The Best Time to Visit Machu Picchu

What is the best time to visit Machu Picchu? This incredible archeological site, located high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. This ancient Incan citadel attracts over a million visitors each year so planning the best time to visit is essential. 

There are lots of things to think about, like weather and peak tourist seasons.  Kendall and I visited in May of 2021 and had an incredible experience.  This article gives a full breakdown of each season so you can plan the perfect trip.

looking down on a small group of old houses, part of one of the archeological sites along the Inca Trail.
our overlooking view of a small group of ancient houses, one of the many other Incan sites we saw along the Inca Trail

When is Machu Picchu Open?

Machu Picchu is open to visitors all year round with daily opening hours from 6:00 AM to 5:30 PM. However, the Inca Trail closes every February (the rainiest month), so if you want to do the classic Inca Trail trek, this is something to keep in mind. 

Also, it’s important to note that there are specific time slots for entry and certain restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Always check the official website for the most up-to-date information regarding entry requirements and availability.

Why is Timing Important When Visiting Machu Picchu?

The climate in the Andes varies a lot throughout the year, with distinct rainy and dry seasons (this is one huge similarity between Peru and Costa Rica, where we went the following year).   

While rainy days can happen during any month of the year, planning well can give you the best chance of clear skies and clear views of the site.  We were lucky on our trip in May, with clear skies almost the entire time. 

Also, Machu Picchu can get crowded, especially during the peak tourist season. This is another thing to keep in mind if trying to decide if a trip to Machu Picchu is worth it for you.

And finally, you’ll want to consider what else you’ll be doing on your trip. Do you want to immerse yourself in the cultural celebrations in June or December? Keeping your full Peru Itinerary in mind is an important consideration.

Machu Picchu Peak Tourist Season

The peak tourist season in Machu Picchu typically occurs during the dry season, which runs from May to September.  The weather during this time is generally clear and sunny, making it ideal for exploring the ruins and taking photos.

However, it’s important to note that the popularity of Machu Picchu during this season means that it can get quite crowded, especially during the summer vacation months of June, July, and August.  May, however, tends to be much less crowded than the mid-summer months. 

Least Busy Time of Year to Visit Machu Picchu

If you prefer a quieter and more peaceful experience, consider visiting Machu Picchu during the off-season. The rainy season, which runs from November to March, sees fewer tourists compared to the dry season. While the weather may be less predictable with occasional showers, the crowds are much thinner.  If you don’t mind the rain and would love to have a little more breathing room, the cooler months can be a great time to visit.  

Machu Picchu via the Quarry Trail

For those wanting to hike to Machu Picchu, but would prefer a less-popular and less-crowded option than the classic Inca Trail, consider trekking via the Quarry Trail.  This alternative hiking route offers breathtaking views and an opportunity to explore lesser-known Incan ruins along the way. 

Unlike the classic Inca Trail, the Quarry Trail is less crowded and does not require a permit. This makes it a great option for those who want to escape the crowds and have a more intimate experience with the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu.

The Quarry Trail is shorter at 26km but reaches a higher altitude (4,450m).  The Inca trail is much longer (43km) with a slightly lower highest point (4,215).

Inti Raymi or ‘Festival of the Sun’ in June

June is an especially exciting time to visit Machu Picchu as it coincides with Inti Raymi, also known as the ‘Festival of the Sun’. This traditional Incan festival celebrates the winter solstice and is marked by colorful processions, music, dance, and theatrical performances.

This is one of the most iconic things to do in the city of Cusco, but it can greatly affect the crowds in the city itself as well as surrounding archeological sites.  The festival is awesome; just keep in mind that it also makes June one of the busiest months to visit Machu Picchu.

Understanding the Weather in Machu Picchu

The weather in Machu Picchu can vary greatly depending on the season and month of your visit.  Again, while there are no guarantees, planning around the weather patterns can give you the best shot of having the experience that you want. 

Kendall with the Andes mountains in the background in May, the best time to visit Machu Picchu
We hiked the classic Inca Trail in May and had mostly clear days with a few scattered showers

Rainy Season vs Dry Season

The rainy season in Machu Picchu spans from November to March, with January and February being the wettest months. During this time, you can expect daily showers and occasional heavy downpours. 

The advantage of visiting during the rainy season is the lush green landscapes and fewer tourists. However, it’s essential to come prepared with waterproof gear and be flexible with your itinerary as trails may be muddy and slippery.

On the other hand, the dry season, which runs from May to September, is characterized by clear skies and minimal rainfall. The weather during this period is generally mild, with warm days and cool nights. 

It’s the perfect time for outdoor activities and exploring the ruins without the risk of rain. However, it’s worth noting that the dry season is also the peak tourist season, so expect larger crowds and higher prices.

Shoulder Season-The Best Time to Visit Machu Picchu

The ‘shoulder’ season, or the transition months between the rainy and dry season is, in our opinion, the best time to visit Machu Picchu. Most people consider the shoulder season months to include late April, May, late September, and October. Although you might get some rainy days, the weather is generally fair, and there are far fewer people. We think these months provide the best combination of great weather and fewer tourists.

Kendall and Marie posing in front of the Machu Picchu archeological site at the Sun Gate.
Our sunrise view over Machu Picchu. We traveled in May and had fantastic weather

Machu Picchu Weather by Month

Again, planning your perfect trip to Machu Picchu is all about keeping in mind the experience you are looking for.  Do you value perfect weather?  Thinner crowds? To help you plan your visit, I’ve created a breakdown of monthly temperatures, precipitation, and tourist traffic.

January

January is right in the middle of the rainy season.  While the weather can be unpredictable with frequent showers, the landscapes are lush and vibrant. It’s a great time to visit if you don’t mind the rain and want to experience Machu Picchu with fewer tourists.

