Best time to visit Peru
Thinking about a trip to Peru but confused by all the never-ending, conflicting information about the best time to visit?! Then look no further because here at goodtrip we have curated a helpful summary to guide you through a trip that is guaranteed to be one for the memory books (trust us).
Firstly, Peru’s climate lends itself to having two main seasons - the wet season and the dry season. The second point to bear in mind is that the timing of these two seasons varies quite significantly depending on which parts of Peru you visit, so make sure you have a good idea of what you plan to do whilst there before booking a trip. Are you a solo traveller looking to hike the famous Inca Trail en route to Machu Picchu? Are you a group of friends looking to explore Lima’s world-renowned food scene? Are you a family heading into the Amazon jungle for a week of flora and fauna spotting? Or maybe you fancy a bit of everything?! Whilst you’re bound to have a great time wherever you are heading, the best time to visit each place should undoubtedly play a part in your decision making.
The dry season for the coastal desert areas (Lima, Ica etc.) is between December to March. During these months get the suncream, hats and sunnies at the ready as you can expect to bask in intense warm sunshine with temperatures hovering around 24 to 27 ˚C with little chance of rain. Take note though, if you visit Peru’s capital city Lima during these months, or for any other months in the year for that matter, the sea will still be cold (due to the Humboldt Current running along the coast) and usually requires a wetsuit - unless you’re the bold type who doesn’t feel the cold! Here at goodtrip we love to surf wherever we can but we must admit even we were slightly reluctant to take the plunge into those choppy chilly waves and opted for drinking Pisco Sours (see below) at a lovely bar on the beach instead.
Outside of the dry season for these coastal areas you can generally expect milder temperatures and fewer sunny rays (though still “warm” by many standards), with the northern region being sunnier and clearer than the south. One point to note on Lima’s coastal climate in particular is that it typically experiences prolonged fog and mist, known as garúa, from April to November (again, largely due to that current we mentioned above). Trujillo (a lesser known coastal city towards the northern region of Peru), however, is said to experience less of this fog and stays warmer and dryer all year round.
Conversely, the dry season for the famous Andean highlands (aka the Andes) runs from May to October. Home to one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and UNESCO World Heritage Site - Machu Picchu - it’s easy to see why visiting the Andes and surrounding cities like Cusco are high on most traveller’s bucket list. Typical temperatures in the Andes during these months range from 18 to 25 ˚C and the chance of rain is low. It goes without saying that these conditions make excursions such as the Inca Trail or the Salkantay Trek very appealing. Whilst you’re likely to have favourable conditions, these routes can get extremely busy during these months and it’s therefore recommended to book your spot a good few months in advance to secure a place. If you don’t feel like taking on a multiple day trek to reach the beauty spot of Machu Picchu, don’t worry - you can also get the train up from the nearby town of Ollantaytambo.
Finally, the dry season for the Amazon Basin is… well… is there even such a season experienced in this unrivalled sub-tropical terrain? The answer is yes, with the drier spells occurring in the same months as the Andes mentioned above (though rainfall is still sometimes present in the afternoon, even in these drier months). You can expect more frequent and heavier rainfall throughout November to April, with intense humidity and a tropical breeze all year round and temperatures often reaching peaks of 32 ˚C.
We visited Peru in March (aka dry season for desert areas like Lima and Ica and wet season for the Andes and Amazon) and were pleasantly surprised with the hot and sunny skies felt in both Lima and Ica (the latter being VERY hot) followed by the cooler and mostly drier climate found in Cusco (where we went to acclimatise pre-Inca Trail). We did definitely feel a significant temperature drop in the evenings in Cusco, meaning we had to purchase an obligatory alpaca jumper and matching socks from one of the markets off the main square. We did the Inca Trail towards the end of the month and were lucky enough to hike in lots of sunshine (read: pack suncream, glasses and hat) with only an occasional afternoon downpour on some days (read: pack a waterproof jacket). Packing layers was definitely key to surviving the colder nights spent in a tent on the mountains! If you do decide to complete the Inca Trail in the wet season like we did, just be careful not to visit in February as the trail is shut for annual maintenance and avoidance of the potential landslides (though Machu Picchu remains open to visit).
Lastly, we couldn’t write a blog about Peru and not mention its incredible culinary scene… make sure to try all the Peruvian delicacies whilst you’re there! Here are a few of our favourites below:
- The top spot has got to be awarded to arguably Peru’s most famous cocktail - the Pisco Sour. Sit back and relax as you taste the gentle citrus notes underneath a creamy foamy top. Made from Pisco (a locally made fermented grape juice turned brandy), lemon juice, egg white and a drop of aromatic bitters to finish, we could not get enough of these cocktails during our month spent there
- It would feel wrong to mention Peru’s signature dishes without giving ‘Lomo Saltado’ some airtime. During a rare afternoon on the Inca Trail which wasn’t spent hiking, we were treated to a cooking class for this simple yet tasty popular dish (which translates to ‘stir-fried beef’). Strips of sirloin are fried in soy sauce alongside onions, peppers and tomatoes and served on a bed of rice and chips
- Picture this - you’re walking on the beach with the wind in your hair and salt water on your toes, craving a locally sourced refreshing dish. What do you find yourself ordering? Ceviche, of course! This dish is so popular that it’s even been given its own day of holiday in Peru (June 28th is National Ceviche Day). This dish sees pieces of raw fish pickled in a fresh lime juice with an accompaniment of spicy peppers to add to the flavour
- One for the more adventurous eaters amongst us would have to be the ‘Cuy’ dish - or more commonly known as the ‘Guinea Pig’. Whilst many of us will know these animals to be fluffy cuddly pets, these are actually a highly regarded delicacy amongst Peruvians and you’ll be sure to find them offered on most menus! Take your pick from fried or roasted if you’re feeling up for the experience!
To sum up, there is no “bad time” to visit Peru due to its incredibly varied landscape and associated activities. A top tip for planning the best trip possible, in our humble opinion, is to make sure that you pack the right clothes for the time of year that you are going, plan your route in advance and to fully immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of Peru’s culture - whether that’s in the rain or shine!
Here are just a couple of suggestions on what to take if you do fancy a multiple day trek in Peru:
Waterproof Backpack, a must have for carrying all your essentials!
Reusable Water Bottle, to keep you hydrated whilst put trekking.
Bamboo Fibre Wet Mitts, ideal for cleaning away the day's grit and grime.
A small vegan wallet to help keep your notes, coins and cards neatly organised.