Machu Picchu is one of the most visited historical sites in the world. Tourists from all over scale the towering Andes mountains for a glimpse of one of the wonders of the ancient world, the sky-high city of Machu Picchu.
In the pictures, it looks lush, exotic, and ancient, framed by the postcard mountain and foggy cloud forest. But those pictures don’t just happen.
They have to coincide with the right conditions. Planning before your trip will help you snag both a great picture and ideal weather for touring the city.
So whether you’re planning on hiking to the summit or want to take the train for a day trip, pack for the weather and get your tickets ahead of time for the trip of a lifetime.
Why You Should Visit Machu Picchu
The idea of building a city on such a steep mountain at such a high elevation is ludicrous by modern standards–much less ancient ones. But Machu Picchu stands proudly on the sides of sheer cliffs, a testament to the Inca’s technology and willpower.
Machu Picchu gets about 1.5 million visitors a year, about 2,500 a day, which is very high considering its isolated mountainous nature. The city’s history, views, and sacred temples drive dozens of tourists to wait in long lines, trek long hikes, and brave even the most inclement weather conditions.
Machu Picchu is known as one of the Modern Seven Wonders of The World, a coveted position indeed but well deserved. Any visitor will tell you it’s worth the wait to learn about the towering city and its people.
Taking a trail into Machu Picchu is one of the best ways to enjoy the Andes Mountains, the cloud forest, and the city’s rainforest. Nature lovers can enjoy overnight hikes up the mountain with experienced guides.
If hiking isn’t your thing, you can take the train from Cusco. The lines can get long, but it’s faster than the trails, with less effort. And the town of Agua Calientes near Machu Picchu has its charms to explore, including a local museum and hot springs.
If you love the idea of Machu Picchu and Incan culture, visit Inti Raymi, a recreation of an ancient Incan festival held every year by Cusco.
Taking in the sacred city and celebrating the festival will help you understand Incan history and culture, and it is just a lot of fun. While in Machu Picchu, tour the rainforest and the city of Cusco to enjoy your trip thoroughly.
While the ancient Incan culture was undoubtedly impressive, you should get a taste of what modern Peru has to offer.
Moreover, Machu Picchu is open every day of the year, including holidays. Even if the trails to reach the city are closed, you can still take a train to Agua Calientes to see it.
Overall Best Time to Visit Machu Picchu
There’s never really a wrong time to visit Machu Picchu or Cusco. It depends on your preferences. The Andes mountains have two seasons: the rainy and dry seasons.
The rainy season is from November to March, and it has warmer temperatures and fewer tourists, but it is wetter, with more bad weather. The dry season is June-September, and it has larger crowds and lower nighttime temperatures but better weather and conditions.
If you want the best of both worlds, visit during the shoulder seasons, late March through early May, and late September through early November. October and early November are springtime and have many beautiful flowers and wildlife to enjoy.
Shoulder seasons have enough greenery to give your pictures that lush rainforest feels while having enough sunny days that you’re sure to get some great weather. However, shoulder seasons don’t have the same perks as the off-and-on seasons.
During the dry season, tourism is at its highest. While the prices are high and the crowds thick, you run the lowest risk of rain during this season, which means no trail closures, delays, train delays, or worse, being stranded.
On the flip side, the rainy season has lower prices and fewer crowds, but the rain may disrupt your carefully laid plans. You can even be stranded at the top of the mountain during periods of heavy rain, and the trails become dangerous.
Each season has advantages and disadvantages depending on when you want to visit and how you want to enjoy the historical site.
During the dry season, people from the northern hemisphere are on vacation and crowding the historical site. During the wet season, you run the risk of rain ruining your photos and plans.
Shoulder seasons strike a good balance between the two, but they still have rain, some crowds, and mid-range prices, and the trails are usable but can still be slippery and muddy.
However, shoulder seasons also come with all the advantages (though not as good) as the rainy and dry seasons, like great photos, fewer rainy days, not as many people, better prices, and more.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what season best fits your interests and needs.
Cheapest Time to Visit Machu Picchu
The cheapest time to visit Machu Picchu is during the off-season when tourism drops, and you can score great deals on airfare, hotels, tours, tickets, and more. And for Machu Picchu, that would be during the rainy season–November through early March.
Each month in the rainy season has reduced prices and its perks (Cusco for Christmas, or the milder spring weather of November), but visit during February if you’re looking for rock-bottom lowest prices.
The rainy season is heaviest in February, with fewer rainy days than in January but heavier rains. The Inca Trail, the most popular hiking trail between Cusco and Machu Picchu, is closed for maintenance this month, even though Machu Picchu is still open.
This month has the fewest visitors and, therefore, the lowest prices. However, keep in mind there’s a good reason people don’t visit during this month– the rain can ruin your plans in the blink of an eye.
However, if you don’t mind getting a little wet or your plans derailing, February may be the perfect time to visit. Just keep in mind you won’t want to hike in this weather, and you may be left stranded either at Machu Picchu or in Cusco, so get some good travel insurance just in case.
If you want reasonable prices, but don’t want to visit during the month with the worst weather, anytime during the rainy season, except late December, is an excellent time to visit. Early December has fewer rainy days but great prices, while January has more rainy days but lighter rainfall.
Early March is also a great option, as the rain is beginning to drop off and trails become usable again. Many areas and attractions begin to open up around early March, and you can be one of the first tourists to enjoy them.
