If you’re considering a trip to Machu Picchu in South America then one of the questions you probably have top of mind is, when is the best time to visit Machu Picchu?
Well, wonder no more! Apus Peru is here to answer all your Peru travel questions, including questions about visiting Machu Picchu. We are experts in Peru travel and can help you, from the Andes to the Amazon.
So when is the best time to travel to Machu Picchu? The real answer to this question is: it depends. There are many factors to weigh, including the weather, the crowds, and what things at Machu Picchu you really want to see and do. So much depends on personal preference.
Let’s break it down.
In A Nutshell: Quick Facts About the Best Time to Go to Machu Picchu
- When is the best time of year to visit Machu Picchu? The shoulder seasons, April, October, November.
- When is the busiest time to visit Machu Picchu? The dry season (June-August), which is peak tourist season; Sundays and holidays; and very early morning.
- When is Machu Picchu less crowded? Statistics show that Machu Picchu is less crowded in the afternoon, and during the rainy season, especially February.
- When is the best time of day to visit Machu Picchu? Afternoon, if your main goal is to avoid crowds; mid-morning, if you want to avoid crowds but still see the key features of the site; early morning if you don’t mind crowds or if you want to hike Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain.
- Is Machu Picchu open on Christmas? Yes! Machu Picchu is open every day of the year, even holidays.
- Is Machu Picchu open in February? Yes! Although the Inca Trail is closed in February for maintenance, you can still visit Machu Picchu.
Now let’s answer these questions in some more detail.
When is the Best Time of Year to Go to Machu Picchu?
When planning your trip to Machu Picchu, your first question might be, when is Machu Picchu open? Machu Picchu is considered a year-round destination. In fact, it is open every day of the year, even holidays. You could even spend Christmas at Machu Picchu!
However, most people will characterize the best time of year to visit Machu Picchu in terms of Peru’s wet and dry seasons.
As you might expect, the dry season – approximately May through September – experiences less rain than the rest of the year. The days are typically full of sunshine, with clear blue skies, little or no rain, and little wind. The dry season in Peru is also winter in the southern hemisphere. While sunny and warm during the day, it can get very cold at night – even below freezing!
This is an ideal time for hiking, one of the main tourism draws in the Andes. As a result, dry season = high season in Cusco! It is by far the busiest time of the year for tourism in Peru. The popular Cusco hiking trails and main tourist attractions can be packed with people.
Peak season for tourism in Cusco is June, July and August – consequently, these are the busiest months to visit Machu Picchu. Expect large crowds and long line-ups at all of the major tourist attractions, including Machu Picchu. Expect to wait in line even for the very first bus up to the Inca Citadel, which leaves Aguas Calientes around 5:30 am.
May and June are also the most popular times of the year for people to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (but don’t worry: there are other ways to get to Machu Picchu, too!)
- Warm clothes! Woollen hat, mitts and a warm jacket or fleece.
- Sun protection. Given the high altitude, the sun is very strong. Sunblock, sun hat and sunglasses are all a must.
In contrast to the dry season, the rainy season is much less crowded. Many people avoid the rainy season, but we think it can be a great time to visit Machu Picchu!
For one thing, the rainy season – approximately December through March – is the warmest time of year around Cusco. Though the days may be overcast, you won’t feel the same chill in the air as during dry season, and the night-time temperatures are well above freezing. Just don’t expect to do any sunbathing!
Most of the time, the rain falls in short, heavy bursts. It’s rare to experience a steady rain throughout the whole day, and you’re most likely to have warm, sunny breaks. Some days, it may not rain at all. The heaviest rains usually fall between January and March, though every year is different. Heavy rain makes trekking in the Andes difficult, and for many this is not the best time of year for Machu Picchu. Rain in Cusco also sometimes translates to snow at the highest elevations, making rainy season not a great time for visiting showstoppers like Rainbow Mountain!
Note: The Inca Trail – one of the most popular ways to get to Machu Picchu – is closed in February for regular maintenance. This makes February a particularly good time to visit Machu Picchu, if your goal is to avoid the crowds.
One thing that’s great about visiting Machu Picchu during the rainy season is that it is often shrouded in mist early in the morning, giving it a very cool, ethereal, almost mystical feel. Read our blog about the rainy season for more reasons why rainy season can be the best time to visit Cusco and Machu Picchu!
- Rain gear: rain jacket or poncho, waterproof boots. Umbrellas are not permitted inside the Inca city!
- Extra socks: walking around with wet socks is no fun!
We tend to think the shoulder season is the best season to visit Machu Picchu: April, October and November. These months typically give you the best of both worlds: not so many crowds and warmer than peak dry season, but sunnier and with less rain than the height of rainy season.
- Be prepared for both rain and sun, just in case. Carry a small daypack with rain and sun essentials.
