In terms of weather, there’s really no bad time to visit Peru. Instead, it’s best to plan your trip around what you most want to see, to experience and to do. As a general rule, the wettest and warmest months occur from December to February, and the driest and coolest time is from June to August. While the rainy season can leave you sopping wet, it’s also the best time to visit the beaches of the northern coast or to take a trek on the Inca Trail (without the frigid temperatures of the Andean winter). On the other hand, the dry season delivers incredible wildlife viewing opportunities in the Amazon and fewer crowds at Peru’s most popular attractions. Truly, no matter when you visit, you can rest easy knowing you’re in for the trip of a lifetime!
Weather in Peru
• Spring (September to November)
Spring is a shoulder season in Peru. That means it’s a less crowded time to experience Peru’s sights, but it’s occasionally marked by a rainy day here and there. Over the course of the season, the temperatures grow increasingly warmer as winter falls away and summer moves in. In Cusco, you can expect springtime temperatures in the high-60s Fahrenheit.
• Summer (December to February)
A Peruvian summer coincides with the wet season, especially in the country’s mountainous interior and jungle regions. Days are often cloudy, and thunderstorms are frequent. Along the coast, in places like Lima, the mornings are met with quickly passing fog, and the days are consistently sunny. Expect warm temperatures that usually hover in the 80s.
• Fall (March to May)
Fall marks the transition from Peru’s wet to dry season. The landscapes are lush from the rainy season’s abundant precipitation, and the temperatures start to become increasingly cooler countrywide. The weather can be a bit of a mixed bag during fall, so prepare for equal amounts of sunshine and sudden rain showers.
• Winter (June to August)
Winter falls during Peru’s dry season, meaning the trails and roads are dry, but the temperatures are cooler. In Cusco and other Andean locations, winter temperatures range from the 70s by day to nearly freezing at night, while Lima has a cool, humid climate. This is mostly due to the low-hanging clouds that live over the city through the winter and perpetually generate mist. Winter temperatures in Lima range from the low 50s to the upper 60s, fluctuating little between day and night.
• Peruvian Pipeline
The nearly mythic waves enjoyed here are reminiscent of those in Hawaii’s Banzai Pipeline. The winter swells wash away the summer’s buildup of sand on the shores of Cabo Blanco in northern Peru, making for perfect barrel-shaped waves and putting this region on the surf map.
• Grape Harvesting
The Ica and Pisco regions are known for their wine and pisco production. Every grape harvest is kicked off with a celebration called Festival de la Vendimia (first week of March), where wine and pisco producers open their vineyards to the public for tastings and tours. During this time, tourists can truly soak in the beauty of Peru’s wine country.
Every special event in Peru, be it Independence Day, Christmas or a holdover Inca tradition, is celebrated with so much fanfare one might think it’s the year’s most important event. Here are just a few of Peru’s most incredible events to experience:
• Inti Raymi
Taking place on the winter solstice in June, Inti Raymi is one of the biggest festivals of the year in Peru, and it’s Cusco’s most famous. Hundreds of actors perform a historically accurate reenactment of this originally Inca celebration meant to honor the sun god, Inti. Festivities even include the Sapa Inca carried on a throne in a five-kilometer procession through the city.
• Fiesta de la Candelaria
Every early February, Puno comes alive to celebrate the city’s patron saint, the Virgin of Candelaria. Catholic and Andean tradition come together in one 10-day party, which features an array of parades, cultural dances, colorful costumes, eccentric masks and the procession of the Virgen de la Candelaria.
Carnaval, which is notorious for its water balloons, spray foam and parades, is celebrated every February throughout Peru. Its original purpose was to give Catholic devotees a chance to celebrate with wild abandon before Lent began on Ash Wednesday.
Backroads Pro Tip
Leave your camera and any other non-waterproof technology at home during Carnaval. According to the unofficial Peruvian rules, if you’re outside, you’re fair game for a water balloon strike, a bucket of water over your head or a good dousing of spray foam. For the best experience, join in! Have your own water balloons and canister of spray foam at the ready.
• Semana Santa
Semana Santa, or Holy Week, begins on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter. There’s no better Peruvian city to experience this in than Cusco, where they also celebrate the Señor de los Temblores (the Lord of the Earthquakes) in an elaborate procession through the city. In honor of the Last Supper, local restaurants serve up meals containing 12 dishes on Holy Thursday.
• Fiestas Patrias
In celebration of Peru’s independence from Spanish rule and its establishment as the Republic of Peru in 1821, July 28 and 29 are days of fireworks, parties in every Peruvian city’s central square and a presidential address to the nation. Traditional dances and music abound, as do drinks and local delicacies, such as chicharrón (fried pork), ceviche and anticuchos (beef or chicken kebabs).
On December 23 and 24, Cusco’s Plaza de Armas transforms into a craft fair for locals to purchase goods for their at-home Christmas nativity scenes. In recent years, it’s become increasingly catered to tourists, but it still retains its traditional purpose.
Mistura is the food event of the year in Peru. Acclaimed chefs and humble street cart vendors alike from all over the country are selected to dish up their specialties to thousands of hungry festival attendees. The event occurs every September, nearly always in Lima.
In Peru, the dry season tends to draw the crowds. Beginning in May, the daily rain showers peter out, endless sunshine takes over, and the thermometer hangs at a comfortable temperature throughout the day. By June and July, the crowds are at full force. To reap the benefits of the pleasant weather (without the headache of navigating through daily crowds), plan your trip to Peru for its relatively rain-free shoulder seasons (April, May, September or October).
Also, don’t forget about the many festivals throughout the year in Peru—most notably Inti Raymi in June, Fiestas Patrias in July and Semana Santa over Easter. Expect the masses to descend upon the cities where these celebrations center, and plan your trip accordingly. That might mean totally avoiding these places come party time or suiting up to experience the crowded but festive atmosphere.
Backroads Pro Tip
If you’re traveling to a Peruvian destination during a festival or during the peak travel season, be sure to have your accommodations and transportation (e.g., your train to Machu Picchu or your flight to Lima) booked in advance.
The Peruvian Andes offer an exciting array of treks and trails to embark on, from the classic treks to Machu Picchu in the south to the snow-capped peaks and passes of Cordillera Blanca in Huaraz up north. The best time to do a trek in Peru is during the dry season (April through October). That’s when temperatures are less extreme from day to night and the trails are less muddy.
Surfing is like a religion for some in Peru, and with its perfect year-round swells, it’s easy to see why. The best surfing, however, depends on your coastal location and the time of year. The northern coast receives the best waves between November and February, while the southern coast (mainly Lima and Punta Hermosa) sees its best surf from May to August.
With its combination of ocean breezes and valley thermals, Peru is a paragliding paradise. The best spots to take to the air are along Lima’s Costa Verde in Miraflores, in Pachacamac and in the Sacred Valley. Tandem flights take place year round, but if you’re paragliding in Pachacamac, stick to October through April. That’s when the winds and weather are more favorable.
Sandboarding the massive desert dunes surrounding Huacachina is a thrilling experience, to say the least, but as this adventure activity takes place in the desert, the temperatures can be scorching. Time any sandboarding adventure for May through November, when daytime temperatures are more bearable.
• Mountain Biking
Peru’s mountain terrain was made for mountain biking, especially around Cusco. For the best trail conditions, plan your two-wheel adventure for April through November, when the region experiences next to no rainfall.