Just don’t visit during late December. Because of Christmas and New Year, prices skyrocket, and crowds return to Machu Picchu. You can go in early December or early January, but don’t visit over the holidays if you want to save money.
Least Busy Time to Visit Machu Picchu
The least busy time to visit Machu Picchu is in the off-season for tourism, ergo, the rainy season. Similar to the entry above, February gets the least amount of visitors. However, there are other months you can visit to avoid the crowds.
January has more rainy days than February, but the rain usually ends in the morning or mid-afternoon.
If you get to Machu Picchu around 3 pm (one of the best times to visit, most visitors leave before then), you can get great views, great weather, and no crowds. Your tour guide will even let you spend more time in the areas you want to since there are fewer tours with tourists.
As a bonus, you’ll get to see the sunset in Machu Picchu, one of the most underrated sunsets of the Seven Wonders.
Peruvians get free on Sundays, and weekends are busier. Pick a weekday and visit after 3 p.m. for the fewest crowds. Avoid holidays, but Machu Picchu is more active during Christmas and New Year holidays.
If you choose to visit during the dry season, these same rules apply. Avoid holidays, and visit on a weekday after 3 p.m.
However, you’ll still have to deal with the numerous tourists visiting during their vacation, so you’re better off going during the shoulder seasons if you want good weather and fewer crowds.
November and early March are other good months to visit during the rainy season. November is springtime, but there are still fewer days with rain, plus you’ll see the rainforest come alive. Early March has a few smaller festivals, and attractions are beginning to open again.
February still has the fewest crowds of any month, but that comes with some significant drawbacks from the heavy rain. Late May and early June are the slowest months of the dry season but still have their fair share of crowds.
Avoid July and August if you don’t want crowds. They’re the busiest months when most people take vacations. In September, tourists drop off considerably, making it an excellent month to visit. Still, late September gets more rain and is more of a shoulder season than earlier.
Worst Time to Visit Machu Picchu
There’s never really a wrong time to visit, just better times you prefer over others. Each season has its perks and disadvantages, from better weather to fewer crowds.
You might get caught in some bad weather during the rainy season, but there are fewer crowds and better deals. The weather is warm during the day, and at night, so you don’t need to worry about the abrupt temperature changes of winter.
However, heavy rain may cause delays or leave you stranded. Several hiking trails are closed during this time or are dangerous, including the Inca and Salkantay trails.
The Lares trail remains relatively safe, but it still comes with risks. The dry season has clear skies and sunny weather, perfect for pictures or trips with rigorous itineraries where a delay or cancellation could spell disaster.
However, the temperature varies wildly between the day and night, where daytime temps can reach the eighties, and nighttime temps can drop to freezing.
The crowds are thick during this time, and you’ll be exploring the city and hiking the trails with hundreds of other people. Prices are also high, as the tourism season is in full swing.
In addition, even though the weather is excellent, the vegetation may not live up to your expectations. You can still get great photos, but they won’t have that tropical jungle feel.
The shoulder seasons are a mixture of both seasons. While it may take a little luck, you can get great weather, plentiful vegetation, fewer people than during the dry season, and better prices.
However, keep in mind that while the shoulder seasons are a good mixture between the seasons, they still don’t have the level of perks the off and on seasons do.
They don’t have perfect weather during the dry season and have more people and higher prices than during the rainy season. So the time to visit Machu Picchu depends on what you want to avoid. Do you enjoy perfect weather?
Do you want to avoid crowds and prices? December–March. It depends on how you plan your trip and what you want on your visit to one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Things to Consider
Here are some of the most important things you should consider before visiting Machu Picchu:
- Pack Your Rain Gear. Machu Picchu is located in the middle of the rainforest. The dry season is just the season with the least amount of rain, and you still may encounter inclement weather.
- Pack Warm Clothes. If you’re visiting during the dry season, it can get frigid at night, especially if you’re camping on a hike to Machu Picchu.
- Always get an experienced guide if you have no experience with the trails in the area.
- You’ll also need a tour guide for Machu Picchu under the most recent rules instated.
- Keep an eye for updates given the ongoing pandemic, but Machu Picchu is relatively safe to visit.
Frequently Asked Questions
Always book well ahead of time to get the best deals and times:
How Many Days Do You Need for Machu Picchu?
Two days, one for Machu Picchu and one for Agua Calientes, the town closest to the site.
What Is the Hottest Month in Machu Picchu?
October. It’s the spring month with the least rain and the most sun.
How Difficult Is It to Visit Machu Picchu?
Not very. If you don’t want to hike, you can take the train from Cusco. Just get in line an hour or two early to account for the lines and crowds.
Is it Cold at the Top of Machu Picchu?
Temperatures can vary, especially during the dry season, so dress in layers.
What’s the Best Time to Hike the Inca Trail?
If you want to avoid the rain, try early September. If you don’t mind getting a little wet in October and early November.
So, When’s the Best Time to Visit Machu Picchu?
Machu Picchu is an iconic Peruvian destination with the coveted title of one of the Seven Wonders. And while the weather is certainly different from the Northern Hemisphere, you can have a fantastic trip with a bit of planning.
The best time to visit depends on your preferences, but in general, the shoulder seasons have the best of both the dry and rainy seasons rolled into one, but they don’t have as good perks either.
No matter what time you choose to go or what path you choose to take, you’re sure to have an unforgettable journey that will leave you smiling.