Updated: Oct 20, 2021
No feeling can compare to how I felt when I stood at the sun gate and saw Machu Picchu for the first time. The ancient Incan city seemed to just ‘hang’ in mid-air; suspended on a thin strip of land and surrounded by mountain peaks. Wow. I had read about it and seen photos of it – but seeing it with my own eyes was something I’ll remember forever.
Yes, it’s pretty well-known and yes, it can get rather busy sometimes, but this is one place you simply can’t miss when planning a vacation to South America. We are often asked – when is the best time to visit Machu Picchu? And the answer really does depend on a number of things. Weather, opening times, seasons and local festivals all play a part. Machu Picchu is located on the edge of a rainforest, so it enjoys a subtropical feel year-round and daily temperatures hover at around 18 degrees C (64F).
Visiting Machu Picchu in June, July, August
Warm days, cool nights and lowest rainfall of the whole year: the winter months are known as the ‘dry season’ and you’ve got a very high chance of encountering a sunny day. Keep in mind that June, July and August also coincide with North American and European summer holidays, so don’t expect to have the ruins to yourself. If you do choose to visit Macchu Picchu at this time, a great tip is to get up early and arrive at 6am! Yes, the ruins are open from 6am to 5pm. In my book it’s definitely worth the early morning alarm.
This photo was taken in early June; the cloud cleared to reveal a perfect blue-sky day.
Visiting Machu Picchu in September, October, November
This is shoulder season and visitors can expect pleasant, enjoyable temperatures. It’s also orchid season from about mid October, which is an added bonus! These delicate flowers poke out from between the huge stone blocks and add a rather magical element to the ruins. This time of year also sees far less people than high season. The downside is you have a higher chance of encountering rain or fog. Personally I don’t mind the fog, it makes the ruins feel really mysterious! From November, rain is an almost daily occurrence.
Visiting Machu Picchu in December, January, February
This time of year sees the worst of the rainy weather. Expect anything from drizzle to huge downpours almost daily. Again, crowds are far fewer; you’re likely to have large areas of the ruins all to yourself depending on the time of day you arrive. Orchids are at their most colourful best. The Inca Trail is closed in February for maintenance, but Machu Picchu itself is open year-round.
Make sure to think about the flora when scheduling your trip. At certain times of the year, the flowers and orchids are stunning.
Visiting Machu Picchu in March, April, May
March, again, is rather wet, but April and May are great options to visit – a balance between a pleasant climate and warm to cool temperatures. Slightly more chance of rain or drizzle than the winter months, but it’s not high season so there still won’t be as many people to compete with. Keep in mind Spring Break, which is a popular time for students to visit South America, usually takes place for a week in late March or early April.
Peru is one of my favourite countries, and Machu Picchu really is one of the biggest must-do’s of the whole Latin American continent! Get in touch for a chat with our friendly team on the best time to visit to suit for the type of experience you’re after, or take a look at our popular South American itineraries. We’re the local experts and will help to craft a Peruvian – or South American – vacation you’ll never forget