Best time to visit Peru
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Choosing when to go to Peru is complicated by huge differences in temperatures across the country’s different regions. Therefore, choosing the best time to travel to Peru depends on where you intend to go while you are there.
The desert coast is extremely hot and sunny between December and March, especially in the north. It’s cooler with a hazy mist between April and November. In the Andes, however, December to March is the wet season and it’s more or less dry from June to September. It’s similar in the Amazon Basin, although there’s more rain and downpours are heavier – and it’s hot year-round.
Taking all this into account, the best time to visit Peru if you plan on heading to the coast is in January while it’s hot, and the mountains and jungle are their best after the rains, from May until September.
It’s worth taking a look at the weather patterns to assess when to visit Peru; the climate varies according to different physical characteristics and by altitude. Each region, from the desert coast, to the Amazon basin, to the Andes, has a different and varied climate and environment.
Whereas the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere fall around June to August, the height of the summer (verano) along the desert coast more or less fits the expected image of the Southern Hemisphere. That’s to say it’s extremely hot and sunny between December and March (especially in the north), cooler and with a frequent hazy mist, known as garúa, between April and November. That said, it’s only in the polluted environs of Lima that the coastal winter ever gets cold enough to necessitate a sweater.
Lima is at its most pleasant between December and March (temperatures around 24˚–27˚C). From June to September a low mist descends over the valley in which the city sits, although temperatures are still between 15˚-20˚C in June and 15-19˚C in September.
Swimming is possible all year round, though the water itself (thanks to the Humboldt Current) is cool-to-cold at the best of times; to swim or surf for any length of time you’d need to wear a wetsuit. Apart from the occasional shower over Lima it hardly ever rains in the desert. The freak exception, every few years, is when the shift in ocean currents of El Niño causes torrential downpours, devastating crops, roads and communities all down the coast.
Trujillo experiences better coastal weather than either Lima or the south. It's both warm and dry, without the fog you get around Lima or the intense heat of the northern deserts.
In the Andes, the seasons are more obviously defined, with heavy rains from December to March and a warm, relatively dry period from June to September. Inevitably, though, there are always some sunny weeks in the rainy season and wet ones in the dry. There is quite a difference between temperatures in the day and at night, so be sure to pack warm clothing.
A similar pattern dominates the Amazon Basin, though rainfall here is heavier and more frequent, the rainiest period being November to April. And it’s hot and humid throughout the year, with temperatures regularly reaching 32˚C. Confusingly, the rainy season in both the Andes and the Amazon basin is referred to locally as winter (invierno).
It’s challenging to choose the best month to visit Peru because of the change in the weather across regions. January is the best month for a trip to the coast for fantastic weather, while May to September is the ideal period for visiting the Andes, Machu Picchu and the Amazon, when it’s driest.
Since you’re unlikely to find the best time to visit all areas on a single trip, there's little point in worrying about it. The country’s attractions are broad enough to override the need for guarantees of good weather.
Winter in the Northern Hemisphere tends to be the Southern Hemisphere’s summertime, and vice versa. So if you are looking for the best time of year to visit Peru and you are heading for the coast, December through March is the hottest time of year to travel and there’s very little rain. Conditions on the coast are ideal for swimming and beach activities.
Just to add to the confusion, in the Andes and the Amazon Basin locals consider the rainy season (December to March) to be winter. To minimise the confusion it’s probably clearer if you just refer to seasons as the ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ season. With this in mind, the wet season in the Amazon is hot and humid.
In Arequipa in the south, the temperatures are really pleasant at this time of year.
December to February can be the best time of year to visit Peru if you are travelling to the coastal regions, especially in the north. You can expect temperatures to be hot and sunny at around a pleasant 29˚C. There will be very little rainfall in coastal regions.
During the December to February period, you can expect the rainy season in the Amazon Basin and the Andes. Water levels are high at this time, and flora and fauna are abundant. At this time of year, the Inca Trail often closes during February due to possible landslides and maintenance. Machu Picchu itself remains open during this period.
For those coming from the Northern Hemisphere spring is considered to be roughly from March to May. From March the temperature on the coast begins to get milder. It’s still wet within the Andes, but you will find that it’s quieter with fewer crowds on the trails. The rainforest is still hot and humid – as it is all year.
In March to May, it is still hot in the coastal areas, but temperatures are beginning to drop. March is the end of the rainy season in Machu Picchu, and you can expect the area to be drier and warmer by May. You may find this period is quieter, and it’s easier to get a permit for trekking the Inca trail. It's the rainy season in the jungle at this time of year, but the vegetation is lush.
