Best Time of the Year to Visit Machu Picchu Peru
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Peru's Machu Picchu is renowned as one of the most popular and most visited UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. With the amount of annual visitors making their way to the site, it's no wonder numbers are closely monitored and limited to 2500 per day.
Photo: Happy hikers, resting at Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu, which the Incas called "old mountain" or "old peak" has been a place of mystery and intrigue for archaeologists and explorers alike for hundreds of years. It can be found on many intrepid travellers' bucket lists, and is one of a few favorite stops in Peru on our Jaguar trip that offers the extra "wow" factor!
In contrast to the steamy humid rainforests that much of South America is known for, Machu Picchu's altitude is at almost 2445 meters (8000 feet) above sea level, which means its climate is a lot more temperate, and is shrouded year-round in mist for much of each morning. The lush green tops of the surrounding peaks frame the iconic ruins at their feet, leaving you with a sense that you could be hovering in a mystical realm, separated by cloud from the earth below.
There are several things to consider including weather, seasons, opening times, when transport is available and even how busy the region may be due to school holidays and festivities.
Below you'll find a selection of information including:
- Seasons & weather at Machu Picchu
- November to April or July to August
- Best times of the day to visit Machu Picchu
- Machu Picchu ticket availability
- Peru and Machu Picchu guided trips - 7, 10 or 14 Days
There are generally just two recognised seasons in Peru, the dry and wet seasons. Temperatures vary little each side of 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 27 degrees Celcius) year round on average, but temperatures in the higher parts of the central Andean ranges, (like you'll encounter on the Classic Inca Trail and at Machu Picchu), can drop below this.
During the wet season there is a higher likelihood of heavy rainfall. The trail and ladders may become slippery and more challenging to traverse. The region has a sub-tropical feel throughout the year with average daily temperatures of 18 °C (64 °F). During the dry season the humidity is around 40 – 45%, rising to 60 – 65% during the wet season. Early morning trekking offers cooler temperatures and better shade from the sun.
Most mornings you'll encounter mist year-round which clears in the afternoon. This is an opportune time to climb Huayna Picchu, the peak directly behind Machu Picchu citadel. There are two sessions, or two groups allowed up to Huayna Picchu per day, and if you climb it during the morning you usually ascend through mist and pop out above the cloud for a magnificent view of Machu Picchu and of the Urubamba Valley below.
Here's a handy infographic that we've created, that displays the hiking seasons through the calendar year!
November to April - Wet Season
Because November to April is considered to be the rainy season, many people choose to visit Machu Picchu either side of this period. During the rainy season, trails can be muddy, and a little more treacherous along the stunning but precarious steep mountain trails. On the upside, areas inundated by fellow tourists will be less crowded, so jostling for that perfect camera shot, or a resting spot atop an amazing vista for a view of the valley below won't be an issue - and it won't feel like a competition for a seat on the London Tube or New York subway. You'll also be able to enjoy more magical misty mornings which amplify the mystique of the ruins.
July to August - Dry Season - the most popular time to visit Machu Picchu
This season brings cool nights and dry days, so it makes sense that this is the most popular time people choose to visit Peru and Machu Picchu. You'll be in for loads of glorious sunny days, with the odd rain shower here and there just to make things interesting.
Inca Trail closures for maintenance
The Classic Inca Trail is closed each year for the month of February. The wet season is at its peak between January and March, so with fewer hikers about it’s a great time to keep the trail in world class condition. During these months, you can still hike the Lares Inca Trail on your journey to Machu Picchu.
You can visit Machu Picchu between its opening time at 6am and its closing time at 5pm daily. If you want to take on a more daring and slightly longer Huayna Picchu trek (the view of Urubamba Valley makes climbing the steeper sections totally worth it), then you can also opt for the Huayna peak morning or afternoon sessions.
Prices range from $37 to $62 USD (children to adults and non locals)
The Peruvian Government limit the access to areas in Machu Picchu:
- Machu Picchu Site Tickets: 2500 spaces per day. Children 8 to 18 yrs and students $37. Adults $62 (non Andean residents)
- Tickets for Machu Picchu Plus Huayna Picchu first group. First group (07:00 to 08:00am) 200 spaces per day. Children 8 to 18 yrs and students $42. Adults $71 (non Andean residents)
- Tickets for Machu Picchu plus Huayna Picchu second group. Second group (10:00 to 11:00am) 200 spaces per day. Children 8 to 18 yrs and students $42. Adults $71 (non Andean residents)
- Tickets for Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain 400 spaces per day. Children 8 to 18 yrs and students $40. Adults $67 (non Andean residents)
- Site and trails closed for clean up during February
- Machu Picchu Ticket sales here: http://ticketmachupicchu.com
Photo: Misty mountaintop view of the ruins at Machu Picchu
Another consideration many people forget about is the number of school and family trips taken during holidays.
- Thanksgiving Holiday - End of November (Thanksgiving and the day after, usually a Wednesday)
- Christmas Holiday & Winter break - December 23 to mid/late January
- Spring Break - One week in March or early April. This is a popular time for students to visit the Americas
- Summer Break - Early/mid May to the day after Labour day in early September
- Major federal and state holidays - Religious holidays also need to be considered
- Snow Days - Usually a few days in places where it snows in winter
Many school and family trips to Machu Picchu are booked in advance, so if you are travelling during these periods, it pays to allow for this.
