When is the best time to visit Peru?
Spanning a diverse geography that includes jungle, desert and an extensive Pacific coastline, the best time to visit Peru depends on where you plan to visit. Its wet summer months stretch from roughly December through to March, while the dry winter period extends from May through to September, with transitional months in between. Tourist numbers peak during June, July and August when European and North American visitors arrive and domestic tourists are on their winter break, while the Christmas/New Year period sees another rise in hotel rates and crowds, particularly throughout the coastal beach resorts.
Best time to visit Lima
Lima’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean results in a sub-tropical, humid climate and relatively mild temperatures compared to inland desert regions. The dry summer months from December to April offer the best weather, when skies are generally clear and blue, and beautiful sunsets ignite the horizon most evenings. The city’s Carnaval hits the streets in February, with elaborate costumes, music and water balloon fights. This also corresponds with the peak tourist period and the surrounding beaches of Miraflores, Barranco and Chorrillos are at their busiest during this period, particularly during the domestic holiday season over Christmas and New Year.
Winters extend from June to October and are generally marked by overcast skies and strong sea breezes, with temperatures hovering around 15 degrees Celsius. But if you’ve come to explore the museums and architecture, then this shouldn’t put too much of a dampener on sightseeing. Not unless your visit coincides with the thick grey fog, known locally as “Garua”, which sometimes plagues the city during this season. If you’re visiting during August, coincide your stay with the day of Santa Rosa de Lima which honours the city’s patron saint. A continual flow of devotees process to her shrine, located in the nearby hometown of Santa Rosa de Quives, bearing letters of their ailments and asking to be cured.
The transition months of May and November are less predictable months, with clear, warm days interspersed with less appealing grey, cloudy skies, and both light, airy attire and a few warm layers are advisable. One of Lima’s biggest festivals takes place at the end of October/start of November, with devotees gathering for a colourful 24-hour street procession honouring the Senor de los Milagros, or Lord of Miracles. Musical performances, chanting and fireworks ignite the streets as the procession winds to the La Merced church.
Best time to visit the Peruvian Coast Trujillo, Chiclayo, Barranca, Paracas, Ballestas Island, Mancora
Peru’s desert coastline experiences its hot and dry summer between December and April when conditions are the best for relaxing on the beach and soaking up the sun. The resorts are at their busiest during the annual domestic break over December and January when prices soar and many city dwellers escape to the coast.
If you’re coming to surf, then the most reliable swells hit the south coast of Peru from April to October, while the waves are at their best along the north coast from October through to March.
While wildlife can be spotted on boat cruises through the Ballestas Islands throughout the year, if you want to catch a glimpse of the Chilean Flamingos which can be seen in the southern part of the bay, then visit between June and August.
The winter months of June through to October see much milder temperatures, with heavy grey mists and rain that make it a less than favourable time for beach activities. But if you’re visiting the cities of Trujillo and Chiclayo in the north, then the reduced heat makes it an ideal time to visit and you’ll benefit from reduced crowds and hotel rates.
Best time to visit the Deserts of PeruIca, Huacachina, Nazca
Desert temperatures can soar to unbearable levels during the summer months of December through to April, and tend to be milder during the winter months from May through to November. While the Peruvian desert experiences minimal rainfall throughout the year, winter nights can get very chilly and warm clothing is recommended.
Desert activities around Huacachina and Ica, such as sand boarding and dune buggy adventures, can be enjoyed at any time of the year, but keep in mind that midday summer temperatures are sweltering and it’s best to plan for early morning or late afternoon outings.
The Nazca lines can be viewed throughout the year, with the clearest visibility and lowest turbulence generally during early morning flights.
Best time to visit Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu
Cusco and Machu Picchu experience their most favourable weather during the dry winter months of June through to mid-September when skies are clear and temperatures mild. This coincides with the peak tourist season when visitors from across Europe and North America descend on the ancient Inca site, entrance queues can be incredibly long and hotel rates in Aguas Calientes soar.