Best Time of Year to See Machu Picchu: Dry Season vs Rainy Season
Here is a run-down of the pros and cons for visiting Machu Picchu: rainy season vs dry season.
· Little to no rain
· Typically bright, sunny clear days
· Peak tourist = crowds and higher prices
· Cold nights
· Typically requires booking ahead
· Landscapes are dry and brown
· Warmer temperatures
· Rain, heavy at times
· Very few tourists = no crowds and better deals
· More opportunity for last-minute booking
· Landscapes are lush and green, and orchids are in full bloom
Machu Picchu: Best Time to Visit for Photographers
For the best chances to capture those classic, breathtaking shots of Machu Picchu – a World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of the New World! – we recommend the shoulder season: April, September, October or November.
In most cases, the weather will be favourable. You may experience a mist-shrouded, other-worldly view of Machu Picchu one morning, and the brilliant Inca stonework set against backdrop of bright blue skies the next. In the afternoon, the sun bathes Machu Picchu in a beautiful, soft light.
With so many ways to capture to Machu Picchu, we recommend purchasing two or three entries, so you can view the architectural wonder in all its splendour. Check out our blog for more tips on Machu Picchu photography.
Machu Picchu: Best Time to Go if You Want to Hike
Hiking TO Machu Picchu
Dry season is typically the best season for any Andean hike, though it will be quite cold at night. Many treks are not available during the rainy season as the trail conditions can become dangerous following heavy rains, including slippery trails and washouts. We particularly recommend our Lares treks or the Inca Trail during the rainy season, and we also have special Wet Season Trekking policies in place for hiking during this time of year. Shoulder seasons typically offer good conditions for hiking, too. (Click here to see our month-by-month calendar of when treks are available).
Notably, the Inca Trail is closed in February for maintenance. We have covered all the considerations of when to hike the Inca trail here.
See all of our hikes to Machu Picchu.
Hiking AT Machu Picchu
If you want to include one of the Machu Picchu hikes on your visit – Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu Mountain or Huchuy Picchu – you’re best to go during the dry season or shoulder months. Huayna Picchu in particular demands good weather. The trail is steep and narrow, with sheer drop-offs either side. This hike is not suitable for anyone with vertigo and can be dangerous, especially during wet conditions. Don’t forget: trekking poles are not permitted inside the Inca Citadel, so you won’t be able to rely on these for support.
When is the Best Time of Day to Visit Machu Picchu?
Another factor to consider when figuring out when to go to Machu Picchu is time of day. When does Machu Picchu open? Machu Picchu opens at 6am every day, and stays open until 5:00 pm.
The rules for visiting Machu Picchu changed in 2019, and now entry tickets are sold by the hour. If you buy an 8am ticket, that means you cannot enter Machu Picchu before 8am. Timing is important these days as some attractions at Machu Picchu are only available during certain hours. Find everything you need to know here about visiting Machu Picchu.
Best Time to See Machu Picchu: Early Morning
Many people recommend getting to Machu Picchu as early as possible. Getting there early means being able to appreciate the site in the early morning light, perhaps catching a glimpse of the sunrise over Machu Picchu.
While this would surely be a magical sight, you’d most likely be sharing it with a thousand other people – that means crowds inside Machu Picchu, and line-ups for the bus in Aguas Calientes.
The first bus leaves Aguas Calientes at 5:30 am in order to arrive at Machu Picchu for that coveted 6 am entry time. But expect to wait in line – one, even two hours – in order to catch one of these first buses to Machu Picchu, as it is a very popular time to visit Machu Picchu.
In addition to those taking the first bus, a 6am visitor will be joined by Inca Trail and Salkantay trekkers who typically arrive at the site at the same time.
Best Time to Do Machu Picchu: Mid-Morning
After the first early-morning rush, a mid-morning entry – 8, 9, or 10 am – can be a good option for when to visit Machu Picchu.
A typical tour of Machu Picchu takes 2 to 3 hours, so by 8 or 9 am, most of those early visitors are gone. After 9 am, people doing a one-day tour will start arriving and Machu Picchu starts to get busy again.
There are lots of good things about visiting Machu Picchu at this time of day:
- Weather and visibility: If it was a rainy or misty morning, the clouds usually burn off by 9 or 10 am;
- Smaller crowds: While still busy, the early morning rush is over;
- More sleep! Unlike those 6am-ers, you won’t have had to wake up at 3 or 4 to catch the bus;
- Main attractions open: Attractions like the Sun Temple, the Temple of the Condor and Intihuatana are only open to visitors during certain hours in the morning. Entry times for Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain are only at certain hours in the morning, too.
Best Time for Machu Picchu: Afternoon
On the other hand, statistics show that only about a third of the day’s visitors to Machu Picchu enter the site in the afternoon. That makes the afternoon the best time to visit Machu Picchu for those who want to enjoy the site in solitude.
