When is the best time to visit Machu Picchu?
The gates of Machu Picchu are open 365 days a year to all holders of a valid ticket. Being close to the equator, the temperatures in the Inca ruins are considerably warm throughout the year. It still pays off to plan in advance, because every season in Machu Picchu has its advantages and disadvantages. In fact, the number 1 questions asked before a visit is in “When to go to Machu Picchu”. (We compiled a list of other common questions here). The good news ahead – you will probably never regret visiting Machu Picchu. There are just a few things you might consider when planning your trip. Here is the list:
What time of the year is the best to travel to Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is open every day of the year. Yet, there is a limit of 2,000 people per day who can buy a ticket. These tickets will sell out for almost all days (some faster, some slower), so as a result Machu Picchu will be considerably crowded no matter when you plan your visit.
This obviously doesn’t mean that there isn’t a good time to visit Machu Picchu and a less favorable time. Being so close to the equator, there aren’t real seasons. The average high temperature is almost constant, with a high of 22 degrees in November and a low of 20 degrees in July (though temperatures will drop close to the freezing point during the night). Practically speaking there is only a rainy season and dry seasons. And most people will plan their visit accordingly because Machu Picchu is the most beautiful on a clear, sunny day.
The dry seasons in Machu Picchu starts in May and ends in August, while April and September still see not a lot of rain. The height of the rainy seasons is from October to March, though the weather in Machu Picchu can change very quickly, and there is a chance for short rains and/or fog through throughout the year. January and February, with a perception averaging around 160 millimeters, is often considered the worst month to visit Machu Picchu. But let that not discourage you: even on these rainy days Machu Picchu will still be glorious! Also, there are many orchids found in and around Machu Picchu and those love the rain. Blooming season is from October through March.
While visitors to Machu Picchu are limited, that obviously doesn’t apply to the rest of Peru. Especially in the summer months (so June to August), the country will be quite packed, because this is when Europeans and people in the USA will have the summer holidays. This is why a lot of people decide to pick early May or early September for their visit to Machu Picchu. Chances for rain are still considerably low, but it feels like half the crowd.
Since the Inca Trail is closed in February for maintenance work, Machu Picchu is also the least crowded during that month. But it is, again, also one of the wettest months.
April to May
This is the least busy time with the highest chance of rain in January and February.
Inca Trail is closed in February
June to August
There is a very low chance of rain, and when it does it is more like a short drizzle.
Crowdiest time of the year. Tickets sell out fast.
May and September
These two months are considered fairly dry. While it rains at times, rains seldom last a whole day. These two months are not as busy as the Dry Season.
What time of the day is the best time for visiting Machu Picchu
Most people dream of seeing the sunrise in Machu Picchu. As a result the mornings have become increasingly crowded. Machu Picchu opens at 6 am and closed at 5 pm. These are, roughly speaking, also the times for sunrise and sunset.
The problem about trying to see the sunrise in Machu Picchu is the weather, though. Most people forget that Machu Picchu is located inside a mountain rain forest. This means there is a very high chance of fog and mist in the morning. In fact 2 out of 3 days you will not be able to see the sun before noon. It will take roughly till noon, till the sun burned away the rising clouds and mist.
But it gets worse. The sun actually rises behind a very high mountain ride. So you physically can’t see the sun rising at all. It will be around 10 am, before the first rays of sun hit the Inca ruin itself. If you got enough time, it is quite recommendable to spend the whole day in Machu Picchu. There is plenty to do and see and your tickets entitle you to leave the ruins once – time to see the toilet and have lunch. If you had to take a pick, then you should option to see Machu Picchu in the afternoon. The trains for Ollantaytambo and Cusco will start leaving shortly after noon, so the ruins get less crowded with every minute. Also the late afternoon presents you with the best light to take pictures of the ruins. Noon and its stark shadows are the worst time, while the early morning have a high chance for less favorable conditions.
Either way you have to be prepared for rapid weather changes as Machu Picchu is located high up in the mountains. In fact it is quite common for the weather to change multiple times a day: starting with fog, rain around noon and the perfect sunshine in the afternoon.
Visiting Machu Picchu during the rainy season
Wondering if it is still worth to see Machu Picchu during the rainy season? Well then, be prepared for a surprise! It is pretty much possible, since even during the rainy season there are still dry days. This is especially true for April, October and November. Most of these days will be, to some degree, cloudy, though. Still, the Incas were faced with the same issue. One of the architectonic highlights of Machu Picchu is actually the drainage system of the citadel, which works until this day.
That being said, landslides are known to occur during the rainy season, even in Machu Picchu itself. Since the temperature is still as high during the rainy seasons, the humidity peaks around 65 Percent. So fast drying, but very breathable clothing will be your best friend.
When is the best time for hiking the Inca Trail
Tickets for the classic 4-day Inca trail are limited to 500 people per day. This includes guides and porters! It is not a trail you are allowed to hike all by yourself. For most travelers it boils down to finding an empty spot at all. Since ticket sales start mid-January, this is where you’d have to try to scoring your preferred time. Most tour agencies will ask you to file your reservation by the end of December, though they usually won’t guarantee a spot. Late April, May and June are usually the most coveted months.
This is because this is when the dry season starts, and not everyone likes to hike in the rain. Though the rain will, in all likelihood, not impede your hiking very much, the views on the many ruins along the Camino Inca will be so much better to view in the sun. As already detailed above, the Inca Trail will be closed the whole February for maintenance work.
Since 2016 the government allocated 250 more spots per day for the 2-day Inca trail. This version only covers the very last leg of the classic Inca trail. Still, you really should try to reserve your tickets as early as possible. One year in advance might sound a lot, but if you try to do the trail in May or June, you will be forced to do so.
That being said: the Inca Trail will be quite spectacular throughout the year. August, September, and (to a lesser degree) October are just as fine and dry to hike the Inca Trail. Be aware that temperatures will frequently drop below zero in June, July, and August during the night (days are just as hot). This means you will have to prepare for cold nights and cold mornings.
Other things you should consider
There really is no low season (other than perhaps February). So prices in Machu Picchu will be more or less the same throughout the year. Still, you will have to consider that the Easter week, August and Holiday season (Christmas to New Year’s Eve) will usually be booked out very fast. June 23rd is the famous Inti Raymi festivial in Cusco, followed by Peru Independence Day on July 28th. You will have a hard time finding good accommodations and/or tickets for Machu Picchu during these days as well.
Most of all you should also take a peek at the other destinations you plan to see in Peru and/or South America. The climate in Machu Picchu is considerably different then in Lima, Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia or on the Galapagos Islands. So it is very important to check your other destinations before you go. Machu Picchu is actually doable during the rainy season, but you absolutely do not want to go to the Amazon Rain forest during its rain season.