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Best Time to Visit Machu Picchu and What not to Miss

Machu Picchu AndinaIf you want to avoid the downpours and the biggest crowds the ideal time to visit Machu Picchu is right before or right after the rainy season in September or May.

Rainy season: October to mid-April (including the warmest time: November to March)

Dry season: Mid-April to September

Best time: May – September

 

During this period the days are colder, but drier and sunny. Machu Picchu is located at the Ceja de la Selva (Jungle’s Eyebrow), so there can be mist or an occasional shower anytime. When the morning fog clears up these conditions give the best chance to take that postcard picture Machu Picchu is well know from and also the opportunity to see a variety of orchids that add to the citadel’s stunning beauty. If you are very lucky you may even spot the spectacled bear. Afternoons tend to be the best because most tourists have already left and the sun illuminates the ruins from the loveliest angle. The busiest hours of the day tend to be 11:00am – 3:00pm due to the train scheadule of the one day direct trips.

Machu Picchu is open all year, but the Classic Inca Trail – most famous trekking route to Machu Picchu is closed in February. It is the peak of the rainy season. This month is also dedicated to maintenance of the Classic Inca Trail route.

June to August is the peak of the high (foreign) touristic season due to more pleasant weather, so it is also the busiest time in Machu Picchu. Regarding the domestic tourism, Peruvians tend to visit Machu Picchu more than the rest of the year during two periods Semana Santa (Easter Holiday that moves between the end of March and beginning of April depending on the full moon) and Fiestas Patrias (Independence Holiday celebrates 26th – 28th July with the central date being 28th July).

What temperatures to expect?

In the dry season April through September temperatures reach 23°C in during the day and drop to 0°C at night. From June to August the maximum day temperatures go up to 27°C, although it can feel much hotter during the sunniest hours of the day, and the minimum temperatures usually stay around 10 – 12°C at night.

In the rainy season November through March the temperatures only reach 16 – 18°C maximum during the day and drop below 0°C at night.

As in the high Andes Mountains the temperature goes hand in hand with the sunlight, in Cusco it often feels like autumn/winter in the early morning and at night, and like hot summer during the day. Cloudy days are also colder. And downpours add to the variety of the weather during the rainy season. But this time of the year Cusco hills turn green dressing up for a more photogenic background.

Machu Picchu Citadel sits in a more subtropical location. This combined with the altitude and means that there should be: a sweater, a waterproof jacket, sunglasses, a hat, sunblock with high protection and also insect repellent on your packing list. In case you will be trekking add a skiing hat, a pair of gloves and a scarf, hand sanitizer, water bottle, and toilet paper. If you plan on soaking into the thermals after trekking don’t forget a swim suit.

More on weather in Machu Picchu in this article. More on recent history of Machu Picchu in this article.

How much time to spend in Machu Picchu?

Machu Picchu Citadel is about four hours away from Cusco, so the shortest visit will take at least one full day. There are one day direct trips to Machu Picchu or two day cultural trips that will take you to the most interesting places in the Sacred Valley of the Incas during the first day of the program and to Machu Picchu the next day. You will spend the night in Aguas Calientes – the town right below the Inca citadel.

Once inside the ancient ruins don’t miss the Inti Punku (Sun Gate) and the Inca Bridge. If you dare, there are two optional steep hikes up the mountains inside the Machu Picchu Citadel: Huayna Picchu (2720m/8,923ft) and Machu Picchu Mountain (3050m/10,007ft). These two peaks have additional entrance fees. Four hundred visitors can enter Huayna Picchu each day and eight hundred can enter Machu Picchu Mountain. The entrance times are scheduled for morning.

At least 4 hours should be the minimum enough time to visit all the important sites inside of the citadel. If you can, spend an extra night in Aguas Calientes. It will give you more time to enjoy your visit of the Machu Picchu ruins and experience their mysterious ambiance during different hours of the day.

If you are going to be trekking: the Classic Inca Trail will take you 4 days. In case this one is fully booked there are also many alternative trekking routes ranging from 3 days (easy) to 7 days (more rigorous) in length. Don’t miss our newest off-the-beaten-track route the Premium Inca Trail – the middle sections of the ancient Incan trail (no permits needed) that once connected Cusco and Machu Picchu. Our best value soft adventure is a combination of Cusco, Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu – Classic Cusco Package.

Beautiful spots outside the Machu Picchu ruins:

Putucusi

Putucusi Peak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Putucusi Peak (Budding Zucchini*) in the background

Opposite to the Machu Picchu Citadel – on the other side of the River Vilcanota where the Aguas Calientes town is – there is the Phutuq K’usi/Putucusi Peak (2560m/8400ft). It is quite an adventure to climb up the steep ladders, but the reward is a great view of Machu Picchu from a less usual angle and there is no entrace fee.

Or after a 40 minutes to 1 hour (3km) walk outside of Aguas Calientes you will arrive to Mandor Falls.

If you want to learn more about the natural environment visit Mariposario de Machu Picchu – an ecological center dedicated to conservation of butterflies. It is situated on a bank of the Vilcanota River near Aguas Calientes.

If you prefer to relax before continuing your journey visit the hot springs after which Aguas Calientes got its name.

More Machu Picchu close-ups here.

 

* Wikipedia

Last edited: 17th November 2015

 

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