The peak trekking period in the Sacred Valley coincides with the dry conditions of April through to October, when daytime temperatures are around 20°C-25°C and nights can plummet to freezing point. May and June are the most popular months on the Inca Trail and if you plan on trekking during this period, then you need to secure your permit a few months in advance. Alternatively, you can opt to hike one of the less busy trekking routes through the Sacred Valley that are seeing a rise in popularity.
Despite the crowds, the dry winter months are still the best time to explore the charismatic streets of Cusco and its surrounds, with plenty of colourful festivals taking place that include Quylllur Rit'i in the Sinakara Valley each June and the annual Inti Raymi Festival celebrations on June 24. If you want to escape the majority of the crowds but still take advantage of the dry and mild weather, the transitional months of May and October are both good alternatives.
The summer months of November through to late-March/early-April see heavy daily downpours that are not ideal for exploring Machu Picchu, although you will have far fewer other visitors to compete with. Trekking slopes throughout the Sacred Valley can be very wet and slippery (trekking poles are highly recommended) during this period, with the wettest conditions usually in January and February. The Inca Trail closes down altogether in February for scheduled annual maintenance.
The rains are usually short-lived, however, and won’t put too much of a dampener on sightseeing in Cusco where you can easily seek cover in its museums and shops. Festivals such as the annual Carnaval ignite the streets in February, as well as the Virgin de la Candelaria which is renowned for its traditional Quechuan music and dance.
Best time to visit the Andean HighlandsAyacucho, Abancay, Huaraz, Arequipa, Colca Canyon
The Andean highlands experience their wettest conditions from late-November through to March when heavy rains descend and create muddy conditions on roads and trails. Both daytime and nighttime temperatures are milder during this period, however, and most mornings start off quite clear before the clouds move in. But if you opt to visit during the wet season, coincide your visit to Ayacucho with the three-day Carnaval in February where traditionally-dressed dancers and musicians take to the streets and local food specialities can be sampled.
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April through to October sees far drier conditions and this is the best time to explore the beautiful colonial city of Ayacucho, go trekking in the Cordillera Blanca and visit the Sayhuite archaeological ruins near Abancay. The dry period is also favourable for visiting Arequipa, although expect large crowds in July and August and inflated hotel prices. While nighttime temperatures can be chilly, they usually remain above freezing level, and because the snow line in the Peruvian Andes lies at more than 5,000 metres, you don’t need to prepare for snowy conditions.
The Andean condors of the Colca Canyon are known for putting on the best show between June and September, although keep in mind that nighttime temperatures often drop below freezing, despite the warm and sunny days during this period. The Colca Canyon itself is most picturesque between January and March, when it turns a brilliant green following the heaviest rains.
Best time to visit Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca generally experiences its best weather between May and October when days are warm and sunny, and there is less chance of rain. While daytime temperatures can be around the mid-20s, nighttime temperatures can drop below freezing point and you should be prepared with warm clothing.
From November through to April there is more chance of rain, but milder nighttime temperatures make it more comfortable after dark. The wet season also corresponds with the Virgen de la Candelaria Festival which takes place during the first two weeks of February each year in Puno. Traditional Quechuan dancers and musicians take to the streets in a celebration that has been designated by UNESCO as of cultural heritage importance. Or visit in November during the annual Diablada Festival which celebrates the legendary founder of the Inca Empire, Manco Cápac, rising from Lake Titicaca’s waters with fireworks, concerts and feasting.
Best time to visit the Amazon Iquitos, Puerto Maldonado, Pacaya Samiria National Park
While the Peruvian Amazon experiences a humid, tropical climate throughout the year, it can be roughly divided into a dry season (May to October) and a wet period (November through to April) when short downpours occur. The heaviest rains descend between December and February when trekking conditions can get very slippery, but the swollen rivers around Iquitos are ideal for exploring by boat or canoe during this period.
The animals of the Amazon tend to congregate near the rivers during the dry periods and can be easier to spot, before dispersing into the forest during the wet when you may have to venture deeper to find them. Trekking conditions are usually at their best during the dry months of June through to September when trails are more manageable and there are fewer mosquitoes around.