The first question that comes to your mind when you travel, besides security, is about the best time to visit, especially when you know you will be in the outdoors for so much time. And you definitely need to know what’s the best time to visit Machu Picchu if you want to make the most of your time in one of the most visited UNESCO world heritage sites. It’s not exactly one of those places that you can return and visit multiple times. In this post, I will tell you all about it and more
As a destination, Peru covers a large range of climates from the high Peruvian Andes Mountains, the tropical Amazon rainforest, and the arid Pacific coast. It is truly a year-round travel destination where temperature and rainfall change significantly at any point of the year by region and altitude.
In Peru’ as much as in many tropical regions, there are not 4 seasons, but 2: the dry season, when the sun is supposedly shining all day long, and the lands are dry, and the wet season when the vegetation is lush and green, and rainfall guaranteed almost every day.
Or you might experience the 4 seasons all in one day. Weird but likely.
Both seasons have their pros and cons when it comes to traveling to Machu Picchu, one of the most popular destinations in Perú.
We are going to explore them so that you can choose wisely which season is the best for you and you know what to expect.
Best time of the Year to visit Machu Pichu in a nutshel
DRY SEASON – April to November (high season)
- generally clear blue skies and sunny days
- little to no rainfalls
- best weather
- large crowds in July and August and long lines at the sun gate!
- it’s cooler at night
Humidity level 40-45%
WET SEASON – December to April (low season)
- fewer people
- lower prices in hotels and tours
- amazing lush and green landscapes
- constant rains especially in the afternoons and nights
- muddy trails
Humidity level 60-65%
SHOULDER SEASONS – April to June and September to November
The shoulder season includes the best months to travel to Machu Picchu, where there is a smaller crowd and it’s less likely to rain and it’s warm enough to enjoy your walks and hikes.
April to June is probably even better since it’s right past the rainy season which means the vegetation is still blooming green.
- Remember the Amazon forest it’s just 100km away, so expect rain every now and then even in the dry season.
- The nights are always cold.
- The peak season is usually around Christmas and Easter holidays, besides end June when the festival of the Sun (Inti Raymi) is celebrated. These dates are the most crowded and with higher rates.
So when is the best time to visit Machu Picchu?
Depending on your priorities, dry, wet, cold, hot, busy, quiet, Cusco, and Machu Picchu can be visited all year round. Now you know what to expect when, well, roughly!
Here below I will give you a breakdown of seasonality so that you can better decide when it’s the best time to visit Machu Pichu for your needs and you know what to expect.
Best time to travel to Machu Picchu by month
Visiting Machu Picchu in January and February
January and February are the wettest months of the year with the temperature that varies from 80°F / 27°C to 62°F / 17°C in January and 71°F (21°C) to around 45°F (7°C) in Feb, approximately.
But those are also the lesser crowd months, for the very same reason. So if you love to travel with fewer people around this is your chance.
However, because of the heavy rain, you should expect sudden cancellations or itinerary changes, train delays or trail closures due to landslides.
And because of those dangers, many trails can be closed to the public, especially in February. Regardless it’s advisable to avoid the Inca trail, Salkantay trek, and Choquequirao. If you would like to hike to Machu Picchu the best trek in these months would be Lares Trek.
Make sure you bring waterproof gear with you and, if you hike, some dry change. However, traveling at this time of the year can bring a lot of joy if you are lucky. If the sky clears up and you can spot the immensity of the Machu Picchu wrapped up in heavy mists, you will get the perfect picture!
Keep in mind though, it’s not recommended to hike the Huayna Picchu Mountain just behind the Machu Picchu site during this month.
Visiting Machu Picchu in March
March can be a good month to travel to Machu Picchu, especially in the second half when the weather starts getting better with better chance of rays of the sun and less rain.
The temperatures in Machu Picchu vary from around 71°F (21°C) and lows around 42°F (6°C).
You can choose among any treks to Machu Picchu except for the Salkantay which is still getting quite a bit of rain in March.
I did the Inca Trail in March and although I bought some rain, it was very enjoyable.
Visiting Machu Picchu in April
April is what is called the shoulder season when more travelers start to flock to Machu Picchu and enjoy the nice weather and a better chance to see the sunrise in Machu Picchu which would be pretty much hidden behind fog during the previous months.
The temperatures in Machu Picchu will vary from approximately 73°F (22°C) to 39°F (4°C).
Keep in mind that from this time of the year tours and train tickets sell out fast, and you need to book your trip in advance.
