When is the best time to visit Peru?
Unfortunately, there is no right or wrong answer to this question. Located in the Southern Hemisphere, Peru actually knows two main season – the dry season and the rainy season. Most would suggest that the best time to go to Peru is during the dry season as the chances of rain are much lower. Others, however, would say that the best time to travel to Peru is actually the shoulder season, when you may still get some rain but the prices are actually more convenient.
Another thing to consider when deciding when to travel to Peru is that it has three climate zones. Deciding when to go when you may be crossing all of them can be actually quite tricky!
If you are wondering about the best time to visit Peru, you are in good hands. I have been there three times, in different seasons, and I will tell you everything there is to know – breaking down this post with a short description of the weather in Peru, the travel seasons in Peru, and the best time to visit the various regions. I will also tell you when is the best time to visit Peru if you are traveling on a budget, and what time of year you should not go.
Overview Of The Weather In Peru
To get a better understanding of the weather in Peru, first of all, it’s good to look at the country as a whole. It’s a megadiverse country, and features a border with Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador, as well as the Pacific Ocean.
This sizeable nation – the third largest in South America – is home to the soaring peaks of the Andes, the tropical Amazon rainforest, sections of the Amazon River, and arid, desert coastline.
Needless to say, in a country that’s 1.28 million square kilometers in area, the weather in Peru can change drastically from place to place. Though wholly situated in the Southern Hemisphere, the northernmost part of Peru is just 3.3 kilometers (2 miles) from the equator.
There’s a combination of climates across Peru. The coastal region sees low amounts of rain and moderate temperatures for most of the year, while in the mountains there are low temperatures and frozen peaks. The Amazon region is mainly humid and hot throughout the year.
However, these can all change depending on the season, with various activities and wildlife-spotting opportunities peaking at certain times of the year. In general, Peru has a wet and a dry season – the wettest months are January and February, for example.
Depending on where you want to go, and what you want to do once you get there, you’ll really need to keep an eye on the weather.
Travel Seasons In Peru
Peru’s travel seasons can be generally split into three: peak, when most travel occurs; low, when least travel occurs; and the shoulder season, which are still fairly popular with travelers. However, just as with the weather, different regions of Peru see different peak and low seasons for travel, as you’ll see below.
Peru in the Peak Season
Many would say that the best time to visit Peru in its winter (June and August). This is the time of year where many travelers from Europe and North America take their summer vacation, so the timing makes sense.
It’s not just about vacation periods though: Peru actually experiences less rainfall during this time of year. That means it’ll be drier underfoot for trekking, there will be more in the way of clear blue skies, and more tourist facilities will be open.
Given the weather, it’s good for heading into the Andes. The Sacred Valley and the Inca Trail, as well as Cusco and Machu Picchu, are good this time of year. However, it is peak hiking season, so trails – not to mention sites – will be fairly busy.
The Amazon Basin area is also in dry season, with sunny weather in the cloud forest and a rich array of birdlife to spot. A visit to Lake Titicaca this time of year would also be great in terms of the weather, but busy with visitors.
Shoulder Season in Peru
There are two shoulder seasons in Peru: spring (September to November) and autumn (March to May).
Spring still has lingering sunny days, and the Andes remain open for trekking – particularly for travelers who want more peace and quiet away from the crowds. However, big attractions like the Inca Trail will still be busy in this season.
It’s also getting into the right time of year for the coastal season, as the coastal fog that hangs over Lima begins to lift towards the end of spring.
In Autumn, travelers can also enjoy pleasant weather in the coastal region. The heat of the summer would have mostly dispersed by this point, but many tourist facilities will remain open. Having said that, April can still be quite hot in Lima and Nasca!
Autumn can also work as a good time to visit the Amazon or Andes before the tourist crowds arrive, especially towards the end of the season. It would be a good time of year to soak up sunshine and get better deals on accommodation and tours. However, don’t expect the most popular sites to be empty of tourists. I visited Peru twice, both times in April and the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu were certainly busy (not to mention, it rained every afternoon in Cusco!).
