Considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu is a bucket-list item for every type of traveler. The best time to visit the ancient Inca citadel however depends on each traveler’s interest and preferences. Whether you are looking to hike the trails, get the best views or even cut costs, let this serve as a guide for when to visit Machu Picchu.
Hiked over the course of three to four days, the classic Inca Trail is 26 miles (42 km) of breathtaking scenery in the Andes of Peru. Though there are various treks that allow travelers to reach Machu Picchu by foot, the Inca Trail is by far the most popular. The trail leads to the Sun Gate (offering one of the best views of the sacred mountain), and eventually to the top entrance of the ancient site.
The best time to hike the Inca Trail is during the ‘dry’ season, which falls between May and October. It should be noted that weather in this area of Peru can be unpredictable. Landscapes surrounding Machu Picchu go from snow capped mountains to lush jungle, so be prepared for sudden changes in climate. No matter what time of year you visit, bring a waterproof jacket and proper hiking gear.
Keep in mind that the Inca Trail is closed during the month of February for maintenance. We also recommend this scenic trekking route.
Without a doubt, the most popular time to visit Machu Picchu is between June and August. Tourists from the northern hemisphere take advantage of their summer vacations and head south to cross off a bucket-list item. The number of visitors to the UNESCO World Heritage site is capped at 2,500 per day. The difference between peak and low tourism seasons is truly felt when visiting Aguas Calientes, surrounding Sacred Valley towns and Cusco city.
The so-called wet season in Machu Picchu is commonly thought of as November to April and also marks the low season in tourism. During these months the Valley is strikingly lush with verdant hills and blooming flowers. To avoid a downpour (of rain and tourists), select dates on the periphery of the wet season, either November or April.
Even if you’re not traveling on a backpacker’s budget, we all like to save money while traveling. The low tourism season in the Cusco region lines up with the winter season in the northern hemisphere. Despite the wet climate, Cusco has a lot to offer all year round: from numerous Inca sites, fine dining and exceptional museums.
Take advantage of visiting between the months of November and April and reap the reward of low hotel rates and special offers from restaurants and bars. Sacred Valley towns like Ollantaytambo and Urubamba rely on tourism, so many businesses will be pleased to give you more personalized attention during the low season.
The most striking images of Machu Picchu are often those in which hardly (if any) tourists appear. Curiously enough, the best time of year to snap photos of the citadel is during peak tourism season(June-August). However, the month of September is typically pleasant in terms of weather conditions. It’s also when the rush of tourists begins to taper off.
If it’s not possible to avoid the busy months, then visitors have one more tactic to get that wide open shot: use your entrance ticket to Machu Picchu in the afternoon and stick around until the end of the visiting hours (5:30pm). The majority of tourists choose to go during the morning hours, often to try and catch the sunrise when the gates open at 6am.
The diverse landscapes of Cusco make this region a playground for adrenaline junkies (and their more cautious traveling buddies). Mountain biking, rafting, rock climbing, zip lining and trekking are some of the thrilling activities available in the Sacred Valley. From half-day outings to full-day excursions, there are numerous ways to stay active before or after your visit to Machu Picchu.
Though activities like biking can generally be enjoyed all year round, it is recommended to seek adventure tourism during the dry season, May to October. The terrain is safer to ride on or hike, the water levels not as high and the cliffsides easier to grip.
Cover image: chulhwan yoon / Pixabay
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