The last entry time into Machu Picchu is 2 pm. With a 2 pm ticket you can enter Machu Picchu between 2 and 4pm, and stay until it closes at 5:00 pm.
This is a particularly good option for those who like to stay off the beaten track and travel at a different pace compared to the average tourist. Our 2 Day Machu Picchu Tour offers travellers the chance to take it slow, essentially doing the typical Machu Picchu tour in reverse. Go against the grain and see a side of Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley that others don’t!
Tip for the Best Time to Visit Machu Picchu: Avoid Sundays
Machu Picchu is free for locals to visit on Sundays, so it can be an especially crowded day. If you want to avoid crowds, try to book your tour of Machu Picchu on a different day of the week.
Machu Picchu Weather: When is the Best Month to Visit Machu Picchu?
We think that some of the best months to visit Machu Picchu fall during the shoulder season, between the dry and rainy seasons, particularly: April, October and November.
But no matter which one you consider the best month to go to Machu Picchu for you, be prepared for everything. Weather in the Andes is fickle and Machu Picchu is no exception; you can experience all kinds of weather in the same day, no matter which month you go.
So, come prepared with all the essentials: sun protection, rain gear and layers. Most of the treks in Peru that we offer cover a variety of microclimates and terrain, meaning that weather will be unpredictable. You might hike up to base of a glacier and then descend into an “Andean jungle” cloud forest!
Here is an overview of the typical weather every month to help you decide the best month for Machu Picchu when planning your trip to Peru.
Is January a Good Time to Visit Machu Picchu? Machu Picchu Weather in January
Machu Picchu is open in January, but this is peak rainy season. The average rainfall at Machu Picchu in January is nearly 230mm (8.9 in), though it typically rains only 18 days of the month. January is also one of the warmest months. The stone steps of Machu Picchu are likely to be slippery and you should come prepared with a rain poncho.
If you’re visiting Machu Picchu in January, you can expect highs of 20-25°C (68-77°F) and lows of about 7-8°C (45-46°F).
You may also experience train delays, road closures and flight cancellations due to the weather in January.
Is February a Good Time to Visit Machu Picchu?
The weather in Machu Picchu, Peru in February is also very rainy, with as much as 210mm (8.2 in) of average rainfall for the month. Temperatures are about the same as in January, with highs around 22°C (72°F) and lows around 8°C (46°F).
It doesn’t rain all the time – it’s typically dry half the month – but it is unpredictable so it’s best to be prepared. Itinerary interruptions are also a possibility in February.
One good thing about Machu Picchu in February is that it is the month with the lowest number of visitors, since the Inca Trail is closed. While not the best month for trekking, February can be a great month for deals.
Is March a Good Time to Visit Machu Picchu?
March is still a warm, rainy month, with about 200mm (8 in) of rain for the month, and temperatures of 21.5°C (71°F) in the day, and around 6°C (43°F) at night.
The Inca Trail reopens in March, but the second half of the month is a better time for trekking. Early March sometimes experiences cumulative effects of the rainy season, when two or three months of rain can lead to landslides, flooding and road closures.
Machu Picchu in April
According to some, April is the best month to visit Machu Picchu. Compared to the previous months, the weather in Machu Picchu in April is drier but still fairly mild. Average rainfall for the month drops in half, down to just 114 mm (4.5 inches), but temperatures remain around 21°C (70°F) during the day, and 4-6°C (39-43°F) at night.
On top of that, the Andes have been transformed into a lush, green landscape, thanks to the previous months of rain. It’s a great time to witness the mountains in all their jewel-like splendour.
Weather in Machu Picchu in May
May is the beginning of the dry season in Cusco and the tourism high season is about to kick into high gear. Average rainfalls have decreased to just 35mm (1.4 in). Temperatures at Machu Picchu are usually between 20°C (68°F) and 25°C (77°F). Sometimes can reach 30°C (86°F)
May is one of the most popular times to hike the Inca Trail, and it is one of the first months for which permits sell out. If you want to hike the 4 day Inca Trail in May, book early! While the trails are busier, this is one of the best times for a hike in Peru, with great vistas and comfortable trail conditions.
Is June a Good Time to Visit Machu Picchu?
June is peak season for tourism in Cusco and therefore one of the busiest times for Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail. The Inca Trail will sell out quickly, making this a good time to try an alternative trek instead.
It is the driest month of the year, with as few as 3 days of rain in the whole month; average monthly rainfall is just 20mm (0.8 in). The days are typically sunny and warm, but very cold at night. Sun protection and warm layers are a must. In Cusco, the temperature can reach as low as 1°C (34°F) at night, though it is warmer at Machu Picchu (typically, between 28°C (82°F) and 7°C (45°F)).