Low Season in Peru
December to February may be thought of as the low season in Peru, but beach lovers should rejoice. Throughout Peru’s Pacific coastline, particularly in the north, temperatures reach up to 40°C (104°F). This time of year sees coastal resorts busy with holidaymakers, while surfing opportunities are also at the best during the summer months.
It’s a good time to visit the Islas Ballestas, for example, with sea lion pups being born in January.
Head inland and you’ll find the dunes of Huacachina fantastic this time of year, if a little hot. However, the Inca Trail and high Andes attractions should be avoided – it’s the area’s wet season, and it’s closed altogether in February.
The Best Time To Visit Peru
The best time to visit Lima
If you are thinking of visiting Lima, then you should plan your visit for December through April. The coastal city boasts moderate temperatures throughout the year, but the best weather falls in Peru’s summer season. It’s less foggy and brighter, with few clouds and very little rain. Temperatures are fairly high in summer, ranging between 20°C (70°F) and 26°C (80°F).
Easter falls in April or March and is a big holiday in Peru – no less so in Lima. Expect parades, restaurants, and shops to be closed.
From May through November, the city of Lima is covered by a thick coating of fog (it’s called la garua by locals). This sea fog brings with it overcast skies and is best avoided if possible. Temperatures this time of year are also fairly low, swinging between 10°C (50°F) and 20°C (70°F). On the other hand, the fog can be quite impressive to see! I experienced it in April and thought it was truly cool to observe as it slowly lifted as the sunset approached. When I last visited, in October, the weather was solidly overcast for a good 4 days, and it was actually very cold – though it never rained.
Local festivals in Lima this time of year include Peruvian Independence Day, which falls in July. There’s also Mistura, one of the largest food festivals in South America taking place every September – for foodies, that would be the best time of year to visit Lima.
Check out my post The Best Things To Do In Lima.
The best time to visit the Amazon
The Amazon region is wet and humid all throughout the year. Temperatures sit around 30°C (86°F) pretty much the whole time. This is a hot place, no matter what time of year you visit.
There’s not a particular dry season in the Amazon Basin, but it does see less rain for some part of the year. That would be Peru’s winter (June to August). This would be the best time to go to Peru to visit the Amazon for wildlife spotting as the nature comes out to the riverbanks in search of water.
It’s also the perfect time of year to go hiking in the Amazon, as conditions underfoot are much drier during this time. Not only that, but the lower humidity also means fewer mosquitoes will be trying to feast on you.
In general, May to September is the best time to visit Peru’s Amazon region. However, do expect a higher number of tourists also out exploring popular sights at this time of year, too. I visited in October and while it rained for a couple of hours the day we arrived, we were lucky to have sunny weather the rest of the time.
Any other time of year is not great. For example, in November there can be waterlogged trails and roads, becoming impassable in some areas.
The best time to visit Cusco
Cusco is best visited during Peru’s winter (from June to September). This is the time of year that Cusco experiences less in the way of rainfall and sunnier skies. Temperatures at this time of year hover around 15°C (60°F) on average.
However, this is peak tourist season. That means you can expect to pay more for accommodation and tours as travelers flock to the city in search of adventure.
If you’re in town for culture, make sure to be here for June 24. This is the day that the festival of Inti Raymi is celebrated, a traditional Inca celebration in honor of the sun god. Accommodation can get booked up and quite expensive around this date.
August 1st is Dia de la Pachamama (loosely “Mother Earth Festival”), an indigenous festival where people pay homage to Pachamama. It also marks the beginning of the Andean New Year.
The best time to visit Cusco if you want to escape the crowds is in May or October/early November. These times of year you can still enjoy pleasant weather with a minimal chance of rain and lower levels of tourists. Mid October is when the wet season start, so you can expect the occasional rain or thunderstorm.
