The Best Time to go to Machu Picchu

While Machu Picchu is open to the public year round there are definitely advantages and disadvantages to going at different times of the year. There are multiple factors to consider when determining which month of the year to plan your trip - in this blog post, we cover: weather, crowds, and cost.

Machu Picchu is amazing regardless of when you go, however, as with all international travel, unexpected events can occur. It can be disappointing when something unexpected comes up during your trip, but if you know what to expect and mentally plan for it, you will have an incredible trip whatever time to you choose to go.

We can help you get there - whenever you want to go!

...So When is the Best Time to go?

Short Overall Answer

End of May. For a combination of nice weather, low crowds and low cost - the best time to visit Machu Picchu is during the month of May.  

Other Options Based on Preferences

If the most important factor for your trip to Machu Picchu is one of the following:

  • Lowest Crowds
  • Most Affordable
  • Best weather

Then consider these suggestions...

Lowest Crowds

November - February

The crowds are lower during this stretch, aside from a slight peak during the Christmas holiday. Crowds are lower in Mid-October to early March because it is Peru’s rainy season, which peaks in December and January (see charts below). However, this stretch of months is also Peru’s summer season, and while the day time temperatures remain about the same year round (lower 70’s), the night time temperatures will be several degrees warmer compared to May - August.

Machu Picchu is oftentimes called the “Lost City in the Clouds”, and for good reason! The ancient city is built on top of a mountain that resides high in the Andes and rises spectacularly from the clouds. One major drawback of being an epic Cloud City is that, during the rainy season, the spectacular views of Machu Picchu can be obscured by clouds and fog. This is certainly one factor that you’ll want to consider if you're attempting to avoid the crowds.

One final thought, if avoiding crowds is your main priority, I would strongly suggest checking out Choquequirao. Choquequirao is a set of newly uncovered Inca ruins that are 3X the size of Machu Picchu. As of now, the ruins are relatively undiscovered, but their exclusivity is rapidly diminishing as more groups learn about their awesomeness each year. I view Choquequirao as what Machu Picchu was 30-40 years ago. You can learn more about Choquequirao’s history and what makes these ruins so incredible here.

Most Affordable

September - Mid-November

To determine the most affordable months to travel we looked at: flight & hotel costs.

The peak months for price correspond with Peru’s dry season, which is from June to August. Travel prices will start going down after this three month stretch. Flights to Lima/Cusco, are at their lowest between September and November. If you have the flexibility to plan ahead for your trek, I highly recommend booking your flight at least 4-6 months in advance to decrease flight costs. For example, if you plan to go in October (the cheapest month), you should consider booking your flights in April or May.

We’ve compiled some tools and resources to help you find the best possible flight HERE.

Just like airlines, the hotels in Cusco will also raise their prices during the peak season and lower them around the beginning of September. The average price of highly rated hotels in Cusco in July is $110/night.  That average drops to $80/night in September and $70/night in October, saving you an average of $30-40/night.

Best Weather

June - Early August

The best months to visit Machu Picchu to get the best weather are the end of May to early August, which corresponds with Cusco’s dry season. These months are technically Peru’s Winter months. However, the Cusco region of Peru is moderately temperate so the temperatures will be warm, bordering on hot during the day, and slightly above freezing at night. You may be comfortable wearing shorts and short-sleeves as you hike through the Andes, but you will need to dawn an Alpaca sweater and a warm hat once the sun dips below the towering mountain peaks.

Check out our packing list for ideas of what to pack for your trek.

Because the weather during these months is so great, June to August is also the peak season for crowds. This is something to be aware of, if you go during these months for the weather, it will be crowded.

Optimal Llama Viewing

Don’t worry, these beauties are here all year long.

Weather Details

Choquequirao - Your Once in a Lifetime Opportunity

Imagine you’re hiking in the Andes, a towering mountain range that stretches across the entire South American Continent. The same mountain range where the famous City of Gold, El Dorado, supposedly lies hidden and where one of the 7 Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu, resides among the clouds.

