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. Follow this link to see our most popular trip: 7-Day Machu Picchu Walking Vacation.
(I'm inserting this link for people looking for gift ideas for travelers. I have used this SCRUBBA as a tote-of-all-trades for several years. It wasn't until someone asked me what my favorite travel item was that I realized this might be useful for others. Here's the Link!)
What do you need to know about Machu Picchu reopening after covid-19?
Follow this link to find out about limited access, risk-free cancellation and how to plan 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. Cusco temperatures average 65 F high / 42 F low year round with short spikes up to 70s F/25 C in the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. Year round variations are only 1-2 degrees each way.
- afternoons are generally the most consistently good time to visit the ruins for clear conditions. And possible beautiful sunsets
- Permits for the 1-day Inca Trail 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 discouraged in Machu Picchu. This is a good thing! But is the new rule being enforced? Follow this link to get more details.
- It's to your advantage to buy entry tickets earlier than you plan to enter as close to the time printed on your ticket, as possible.
- Once you're inside the ruins, they will not ask you to leave. Why do most tours last a maximum of 2-3 hours? Because all paths lead to the exit gate, visitors get tired, or they need to use the restroom. Follow this link to find out how to powder your nose at Machu Picchu.
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 from an operator, 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. Permits become available in October for the next year. Book early!
- 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. Train departures can sell out.
- 2020 Peru government launches new website and changes rules to enter Machu Picchu. What about travel protocols after covid-19?
- 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 can 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 by car in 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 entry 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 long you can expect to wait 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 want to board.
When is the best time to travel to Machu Picchu with lowest crowds and potential good weather?
I think November and early December meet this criteria the best. The exact beginning of the rainy season is unpredictable but is not likely to affect infrastructure and result in road and train closures and delays. That's more likely to occur at the end of the rainy season after everything is saturated. Keep in mind that Perurail closes the Poroy station every year from January 1-April 30 to avoid delays due to mud slides and other weather related issues during the rainy season. (follow this link to read more about how you can benefit from this situation)
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"
Why did the Inca choose this location for Machu Picchu?