The wet season (November to April) means downpours, with January receiving 160 millimeters of rain, making this the wettest month of the year in Cusco. Average temperatures this time of year are slightly higher, at 18°C (64°F). It doesn’t rain all day, however, with usually only afternoons experiencing the downpours, but trekking options become more limited. Landslides can occur, too, creating delays for transport – particularly in February.
If you are in Cusco during Peru’s summer, note that Christmas and New Year can be busy for accommodation, so be sure to book ahead of time. Also, in January (20th) is the Adoration of the Kings, which is marked by fireworks. Semana Santa sees big festivities in Cusco, with thousands of people flocking to the city for the event.
Make sure to read my post The Best Things To Do In Cusco.
The best time to visit Peru to hike the Inca Trail / visit Machu Picchu
The Inca Trail is closed for restoration in February, but Machu Picchu is open. The trail reopens in March, but this is still the rainy season and conditions underfoot remain soggy.
The shoulder months of May and October are ok for walking the Inca Trail and visiting Machu Picchu. The dry, warm weather creates prime conditions for trekking, and clear blue skies make the views and photography opportunities quite amazing. Permits won’t sell out as quickly as in peak season, but be sure to book in advance regardless.
Keep in mind the chances or rain are higher in October, though. Last time I visited Peru, last October, and hiked the Inca Trail, it rained for most of the second and third day of the trail, and throughout the night and the entire time we were in Machu Picchu – so you have to go prepared.
Peak season for trekking the Inca Trail is June, July, and August. The weather is dry, skies are clear, and the temperatures are good for hiking, but you will experience many more crowds both on the trail and even more so at Machu Picchu. Locals like to tackle the trail, too, particularly at the end of June (coinciding with Inti Raymi).
I walked the Inca Trail in mid-April and the weather was ok, with sun for most of the day and downpours in the early afternoon, which meant having to wear a poncho and rain gear to stay dry. The rain was so strong on certain afternoons in Cusco that it was actually impossible to explore. The weather certainly improves towards the end of the month (like when I first visited) though.
For complete information about Machu Picchu, read my posts How To Get To Machu Picchu and How To Get Tickets To Machu Picchu. For more information about the Inca Trail, read my posts Everything You Need To Know About The Inca Trail and What To Pack For The Inca Trail.
The Best Time To Visit Peru On The Cheap
Are you wondering when the best time to travel to Peru on a budget is? If you are watching your pennies, then you should avoid the country during the high season. That is, in general, from June through August. Visiting during this time means that hotel prices will be higher, flights to the country will be more expensive, and so will tours and other tourist-oriented services.
Rates can also be expensive in late December, for Christmas, while September is still fairly busy and, therefore, also not exactly a budget experience.
The cheapest time for flights to Peru is between October through mid-December, and then again from mid-January to mid-April. You should note, however, that this is the rainy season in the Andean highlands, but it is summer in the coastal regions. It’s a great time of year for an affordable beach break alongside other Peruvians this time of year.
Generally speaking, the shoulder seasons (April to June, September to October) offer up the best combinations of lower prices, decent weather, and thinner tourist crowds. However, you should take into consideration big Peruvian holidays like Easter, for example, that see locals flocking to popular destinations for their own getaways.
The Worst Time To Visit Peru
It really depends on where you’re going in the country, and what your itinerary is. For example, heading to the Andes or Amazon in November is really not a good idea – with so much rain, you won’t really have many opportunities to hike.
However, heading to Lima and the Peruvian coastline in the same month could be a great opportunity to catch some sun with hardly any international tourists to share it with. On the other hand, between April and November Lima isn’t at its best (though I can attest to lots of sun and warm days both times I visited Lima in April), but this is when the Andes and trekking come into their own.
If you don’t like crowds and you’re on a budget, then the peak season (June-August) could potentially be the worst time of year to visit Peru. The weather can play a more important role in your trip than simply how busy an attraction is, so that’s something you should bear in mind perhaps more than “peak” or “low” seasons.
These posts will come in handy when planning your trip to Peru: