Everything you NEED to know – the Best time to visit Cusco!

Apus Peru > Trip Preparation > Everything you NEED to know – the Best time to visit Cusco!

Are you wondering – when is the best time to visit Cusco Peru?  We are delighted to share our insider knowledge about the best time to visit Cusco.  For us, there are two main considerations; the weather and the festival calendar.  In my opinion, these two elements dictate the best time to go to Cusco!  Now, most blogs will cover the weather in Cusco and explain that determines the best time to travel to this high mountain city.

Something you should know when planning a trip to Cusco is that there are mainly two seasons; The dry season goes from May to October and the rainy season from November to April.

Fewer blogs will delve into the importance of the festival calendar – not only for a visitor planning a trip to Cusco, but to begin to understand the rhythms that surround life in the Andes.

Best time to visit Cusco Peru – if you are in a hurry…

If you are in a rush and don’t have time to read on, we think the best time to visit the beautiful Cusco is late April or May once the dry season has started the mountains are still lush and green, but the days are sunny and not too cold – April and May are some of my favorite times of the year in Cusco.

Also, depending when Easter falls, you might find that there are fewer tourists in Cusco in April.  But – keep in mind that Easter is a movable festival, attached to the ecclesiastical rules set centuries ago. The earliest date for Easter is March 22 and the latest possible date is April 25.

Cusco Plaza de Armas

Second best time to go to Cusco Peru.

Can’t visit Cusco Peru in April/May? No worries, then our second choice for the best time to visit Cusco city and Machu Picchu ruins would be September or early October.

What is special about Cusco, Peru?

Being the capital city of the Incas, Cusco is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is located at 3400m /11155 feet   When walking its streets, will be impossible not to appreciate the hand-made stone walls that decorate the city.

Cusco is a vibrant Peruvian city and the gateway to Machu Picchu.  On the other hand, it is a destination in its own right, showcasing much of the Inca history, mixed with that of the Spanish conquistadors.   It has a fabulous nightlife, and cosmopolitan restaurant scene, not to mention a wide range of boutiques and artisan stores.

Cusco at night

Why will I see Cusco spelt Cuzco?

This is because of the original Quechua pronunciation; the “z” sound was not part of the ancient Quechua language.  So, to keep that cultural aspect, 40 years ago the mayor of Cusco changed the spelling of the city  from “Cuzco” to “Cusco”

Other names you may hear or read are Kosko or Qosqo. (Quechua version)

What is the weather like in Cusco Peru?

The climate in Cusco Peru is determined by the dry season and the wet season. As the name implies, the dry season in the Andes experiences the lowest average rainfalls during the year. This is what makes it peak tourism season. Less rain makes it easier to travel in the mountains, both by vehicle and on foot.

In the Cusco region, the dry season goes from April until September. The driest and coldest months are June and July. Talking about average weather in Cusco Peru, daytime temperatures during the dry season can feel quite warm as the sun is intense, but the nights are extremely cold, frequently dropping below freezing.

So, the temperature in Cusco may vary from  Zero degrees to 25 degrees during the day.  Throughout the dry season, the temperature usually rises around noon.

During the evening, night, and early morning, you will notice how the temperature drops below zero, and this is because of the lack of solar radiation.

Now let’s take a look to the rainy season in Cusco Peru

During wet season, the temperatures are considerably warmer in Cusco at night, but the overcast sky and rain showers can make it feel quite chilly.

At this time of year, rain is more frequent and can be quite heavy at times; however, rain showers are usually short in duration. More often than not, you can expect an intense shower in the early afternoon or evening almost every day, but the rest of the day may experience sunny breaks. On particularly cold January or February days you’ll even get hail.

In Cusco city, especially on the old cobblestone streets with poor guttering systems, the streets can run full of water in a downpour and you’ll have to be careful not to get your feet wet!

When does the rainy season in Cusco begin?

Regularly, the rainy season in Cusco Peru starts in October and goes until March. During January and February is when heavy rains hit the most, interrupting the transportation system.  When heavy rains occur, it makes quite difficult to access some sites in the Sacred Valley because of damage on the roads.  This is why going with a reputable local travel operator like Apus Peru can make your rainy season travel easier and safer.

Inti Raymi festival Cusco

Why visit Cusco in June? 

June can be the best month to visit Cusco Peru because it is the Fiestas of Cusco!   From early in the month the streets are filled with people dancing – this culminates with a massive city-wide party on the 23rd of June when all  Cusquenos (Cusco residents) wear red ponchos, and then on the 24th of June a re-enactment of the celebration of Inti Raymi takes place in Sacsayhuaman and the Plaza de Armas.

What is weather in Cusco Peru in June like?

By June the earth begins to dry and become a straw yellow – the nights are freezing cold but the days when you are out in the sunshine can be hot.

Usually first week is the hottest in June, but remember that rain may occur.  Overall, the weather in Cusco in June rarely exceeds 14 millimeters of rain for the whole month.

The maximum daily temperatures are around 20 ° C, the minimum temperatures fall below 1 ° C.

What to wear in Cusco in June?

What you should wear varies according to weather for Cusco Peru.

As the mornings in Cusco are warm, you will find that you need a hat, gloves, and scarf, as well as a jacket.  By mid-morning, it is sufficiently warm that you can take these off – but then you need a sun hat and sunscreen!!!  During lunchtime,  your jacket should be off and you will be in shirtsleeves and could even get sunburnt as the sun is very hot.

By early evening it is once again getting cold, and your layers need to be put on again!

Cusco in June is one big party, and the streets are more crowded than in other months.  Be aware of your personal safety and belongings and dress practically.   The cobblestones can be un-even and footpaths are narrow.   Solid walking shoes that can do a lot of distance and protect your ankles are best.

Even though June is a party month, you don’t need to dress up!  Casual dress is acceptable at all times!  There is a slight chance of rain so a lightweight plastic poncho or re-useable poncho at the bottom of your backpack is useful to carry.

Leading up to Plazoleta Nazarenas thank you Megan Gaston

Cusco weather by month. When is the best time to visit Cusco Peru?

Month

Cusco Peru weather by month

 Weather

Cusco Peru January

Maximum temperature: 19 ° C

Minimum temperature: 7 ° C.

Cloudy 50% of the days

 Weather

Cusco Peru February

Maximum temperature: 19 ° C

Minimum temperature: 7 ° C.

Cloudy 93% of the days.

 Weather

Cusco Peru March

Maximum temperature: 19 ° C

Minimum temperature: 7 ° C

Cloudy from 93% to 88% of the days.

Weather

Cusco Peru April

 

Maximum temperature: 20 ° C

Minimum temperature: 5° C

 Cloudy from 88% to 71% of the days.

 Weather

Cusco Peru May

Maximum temperature: 20 ° C

Minimum temperature: 3° C

Cloudy from 71% to 63% of the days.

 weather

Cusco Peru June

Maximum temperature: 20 ° C

Minimum temperature:1° C

Cloudy from 62% to 50% of the days.

 weather

Cusco Peru July

Maximum temperature: 20 ° C

Minimum temperature: 0° C

Cloudy from 50% to 44% of the days.

weather

Cusco Peru August

Maximum temperature: 20 ° C

Minimum temperature: 2° C

Cloudy from 44% to 58% of the days.

 weather

Cusco Peru September

Maximum temperature: 21 ° C

Minimum temperature: 4°C

Cloudy from 58% to 79% of the days.

 weather

Cusco Peru October

Maximum temperature: 21 ° C

Minimum temperature: 6°C

Cloudy from 80% to 85% of the days.

weather

Cusco Peru November

Maximum temperature: 21 ° C

Minimum temperature: 7° C

Cloudy from 85% to 91% of the days.

 weather

Cusco Peru December

Maximum temperature: 21 ° C

Minimum temperature: 7°C

Cloudy 92% of the days.

 

If you are looking for the best time to visit Cusco and Machu Picchu, definitely consult our Festival calendar, as there is a load of festivals all year round and if you can coordinate your dates to see one – well – you won’t regret it!

corpus-cristi-saints
Corpus Christi in Cusco. Photo courtesy Isaiah Brookshire

 When to visit Cusco – the festival calendar

While many people visit Peru to see its ruins and ancient history, the truth is that Peru has a fascinating and vibrant living culture.  All of Peru’s festivals (bar Inti Raymi) are held due to the people’s profound belief in the value of veneration through these colorful processions.  There are few places on earth that have such a vibrant and lively festival calendar.

Planning your trip to Cusco around the festival calendar makes a lot of sense as you will be able to see an amazing culture in action.

While you decide what is the best month to visit Cusco, take a look at our  extremely detailed festival calendar here, are some of Cusco’s more notable festivals

 Some of the most important festivals in Cusco

January – San Sebastian, held in Cusco’s district of San Sebastian is notable.

The week before Easter – Senor de los Temblores (Lord of the Earthquakes) is truly incredible, particularly in light of the fact that Cusco is still in an earthquake zone and you feel tremors from time to time. In fact, the city was badly damaged as recently as 1950 when half the buildings in Cusco were damaged.   The celebration of  Lord of the Earthquakes asks the lord to protect the city in the future.   There are very minor Semana Santa (Easter Week) celebrations in Cusco.

Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi is one of the most impressive festivals in Cusco. Fifteen saints and virgins, arrive from different places to the cathedral of Cusco in order to greet the body of Christ, sixty days after Easter Sunday.  This event can be held in May or June, but always on a Thursday.

The month of June is “Cusco month” meaning that the celebrations go on, and on, and on…  culminating in Cusco Day on the 23rd of June.  Inti Raymi, the only celebration on this list that is held for the benefit of tourists, is held on 24th June.

Best time to travel to Cusco Peru-July is Fiestas Patrias

Virgen del Carmen – 15/16 July

Virgen del Carmen Cusco

This massive festival which takes place over four days is held at Paucartambo, a small town about 4 hours east of Cusco, on the road to Manu National Park. This Peru festival consists of traditional dances by people in awesome costumes.  During the festival, the dancers perform choreographies that portray events in Peruvian history.

Fiestas Patrias – 28 & 29 July

Peruvians celebrate their independence from Spain on July 28th with bands, fireworks, drinks, and off course, delicious local food. During these days is common to see red and white, the colors of Peru everywhere.

Yawar Fiesta – 28 & 29 July

This traditional ritual represents the fight between the Incas against the Spanish conquistadors, and the figure of the condor (representing the Incas) occupies a central place. The festival takes place in the town of Cotabambas, in the Apurimac department.

Take a look at more festivals in cusco peru.

Christmas and New Years in Cusco, and Peru 

Christmas in Cusco

Christmas in Peru

This is perhaps the most important celebration of the year in Cusco and, by the way is the perfect opportunity for you to appreciate the Andean version of Christmas festivity. Here in Cusco, the whole city takes on a festive air and the Plaza de Armas is decorated with nativity animals in lights from about the 10th of December onward.

New Years in Peru

The New Year is a big cultural celebration in the Andes. Cusqueño families have a wide range of customs to celebrate New Years in Peru. For locals, this is a good time to connect with the spiritual, the mystic, and the superstitious aspects of Inca culture.

If you have decided to spend New Years in Cusco, make sure to be at Plaza de Armas around 11:30 pm, and get ready to welcome a New Year as the clock strikes 12!

Cusco - things to do 2

Other considerations regarding your trip to Cusco

So we have covered the main two considerations about when to visit Cusco.

  1. what is the weather like in Cusco Peru
  2. The festival calendar.

There is one more thing that might, or might not bother you.  The amount of other tourists on the streets.  There are some periods that are much busier than others, and it’s also harder to get accommodation or you might even find prices rise at these times.

Without a question, the busiest day /period of the year is from around the 20th of June to the 26th of June each year.  Many people plan a visit to Machu Picchu for the solstice on the 21st June, and then will be back in Cusco for the Fiestas of Cusco on the 23rd June, and then Inti Raymi on the 24th of June.

Accommodation is seriously hard to come by during this very busy period and you should book well ahead.  In the olden days (20 years ago when they didn’t have tourist police) they used to say that all the pickpockets would come from Lima for Inti Raymi!!!  (That doesn’t happen often anymore, but it pays to be aware of your possessions.

Busiest months in Cusco

The next busiest period in Cusco will be the week between the Monday before Easter (Lord of the Earthquakes) and Easter Sunday.  As Easter is a movable holiday, that changes each year.  While we love the passion felt at Lord of the Earthquakes, it surely is a busy time of year.

The third busiest period in the Cusco calendar is the Christmas – New year period.  The winter solstice at Machu Picchu on the 21st December means that many people choose to visit Cusco for Christmas and or New Years.  This is also a busy time for Peruvian tourists, visiting their own country.

Apart from those specific periods, the busiest months are June and July, the height of the Northern hemisphere summer and the dry season in Cusco.   There are a lot of festivals at this time and in general, the streets will be busy with other tourists and you will need to book ahead to get tickets.

Entrering San Pedro Market, Cusco. Photo by Isaiah Brookshire.

Questions and answers about the trip to Cusco

How is Cusco in February?

During this month, the Inca trail remains closed due to heavy rainfall in Cusco. Nevertheless, February offers lovely days to visit other Inca tourist spots in the Sacred Valley region.

Where to stay in Cusco?

One of the best things about Cusco is the great variety of accommodation from uber luxurious 5 star hotels clustered around the exclusive Plaza Nazarenas, to a host of family-run establishments all around the city.   In short, there are all kinds of options according to needs and budget.

When is the worst time to go to Cusco?

The only period of the year that travelers tend to avoid when traveling to Cusco is February.  Besides that, Cusco is a great place to visit every day of the year.

Is Cusco dangerous?

Not really. People in Cusco are very kind and generous with tourists. Besides, there are police officers in the main tourist spots along the city.  However, like in any other big city is important to keep an eye on your belongings.

Cusco City Pachacutec
Pachacutec. Photo by Isaiah Brookshire

The Verdict   what is the Best time to visit Cusco?

Overall, Cusco is a great place not just to visit but to stay for a while. Personally, it is one of my favorite cities around the world because of the history behind it but also because of the cultural diversity.

So, what are you waiting for? Come and visit Cusco !

If you feel like connecting with local culture and learning about the Andean history, the city itself is an open museum to explore.

On the contrary, if you are the kind of traveler that needs the urban vibe, Cusco has just what you are looking for; Indulge yourself in a nice cafe during the day and enjoy the nightlife while you make some new friends.

Now is the best time to visit Cusco! Surely, this city will amaze you from the first moment you step foot on its streets.

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