June is also festival month in Cusco, culminating in the celebration of Inti Raymi on June 24th. Many people flock to Cusco during this month to witness this fascinating piece of Inca history brought to life. Other festivals celebrated this month include Q’eswachaka and Qoyllur R’iti.
Is July a Good Time to Visit Machu Picchu?
July is a lot like June: the second-busiest month for Machu Picchu and the second-driest month of the year, but also the coldest in Cusco. This is the heart of winter in the Andes. Days will be sunny and warm, with highs around 20°C (68°F), but with average lows of 1°C (34°F) at night. Nights are even colder at higher altitude and if you do an Andean hike in July, you can expect overnight temps below freezing some nights and occasionally frost in the morning!
Machu Picchu temperatures remain nearly the same as well, and warmer than Cusco or on a hike: around 27°C (81°F) in the day, and 7°C (44°F) at night.
For culture enthusiasts, July also celebrates some important festivals, like the Virgen del Carmen. Peru also celebrates its Independence Day on July 28th and 29th, so expect some places to be closed on these days.
Because it is still peak season, you should book well in advance if you want to visit Machu Picchu or hike the Inca Trail in June or July.
Is August a Good Time to Visit Machu Picchu?
Statistics show that August is actually the busiest month at Machu Picchu. Average rainfall is similar to May, and daily temperatures are quite like in July, making it a pretty good time to visit. Expect mostly clear days and blue skies – perfect for capturing the beauty of those majestic mountain vistas, though by now, the landscape has turned dry and brown with the lack of rain. August is also referred to locally as the “windy month”.
Pachamama – Mother Earth – is celebrated on August 1st, known as the Andean New Year.
Machu Picchu in September
By September, the crowds at Machu Picchu have started to dissipate, though there is still a considerable amount of traffic. You will start to see a few days of rain, but only about 5 out of the 30. Total average rainfall for September is around 56mm (2.2 in). On the whole, the weather in Machu Picchu in September is quite good, with highs nearing 23°C (72°F) and lows around 7°C (44°F). It’s still still mostly dry in Cusco, and finally starting to warm up!
September is still a great month for hiking in Peru. You will probably have an easier time finding permits for the Inca Trail, but it’s also an excellent time for other hikes around Cusco, like Ausangate or Choquequirao.
Is October a Good Time to Visit Machu Picchu?
We love the shoulder months – including October – for visiting Machu Picchu. The weather is quite variable with rain increasing and warming temperatures. Still, the average rainfall for the month is quite low (94mm / 3.7 in), average highs hover around 22°C (72°F), with lows around 7°C (44°F).
While the scenery is still rather brown (which has its own beauty!), the nice thing about visiting Machu Picchu in October is that there will be very few crowds.
Machu Picchu in November
Although the rainy season is definitely starting in November, the month is known for having a couple of weeks of sunny, warm weather. It’s a great time, for some maybe even the best time to visit Machu Picchu, November.
The weather in Machu Picchu in November is similar to that in April. The number of tourist visitors continues to decrease in November, making it a less hectic time for visiting Machu Picchu. The trails are less busy, too, but we have to start watching the weather. Unexpected prolonged rains in November might lead to itinerary changes.
Is December a Good Time to Visit Machu Picchu? Visiting Machu Picchu in December
The official start of the rainy season is December, and you will know it! The weeks of reprieve you felt in November are over and the number of rainy days will increase. You may even experience thunderstorms!
The weather in Machu Picchu in December is still pleasant, with highs around 21°C (70°F) and lows of 6°C (43°F). Average rainfall increases to 178mm (7 in) for the month, with about 16 days of rain in total.
The first half of the month sees few people visiting Machu Picchu, but this increases in the second half because of the holidays. Christmas and New Year’s are fun to experience, given Peru’s unique traditions (read about them in our blogs!).
If you want to visit Machu Picchu in December but also do something a little special, you might consider joining us on our Christmas Chocolatada Trek! You’ll have the chance to experience Andean life up close and personal while also spending Christmas at Machu Picchu (but don’t forget to bring your rain gear!)
Is it Safe to Visit Machu Picchu During the Pandemic?
Yes, absolutely. Machu Picchu was awarded the Safe Travels seal from the World Travel and Tourism Council at the end of 2020, designating it a safe destination for pandemic travel. This is largely thanks to the safety measures that the government has put in place, which includes social distancing, mask-wearing and capacity limits.
The Verdict Is In: The Best Time to Visit Machu Picchu
Whether you decide to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, or add a day trip to Machu Picchu onto another alternative Peru trek, we hope our tips have been helpful for you to decide when to travel to Machu Picchu. ¡Buen Viaje!
Looking for more travel information? Get in touch! Our expert team is ready to help you with all your Machu Picchu travel questions. Here are some resources to get you started:
- Guide to Traveling to Machu Picchu
- How to Get to Machu Picchu
- History of Machu
- What to See at Machu
- How Many Days Should You Spend at Machu