Visiting Machu Picchu in May
Here we are at the beginning of the dry season even though you can still get quite a few showers. however, you must be still be prepared for rainy days.
But overall you will get a clear blue sky and incredible views.
The temperatures in Machu Picchu will vary from highs around 86°F (30°C) and lows around 42°F (6°C).
May is without a doubt one of the best months for visiting Machu Picchu, and take any of the popular treks, including the Salkantay trek which by now will be clear as well.
Visiting Machu Picchu in June
June marks the beginning of the high season in Peru; thousands of travelers flock to Peru to explore this beautiful country in sunny weather. But especially in Cuzco, you will be able to assist to the Festival of the Sun besides hiking to Machu Picchu.
The temperatures in Machu Picchu will vary from 83°F (28°C) to 44°F (7°C) approximately.
It’s more likely that all the tours will reach an excessive number of visitors so make sure you book in advance both for Machu Picchu and around the Sacred Valley as well.
Visiting Machu Picchu in July
Since July is the middle of the dry season it means that it’s also freezing cold especially at night and early morning except for Machu Picchu itself where temperatures don’t vary that much.
The temperatures in Machu Picchu will vary from highs around 82°F (27°C) and lows around 44°F (7°C).
However, in Cuzco and on the Machu Pichu treks make sure you wear warm clothes.
Despite the cold, because of the summer vacations crowds, you will still find long lines to get the buses, trains to enter Machu Picchu.
Therefore even for July, you should book in advance for your tours and train and bus tickets.
Visiting Machu Picchu in August
August is the peak season, which means the worst time to travel because it really gets stressful when you cannot get where you want or you are surrounded by so many people. If you are anything like me, it will be difficult to appreciate the environment. I would definitely consider not traveling in August.
The temperatures in Machu Picchu will vary from highs around 78°F (26°C) and lows around 42°F (6°C). All trails are available; we recommend alternative treks.
Visiting Machu Picchu in September
The rains are back in September, and the dry season will end; the cold winter is also replaced by cooler weather in the mountains.
The temperatures in Machu Picchu will vary from highs around 73°F (22°C) and lows around 44°F (7°C). All trails are available; we recommend alternative treks.
With the drop in the number of visitors to Peru, Machu Picchu’s long lines are over and make it perfect for hiking in the mountains.
Visiting Machu Picchu in October
As a shoulder season, October is one of the best months to visit Machu Picchu because you get the best of both worlds.
Some rain is expected but not too much and it’s not so cold as in the dry season, so you can experience relatively good weather. And, most of all, it’s not crowded!
The temperatures in Machu Picchu will vary from around 72°F (22°C) to around 41°F (5°C).
Visiting Machu Picchu in November
November officially marks the beginning of the rainy season, but don’t get discouraged because you will still be able to enjoy the sun and nice weather, and a smaller crowd.
Temperatures in Machu Picchu vary from around 78°F (25°C) to 45°F (7°C).
Visit Machu Picchu in December
In December we have more rain but also a bigger crowd for the holiday.
The temperatures in Machu Picchu will vary from highs around 71°F (21°C) and lows around 44°F (6°C).
However, this is the last month where you get the chance to join a trekking adventure to Machu Picchu before the heavy rains start and trails are closed.
The best time of the day to travel to Machu Picchu
The best time to visit Machu Picchu will be early in the morning or late in the afternoon:
Visiting Machu Picchu early in the morning:
This is definitely the best option and even if you are not an early bird you should make the effort. Getting to Machu Picchu with a smaller crowd at sunrise it’s an unforgettable experience without a doubt.
Obviously, if you choose this time of the day to visit Machu Picchu it means that you have arrived at Aguas Calientes by train the night before and spent the night there.
Also, keep in mind that Machu Picchu opens at 6 am. If you want to get there by that time, you need to take the first bus from the town of Aguas Calientes that departs at 5.30 am. Make sure you get there 1 hour before in the low season and 2 hours before in the high season.
Or you can choose one of the Machu Picchu treks such as the original trail, or Salkantay, Lares, and other trekking tours. This way you will enter Machu Picchu from the popular Sun Gate right for sunrise. It’s a magical experience, I assure you.
You may also want to read about the 8 ways to visit Machu Picchu
Visiting Machu Picchu during the day:
If you don’t have much time and you want to take a one-day trip to Machu Pichu, you will arrive in Aguas Calientes by train any time from 9:00 am depending on when you left from Cusco.
It is not recommendable, especially if you love to take pictures and enjoy the experience fully. Although you will be more likely to have good weather, it will be very crowded and you won’t have much time for the visit since you will want to go back on the very same day.
Keep in mind that the late morning/afternoon is the busiest time of the day because there are several trains running from Cusco and Ollantaytambo that are full of one-day visitors.
Visiting Machu Picchu late in the afternoon:
If you want to visit Machu Picchu on your own, or with a smaller crowd, you should visit after 2 pm since most of the visitors leave by 3 pm.
From 2 pm to 5.30 pm, you will have the site all for yourself. However keep in mind that if you want to climb up to Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu mountain, you won’t have much time. (The cost is 75 USD each but they are temporarily closed for now)
If you want to take this option though, make sure you book the last train to Cuzco, or even better, stay overnight in Aguas Calientes.
Insider tip – Avoid visiting Machu Picchu on Sundays, since it’s free for locals, it’s expected to be a very crowdy day!
Best time to travel to Machu Picchu FAQ
When is the less crowded time of the year in Machu Picchu?
The best time of the year to have Macchu Picchu all for yourself are January and February. You will also find amazing deals in Hotels and the best train schedules.
But there is a catch. In fact, these months see the most rain and that’s why nobody wants to travel then. If you don’t mind, make sure you carry good rain gear and be prepared for bad weather and all the discomfort that comes with it.
When is the busiest time of the year in Machu Picchu?
June July and August are the crowdest months, just because the weather is perfect. Also if you travel at the end of Juner you will find yourself in the middle of the festival of the Sun (Inti Raymi) an incredible experience.
If you really want to travel those days make sure you book way in advance to secure your tours, train tickets and hotels before they get booked out. Remember that Machu Picchu allows a limited amount of visitors.
Machu picchu travel tips
Elevation of Machu Picchu
MACHU PICCHU has an elevation of 7,972 feet (2,430 meters) above sea level.
For reference I report here below related sites altitude:
- Elevation of Machu Picchu Mountain: 3.082 mt (10,111 ft)
- Elevation of Huayna Picchu: 2.720 mt (8923 ft)
- Elevation of Cusco: 3.399 mt (11,150 ft)
How to acclimatize to the elevation of Machu Picchu
There are general rules or tips that suit every situation of high altitude.
The first thing to know is that no matter how fit or trained you are, altitude sickness can hit you as well.
My guide on the Inca trail told me that he saw very fit people suffering so much that they had to go back. They just couldn’t move forward.
Altitude sickness can have lethal repercussions if you don’t pay attention to it and respect it and take the necessary measures.
In order to acclimatize to the elevation of Machu Picchu they always tell you first that you need to spend some time in Cusco before taking any trails.
Since Cusco has a much higher elevation, you are more likely to enjoy your hike to Machu Picchu after spending a couple of days at a higher altitude.
I remember in fact when I hiked Kilimanjaro, which is about 6000 mt, at day 3 of our hike we were ascending a few hundreds of mt before going up again for the same reason.
Particularly if you are coming from Lima, which is at sea level, it involves a significant change of altitude in such a short time.
You need to give your body a little time to adapt.
Even more, if you have never experienced such an altitude, you need to test it and be cautious, observing how your body reacts.
How to Prevent Altitude Sickness
According to the Healthline website:
- Climb slowly – you are not chasing anything nor in a competition. Take your time and enjoy the views
- Eat carbs – this one I like a lot 🙂 – pack your backpack with high carbs snacks, better if healthy, like fruits and nuts. But it’s very subjective. When I go to such high altitude, my stomach refuses any kinds of food, liquid or solid food while I am hiking. I can eat if I am just hanging out and doing anything. So listen to your body and don’t feel in competition with anyone else.
- Avoid alcohol – well can you please make it for one day or two? I don’t normally drink, so for me, it’s natural. But if you do, please make the effort.
- Drink water – plenty!
- Take it easy – see nr 1
- Sleep lower – if you can do it you should walk back to sleep at a lower elevation, but of course, if you are hiking with a group you need to stay all together. However, normally the hikes are organized like that. Guides know what they are doing.
- Medication – well, you need to consult your doctor about it. Please bear in mind, though, that medication can help but not always work. Besides, when I hiked the Kili I was told not to take any because if you hide the symptoms of altitude sickness, the guides cannot know what’s going on with you and cannot help you. Symptoms can help interpret what your body is saying and you can act accordingly. In any case, I am not a doctor. I am just repeating what I was told, which to me makes sense. You should consult your doctor, in case.
Symptoms of altitude Sickness
The symptoms of altitude sickness usually appear within 12 to 24 hrs after reaching the elevation and should get better within a day or two and they include:
- shortness of breath
- sleep problems
- decrease in appetite. (Damn, I wished I had this one!!)
