Machu Picchu Weather: the good, the bad, and the ugly
The most frequently asked questions about traveling to Machu Picchu are regarding the weather. We've collected the best intel, along with a few other facts to help you decide when to travel and how to prepare for your trip.
The good news about Machu Picchu:
- Machu Picchu is open every day of the year from 6 am to 5:30 pm.
- there are 2 seasons: WET from late November to early April with plenty of sunshine possible. (wet does not mean monsoon rains) DRY season is perceived as the best time to visit the ruins, although rain is still possible. Temperatures are slightly cooler in the dry season by a couple of degrees.
- temperatures are not extreme. Average low is from 45 F/5 C at night to average high of 70s F/20s C during the day, with short spikes up to 80 F/25 C. Year round variations are only 1-2 degrees each way.
- Cusco temperatures average 65 F high / 42 F low year round.
- afternoons are generally the most consistently good time to visit the ruins for clear conditions. And possible beautiful sunsets
- more permits for Inca Trail hikes were added beginning 2016. Permits for the 1-day hike typically don't sell out but can sell out.
- we cannot reserve or hold permits while you decide. It's first come, first serve until they sell out.
- Follow this link to see statistics on ticket sales per month in 2018. Which month sold the most? Which month sold the least? What country do most travelers come from?
- Single-use plastic water bottles are banned in Machu Picchu. This is a good thing! Follow this link to get more details.
The bad news about Machu Picchu:
- due to altitude 8000 ft. / 2440 m. weather can change suddenly
- only open during the daytime from 6 am - 5:30 pm
- you cannot buy tickets at the main entry. Buy online or in person at the office in Cusco or Aguas Calientes.
- weather predictions and apps are not reliable. Always plan to carry rain gear even in the dry season.
- Inca Trail is closed during the month of February. The only way to get to Machu Picchu is by train
- early morning tends to be foggy/misty until burn off which can occur late morning
- there is no daylight savings time. It gets dark about 5:30-6 pm. Machu Picchu is in the same time zone as New York city in the winter.
- sunrise can be cloudy and misty. Best time of year to see sunrise is during the dry season (May - October)
- permits for the 4-day Inca Trail hike sell out months in advance
- Each Machu Picchu ticket is valid for 1 entry. (unless you have tickets for the hikes to Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain, which allows you to enter for guided tour of the citadel before the hike)
- Peru government launched new website for travel in 2019. Tickets are now sold for entry on the hour. There are 5600 tickets available per day
- There's no refund for tickets for any reason. We have heard there is a process you can try if you want to transfer or change your tickets. If you have complications that delay your entry, you're at the mercy of the agent on duty in the office in Cusco or Aguas Calientes. If you have a licensed guide, he or she can assist.
The dirty, ugly secrets about Machu Picchu:
- the only way to get to Machu Picchu is on foot by hiking the 4 day or 1 day Inca Trail and by train. There are no roads and you can't rent a car and drive there.
- it is recommended you buy train tickets and entry tickets at the same time. One without the other is useless
- 2019 Peru government launches new website and changes tickets to enter Machu Picchu by the hour. Visitors can enter any time after the time stamped on their ticket up to 12N for morning tickets. And up to 3PM for afternoon tickets.
- You cannot enter Machu Picchu main gate even 1 minute earlier than the time stamped on your entry ticket.
- Your scheduled entry time now determines how early you can board the shuttle bus from Aguas Calientes. In the early morning, preference is given to people with tickets to enter at 6am or 7am. If you have an afternoon ticket? Just stay in bed if you're coming from a hotel in Aguas Calientes.
- if you forget your passport, you cannot enter the ruins, or the Inca Trail hikes, or board the train. (always carry your passport for every activity)
- you must present the passport you used to buy your ticket. If you renew your passport after buying tickets for anything, you need to travel with both the old and new passports.
- strikes usually occur in places where they are most likely to interrupt access to Machu Picchu. This is viewed as the best way for local people to get attention for their cause. Tour operators keep their ears to the ground for advance warnings about anything that will interrupt movement of their groups.
- Perurail train stations for service to Machu Picchu are not located in city of Cusco. The closest station is 30 minutes to Poroy.
- Perurail does not include transfers from Cusco city center where most hotels are located, to any train stations. Poroy station is 30 minutes drive, with limited train service, and the main station in Ollantaytambo is 2 hours drive. (A new road just opened in Jan 2019. Follow this link to see more) Cost for transfers by car vary from $10-$20 to Poroy and $50 -$90 to Ollantaytambo each way, depending on the size of your group.
- Since July 1, 2017, the number of tickets available each day is more than double than before. (went from 2500 per day to 5600 per day in 2019)
- No additional shuttle buses have been added and it's impossible to predict how the hourly entry tickets will affect the distribution of people waiting in line for bus service to Machu Picchu main entry. Expect longer lines in busy season. June/July/August.
- To get from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu, there are 23 buses with capacity for 33 passengers each for transporting up to 1000 people per hour from 5am-8am daily. (this is only if all entry tickets are sold out. Does that ever happen? Yes in July and August. See the stats here.
- Bus agents in Aguas Calientes may boot you out of the line if your entry tickets to Machu Picchu are more than 1 hour from the time you board.
- In 2019, the Pan American XVIV games will be hosted in Lima from July 26-Aug 11. The torch relay will begin in Machu Picchu about 23 days or so before the games begin. We don't know the exact date or exact route except that from Machu Picchu, the torch will go through Ollantaytambo, then Cusco, then continue to other destinations all over Peru. We're estimating the torch relay will start on July 5.
How does weather affect flights?
There's enough to say about this that we set up an entire blog post about "Adventures in Flying to Machu Picchu: Avoid These Mistakes"