the trails to Machu Picchu are completely closed.
The winter has the best weather for trekking - weather ranges from cold lows to nicely mild days, ranging from mid-30s lows to mid-60s highs, and rain is rare. Winter is considered to be the best time to go to Machu Picchu and is considered “high season”, the busier time of year.
The “Machu Picchu travel best time year” debate continues somewhat, but one great approach is to travel in the “shoulder season” when demand is a bit lower. This means that the best month to visit Machu Picchu can arguably May or September. The good weather is still on, but fewer people means emptier trails and lodgings, more operator availability, and lower flight prices (see below on this topic).
The selva’s lush vegetation, abundant wildlife, and winding rivers is thanks to nearly year-round rain. The short drier season falls in the winter months of July and August, with temperatures being 70 - 87F on average and rain still common. The rest of the year sees temperatures of 72 - 89F, and rain is very frequent. If your trip plans focuses the bulk of its time in the selva, the best time to visit Peru is a bit more subjective due to the weather being varying so little here.
Ultimately, the best time of year to visit Peru isn’t totally conclusive, save for the no-go window for machu Picchu. Many travelers have a great experience in the high season, while others will opt for the quieter shoulder season if they can. The best time to visit Peru is the one that you can make happen, and we at Global Basecamps are here to help you do just that! Get in touch and we’ll start planning your Peru tour today!