If you don’t see any improvement with time or if you see that those symptoms are unbearable, seek a doctor’s assistance or if you are hiking notify immediately your guide.
Disclaimer – I am not a doctor and this is information that I have found when I was searching the internet for my trip, so make sure you consult your doctor, for more scientific data.
What to bring and to wear at Machu Picchu
- Hiking boots
- Rain jacket
- lightwaight hiking pants
- Dress in layers as the temperature can change easily
- warm fleece for cooler temeperature
- warm socks
Accessories to hike Machu Pichu
How to visit Macchu Picchu
There are many different ways to visit Machu Picchu and you can choose according to your time availability, interests, and budget
A few years ago, hiking Machu Picchu was a privilege reserved to the few lucky ones, because the only hiking trail the “Inca trail” has a cost of about 700 USD
Nowadays there is a variety of routes that you can take, always with a guided tour, but at a lower rate and without missing beautiful scenery and charming places.
On the contrary, while researching I realized that some of the routes are even more scenic than the main original one.
Or, if you have limited availability of time you can just go by train and here as well you have different options.
Remember though that you will need at least a full day.
To learn more, you should check my post on the 8 ways to get to Machu Picchu
How to be a responsible traveler
If we are going to start a conversation on responsible tourism we might need to open up a new long discussion, which I would like to leave for another post.
However, a few words can be spent here as well, in relation to what has been said in the previous chapter.
But first of all, let’s briefly define what responsible tourism means.
According to the Responsible Travel site:
“Responsible tourism is defined as tourism that creates better places to live in and to visit.”
( I am paraphrasing from the same source)
- Maximizing the benefits of tourism with the creation of more jobs, conservation of the natural environment and resources in general, improvement of the infrastructures to the benefit of the local people
- Minimizing the negative impacts such as the generation of waste, overuse of water, damage to heritage, negative cultural impacts of visitors…
Now how can we help to support responsible travel while visiting Machu Picchu?
The official site of Travel Peru is helping us with an answer:
- when visiting parks always follow the guides and rangers guidelines
- When camping out, use only authorized campsites, or areas with sparse vegetation, near water sources and protected from wind, rain and wild animals.
- Set your camp at least 60 meters (70 steps – 197 feet) away from the seashore, lagoons or river sides.
- Bring water on your hikes. Avoid using plastic bottles.
- Avoid carrying media players or other devices that might upset the natural environment.
- Refrain from removing plants and watch animals from a safe distance, without feeding them or interfering with their activities
- Avoid purchasing products manufactured using endangered plants or animals.
- Be mindful when photographing local people, always ask for permission.
- As much as possible avoid making campfires. If you must make one, use dry wood and surround the fire with ring rocks. Always put out the fire and stir the ashes before leaving the campsite.
- Leave no trace, only footprints
- Buy local handicrafts and products in order to support the economy and follow fair trade principles.
- If you hike, be considerate with the people who will be carrying your bags, tents and everything including the kitchen sinks. Those people work hard and deserved to get a decent monetary compensation for what they do. Sometimes choosing a cheaper tour have an impact on their wages although they should be protected by the law. Not all the company follow it. Make sure to chose your tour wisely. See below chapter on how to tip the hiking team.
- tread on marked trails only
- take local transportation whenever possible
- inquire about local sustainable projects
Respect the rules
Remember that this is a sacred site first of all.
Therefore it requires unconditional respect and some common sense behavior.
I feel somewhat offensive for writing this because those are “rules” that anybody should have inside with no need to be reinforced.
However, I read that there have been acts of vandalism or stupidity, whatever you want to call it, in the past.
Therefore I feel that is my duty to reiterate it.
And so it goes:
- Don’t damage nor write on the walls of the ancient building
- Don’t litter
- Don’t take any stone or plants away. their place is there, where they belong.
- Don’t walk where you are not allowed
- Don’t consume alcohol
- Don’t feed the llamas (well this is everywhere not only in the Citadelle)
- Respect whatever your guide recommends. They are specialized and very knowledgeable guides and they know very well what they are doing.
How much should I tip my guide?
This is a very important topic that raises a lot of questions regarding responsible travel.
One thing you should know is that although they tell you that tipping is optional and not compulsory, this is not accurate information.
Tipping is expected, very much so, by the guide of your hike and even more by the rest of the stuff, which is most of the time on a very minimal wage.
I have written more about this topic in these 8 ways to visit Machu Picchu article.