Hiking during the off-season can be a great way to explore the outdoors without the crowds and is one of the best things to do during the winter in our home city of Spokane, Washington.

February

Another rainy season month with lush scenery and fewer tourists.  Remember, the Inca Trail is closed during February, so if you have your heart set on trekking via this classic route, choose a different month.

March

March is a wonderful time to visit Machu Picchu. The weather is generally pleasant, with warm days and cool nights. The rainy season begins to taper off, resulting in fewer crowds and clearer skies. 

April

April marks the transition from the rainy season to the dry season. Although there are still definitely wet days, the weather becomes more stable with fewer rain showers. It’s a good time to visit Machu Picchu if you want to avoid the crowds and enjoy pleasant weather.

May

May is the very beginning of the dry season and, in my opinion, is the best month to visit Machu Picchu.  This is when Kendall and I went, and we had an incredible experience.  The weather was mild, with pleasant temperatures during the day and cool nights. It was an ideal time for hiking the Inca Trail. 

We didn’t do this, but May is also when the Fiesta de las Cruces takes place.  This is another lively cultural event in Peru filled with music, dancing, and colorful processions.

June

June is the first true ‘high season’ month and is considered the best time to visit Machu Picchu in terms of weather.  Also, June is a great month to visit if you are interested in participating in the Festival of the Sun.  Just remember to book early and be prepared for crowds.

July

July is another high-season month.  The days are warm and sunny, perfect for exploring the ruins and hiking the surrounding mountains. Again, it’s important to book your accommodations and permits well in advance.

 August

August is the final ‘high season’ month. Again, with sunny days and clear skies, you’ll have a great chance of getting some magnificent views of the archeological sites.

 September

September is a shoulder season month and is another one of the best months to visit Machu Picchu. The weather is typically dry and mild, with clear skies and comfortable temperatures.

October

October and November are characterized by a transition period between the dry and rainy seasons. The weather can be unpredictable, with occasional showers. However, the landscapes are still lush, and the number of tourists is relatively low compared to the peak season.

 November

November offers a unique experience at Machu Picchu. The rainy season is just beginning, which means the landscape is lush and green. The crowds are also significantly smaller compared to the peak months, allowing you to explore the site at your own pace.

The weather is generally mild, with occasional showers in the afternoon. If you want a more intimate experience, November is a great month to visit.

December

December is the real beginning of the rainy season in Machu Picchu. While it may rain frequently, the crowds are much thinner.

So, What is the Best Month to Visit Machu Picchu?

The best month to visit Machu Picchu ultimately depends on your preferences and priorities.

Our top recommendations are the shoulder season months of April, May, September, and October.  The weather is generally still mild, and there are fewer tourists.

However, if you are trying to plan around school schedules, value pleasant weather, and don’t mind the crowds, the peak season months of June-August can be a great time to visit. 

If you prefer a quieter experience and don’t mind occasional showers, the rainy season from November to March can offer a unique charm and fewer tourists.

 Be sure to check the latest weather forecasts and consult with local experts to make an informed decision based on your desired experience.

The Best Time of Day to Visit Machu Picchu

In addition to choosing the best month, selecting the right time of day can also make a difference in your experience.  The site opens at 6:00 AM, and it’s highly recommended to arrive early to beat the crowds. 

The first few hours of the morning are generally less crowded, allowing you to explore the site at a more leisurely pace. Another option is to visit in the late afternoon and stay overnight in Aguas Calientes.  Many tourists leave by early afternoon to catch the last train from Aguas Calientes back to Ollantaytambo. 

The Best Day of the Week to Visit Machu Picchu

While Machu Picchu can get crowded throughout the week, some days tend to be busier than others. Saturdays and Sundays generally attract more visitors, as many locals and tourists take advantage of their days off.  Sundays are especially busy, as this is when many Peruvian families take day trips together.   

We recommend trying to plan your visit on a weekday. However, keep in mind that even on quieter days, it’s still advisable to arrive early.

Planning Your Visit to Machu Picchu – Other Considerations

1. Book in advance

Machu Picchu has a daily visitor limit, and tickets can sell out quickly, especially during the peak season. 

2. Acclimatize to the altitude

Machu Picchu is located at a high altitude of 7,072 feet, and altitude sickness can be a concern for some people. Most people recommend spending a few days acclimating to the altitude in Cusco to acclimate before visiting the site. 

We think acclimating appropriately is one of the most important things you can do to stay safe in Cusco and on your Andes hiking adventures. Kendall and I spent two days in Cusco before our trek, and we didn’t have any issues. 

3. Book with a reputable tour company

Whether you are hiking the Inca Trail or just visiting the archeological site, having a great guide can make or break your experience.  Read our post about top-rated Inca Trail tour companies.

We went with Alpaca Expeditions and had a fantastic experience (we’ve written a full review on Alpaca including pros/cons and everything they offer).

4. Pack appropriately

Being prepared and packing appropriately for Machu Picchu, especially if doing a multi-day trek, is essential.

We recommend packing layers, a light jacket, a poncho, sturdy footwear, and sun protection.  These are things we bring with us on all of our hikes, even when day hiking on our favorite trails near Spokane (our current home). This is important even if you are just visiting the archeological site.  

We were also so happy to have a hat, sunglasses, and insect repellent.

5. Decide if you want to spend time in Lima

Lima is a fantastic place to visit for reasons different from Cusco. Be sure to read our full article on the differences between Lima and Cusco. If you are into museums, nightlife, or beaches, be sure to factor in enough time in the capital.

6. Be respectful

Machu Picchu is a sacred site, and it’s important to be respectful and follow the instructions of site officials at all times.  Don’t do jumping photos, explore roped-off areas, or make unnecessary noise. 

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