To minimise confusion we’re talking about the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere – which are Peru’s winter months. Dry conditions and warm weather make this an ideal time to visit Peru. Cusco is at its best and you can make the most of the Andes’ fantastic trekking opportunities. It is cold though when the sun goes down, so take extra layers. The Amazon is hot all year but at its driest during the May to September period.
June to August is peak time to visit Machu Picchu, so it’s very busy. There is less rain in the Andes at this time of year and it’s a good time to travel for those who want to go trekking or climbing. You’ll get some excellent views of the mountain peaks and clear blue skies.
Temperatures are much milder on the coast – at around 18˚-22˚C– than between December and March.
Lima is also shrouded in grey mist at this time of the year. The coolest temperatures occur from June to October (lows of 15˚C and highs of 19˚-20˚C).
In the Amazon temperatures are hot and humid, but this is the dry season, so there will be less rainfall and lower water levels.
Early fall/autumn (considered to be September and October in the Northern Hemisphere) is a good time to visit Cusco and Machu Picchu and the rainforest.
During the months of September and October it rarely rains in Cusco and around Machu Picchu, so it’s an ideal time to visit weather wise. But bear in mind, good weather brings more visitors and trails will be at their busiest.
For those who want to travel to the coast, you’ll find the temperatures are much cooler at this time of year, but still a pleasant 23˚-25˚C.
The rainforest is hot with less rainfall than in the November to February period, and it makes it a good time to visit and discover wildlife, flora and fauna. It’s also a good time of year to visit Colca Canyon and Arequipa.
In September to November, you will find the temperature in Lima and Trujillo is cooler.
Machu Picchu is an unmissable highlight of any trip to Peru. In high season, from June to September, the entire Valle Sagrado swarms with visitors and it might be difficult to avoid the crowds. The Inca trail is closed in February, which is usually the wettest month. It closes for annual maintenance and repair, although Machu Picchu itself is still open.
If you plan to go in the high season, you need to book several months ahead as the trail is so popular. The whole area is quieter from October to April but it’s wetter. The month of May is quite a good choice as it’s the end of the rainy season, and the sky will be bright and clear with excellent views.
There are several alternative ancient sites in Peru well worth visiting, which tend to be less busy than Machu Picchu.
If you are working out when to visit Peru and want to discover Lima at its best, the ideal period is between December and March. This is the time when the sky is bright and sunny, and it’s a wonderful time to stroll around the colonial architecture and coastal park. If you visit between April to November, you may experience the blanket of grey mist, although it hardly ever rains in the capital.. December to March is the warmest time of the year.
Festivals big and small are cause for celebration throughout Peru – from major cities to small towns and villages. These events centre around elaborate costumes, parades, music and dancing and, of course, food and drink. It’s quite common to stumble into a village fiesta, with its explosion of energy, noise and bright colours.
The main national holidays are those at Easter, Christmas and during October, when everything closes up for the holidays – worth bearing in mind if planning a visit to Peru at these times.
Cusco’s main Inca festival, Inti Rayimi (Festival of the Sun), is held each year on June 24th (the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere). Involving music, dance and religious ceremony, it’s one of the largest festivals in all South America, drawing visitors from all over the world.
One of the biggest festivals in Peru, especially in the mountain regions, is the Festival de la Candelaria. It involves folklore music, colourful outfits and dancing.
There are festivals throughout the year in Peru. Check our Peru festivals calendar.
Public holidays, Carnival and local fiestas are all big events in Peru, celebrated with an openness and gusto that gives them enormous appeal for visitors; note that everything shuts down, including banks, post offices, information offices, tourist sites and museums. The main national holidays take place over Easter, Christmas and during the month of October, in that order of importance. It is worth planning a little in advance to make sure that you don’t get caught out.
In addition to the major regional and national celebrations, nearly every community has its own saint or patron figure to worship at town or village fiestas. These celebrations often mean a great deal to local people, and can be much more fun to visit than the larger countrywide events. Processions, music, dancing in costumes and eating and drinking form the core activities of these parties. In some cases the villagers will enact symbolic dramas with Indians dressed up as Spanish colonists, wearing hideous blue-eyed masks with long hairy beards. In the hills around towns like Huaraz and Cusco, especially, it’s quite common to stumble into a village fiesta, with its explosion of human energy and noise, bright colours, and a mixture of pagan and Catholic symbolism.
Such celebrations are very much local affairs, and while the occasional traveller will almost certainly be welcomed with great warmth, none of these remote communities would want to be invaded by tourists waving cameras and expecting to be feasted for free. The dates given below are therefore only for established events that are already on the tourist map, and for those that take place all over the country.