If you are thinking of organising a Machu Picchu trip yourself, it is a good idea to book well in advance, say at least a couple of months out if you want to go during the busy season. Due to the sheer number of different historical and cultural places on offer in Peru, unless you are travelling with a local guide, or someone who knows all of the local legends and off the beaten track hidden treasures, it's well worth doing your homework before setting off for Peru.
If you'd like to learn more about the type of itinerary you could expect from a Peru adventure, you can read more about our Peru trips and where we go.
There are untold sites to explore, legends to be heard, and a cultural immersion that you can only really find if you travel with the right people to guide you. You could buy a dog eared, note filled, travel worn copy of a Lonely Planet Peru guidebook off EBay. Or alternatively, you could travel with a guide who knows the special places to see, local dishes to sample, and ensures you bypass all of the stressful parts of making your way around a country with locals who, when you need to negotiate your way around some of the most interesting divergent parts of the region, may understand English only as a second or third language. You may like to learn some of the local uniquely Peruvian lingo, like the word for beer (no it's not Cervesa), dotted around local restaurant signboards.
You can trek from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu all year round. The actual trek up to Machu Picchu from Aquas Calientes takes about 1 hour 30 minutes up, and slightly less coming down. The hikes ascends about 390 meters (1,280 feet) up on a dirt track, stone pathways or shuttle bus routes. You can choose to do this hike if you hike the Lares Inca Trail on your journey to Machu Picchu, or on our 'Iguana' and 'Capybara' Peru Adventure Tours. The only time you cannot take this one day hike to Machu Picchu, is when you hike the Classic Inca Trail - as this brings you to Machu Picchu at the Sun Gate.
Photo: The 1 day hike to Machu Picchu follows the access road between Aguas Calientes and the ruins
The two most popular trails to hike on your journey to Machu Picchu are the Classic Inca Trail and the Lares Trail. Depending on which option you choose, a multi-day guided hike to Machu Picchu (usually 4 or 5 days or as part of an 7-14 day Peru experience) will take you on an incredible journey through authentic Peruvian villages, ancient agricultural terraces, Incan ruins, and a cycle ride through Andean wilderness. If you'd like to explore a little further than Machu Picchu, take an optional kayaking adventure to the floating reed island communities, and explore the Amazon Rainforest.
No matter which journey you decide to take to Machu Picchu, whether a life changing week or two week long adventure trip of a lifetime... or a one day hike up from Aquas Clientes, it does require a little planning and consideration to get the very best from your visit.
Photo: Reed Islands on Lake Titicaca, as seen on the 7 or 14 day 'Jaguar' Trip in Peru
7 or 14
Peru & Galapagos
Visit Peru's Machu Picchu on the following Peru Adventure Tours:
Jaguar Ultimate Peru Adventure
- 14 Days
The 'Jaguar' is our most action-packed multi-activity trip in Peru. Start your trip in the heart of the Inca empire where you'll explore fortresses and surrounding valleys. Hike over stunning mountain passes to Machu Picchu, cycle into the Sacred Valley of the Incas, view Amazon wildlife up close and sea kayak across Lake Titicaca to stay with an indigenous family.
The variety of activities and landscapes on this trip will give you a Peruvian adventure like no other – and an experience you’ll never forget! It captures everything this beautiful country has to offer, from the towering peaks of the Andes down to the steamy depths of the Amazon rainforest. You’ll have a blast in this land of geographical and cultural extremes!
Iguana Peru and Galapagos Explorer
- 13 Days
- From US$6,999
Our 13-day ‘Iguana’ trip has been a long time in the making. Inside two weeks, you’ll experience the absolute best that Peru and the Galapagos Islands have to offer. You’ll travel in comfort and style, get off the beaten track, stay in fantastic locally owned accommodations, meet the locals & experience some of the world’s most iconic landscapes and monuments - all in typical Active Adventures style of course.
You’ll cycle into the Sacred valley of the Incas, hike the Huchuy Qosqo Trail, experience Machu Picchu and explore the wonders of Cuzco. And that’s just Peru! After a short flight to Quito, you’ll head to the Galapagos Islands where you’ll snorkel with seals, hike around one of the world’s largest volcanic craters, sea kayak near Isabela Island, get up close to all manner of wild creatures and relax on isolated beaches. If you’re only likely to visit this part of South America once in your life, we’ll make sure it’s a trip that you never forget.
Capybara Peru Family Adventure
- 11 Days
- Adult: US$3,999, Child (15 & under): US$3,599
Bring the whole family to explore Peru, see amazing sights and embark on a kid-friendly adventure of a lifetime (travellers without kids are welcome too). Peru is a vibrant, family-friendly destination and you’ll find children of all ages – yes, even teenagers – will love exploring everything this country has to offer. On the ‘Capybara’, you’ll venture deep into the Amazon rainforest, see an awesome array of wildlife, visit the lost city of Machu Picchu and sea kayak across Lake Titicaca to stay with a local family on Amantani Island. Not only will everyone enjoy this adventure, it’s also a chance for your children and teenagers to immerse themselves in a different culture and way of life. We’ve chosen locally-run, comfortable accommodations for this trip and we take care of all the logistics behind planning your trip, including meals, so all you have to do is show up, have fun and start building memories!