You are surrounded by dense, lush vegetation that hasn’t been disturbed for hundreds of years. You are blazing your own path in search of adventure and history. Everything around you is covered in green ferns, trees and vines that accompany the impenetrable rain forest that surrounds you. It is just about dusk on your final day of exploration, you notice something out of place. You anxiously pause as your mind tries to make sense of what you are seeing, a set of right angles that most certainly didn’t form naturally. You strip away at vegetation to uncover immaculate stone work. You doggedly clear vegetation throughout the night to uncover a 20-foot section of a building covered in symbols and ancient design. You don’t know it yet, but you’ve just discovered a hidden colony deep within the Vilcabamba mountain range, one of the Inca’s largest settlements, a massive sprawling complex, and one of the final gathering places of the Incas before their destruction - you have found what you’ve been looking for…Choquequirao, the Golden Cradle.

Choquequirao is also known as “Peru’s Other Lost City” and it’s no surprise why. The city was technically discovered around the turn of the 20th century, close to the same time that Machu Picchu was uncovered. However, due the thickness of vegetation that was covering Choquequirao, explorers assumed that it wasn’t more than a small outpost - not bothering to excavate further.

It wasn’t until recently that archeologists and explorers revisited Choquequirao and made a serious effort to uncover more of its ruins. At present only 30-40% of the city has been uncovered and it’s estimated that the Golden Cradle is 3x the size of Machu Picchu! Excavation efforts are on-going, and because it is still relatively unknown and the route to its ruins are very difficult - the number of visitors to Choquequirao is incredibly sparse.

Choquequirao resides in the Sacred Valley, along with several other world famous ancient buildings and structures built by the Incas, including Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is one of the Seven Wonders of the World for good reason. The ruins of the great city are absolutely stunning, especially when you consider the terrain that Machu Picchu is built on and the ancient technology that was used to build it. The Incas were masters of their craft, they had perfected stone work to create the famous terraced walls of their cities, and Machu Picchu is a true testament to their ingenuity and workmanship. It’s walls are 6 ft. thick and 20 ft. tall in some places, and are comprised of interlocking, hundred tonne stones that are placed without mortar; yet you aren’t able to fit a piece paper between their cracks.

Considering how majestic and awe-inspiring Machu Picchu is, it’s almost unbelievable that Choquequirao was built in the same manner, using the same materials and techniques and it is 3x the size. As more of its ruins are uncovered the sheer magnitude of Choquequirao is impressive enough to warrant a visit.

Now I don’t know about you, but when I’m traveling I enjoy meeting new people, but not TOO many new people. My latest trek to Machu Picchu was a bit of a mixed experience. For 4 days I got to hike on the Inca Trail, through the forests and jungles of the Andes, it was a wonderfully exhilarating and spiritual moment. I love experiencing the wildlife and the incredible scenery that accompanies a hike along the Inca Trail.  We saw the sun rise over jagged mountain peaks each morning, and began each day hiking along the same path the Incas built over 500 years ago.

On the last day we woke up exhausted after 3 full days of strenuous hiking, but brimming with excitement...today was Machu Picchu. The views along the trail were spectacular, we hiked for about 2 hours before reaching an ancient staircase that led up to the Sungate - a stone arch that acts as an entrance to the city. This is where we would catch our first glimpse of the Lost City of the Incas. Up until this point our journey had been outstanding and felt exclusive. However, the Sungate is where the entire trip changed for me, here were about 200 other hikers. Not an insane amount of people, but enough that our group had to wait an hour to take our picture in front of Machu Picchu (I know, first world problems). We waited patiently, and when it was finally our turn another group walked behind us during our picture, blemishing that moment...not a big deal! We’d have plenty of more opportunities to take pictures and enjoy the majesty of Machu Picchu. I tried to refocus my attention on the incredible scenery, but was constantly distracted by having to navigate around the crowds.

We kept hiking for another hour down to the exterior of the city, once we reached the walls of Machu Picchu we were ushered out of the “park”, through the exit, and into a 2 hour long line, which led back into the actual city. We had to check our bags and present our tickets. This is where the crowds became almost unbearable because all of the people who had been hiking on the Inca Trail for 4 days were now merged and crammed together with tourists who had taken the train to the “Park Entrance”, there were no less than 2,000 people in line to see Machu Picchu. A quick Google search will tell you that during the busy season (May to August), Machu Picchu sees an average of 5,000 visitors A DAY…

I want to be careful here, seeing and touring Machu Picchu is still one of the most cherished moments of my life. It’s truly a World Wonder. However, the Classic 4 Day Trek was definitely made anticlimactic and a bit deflating due to the throngs of people that we stood elbow-to-elbow with as we walked around the grounds of the city.

It was made clear to me that navigating crowds of tourists could affect my experience, the journey to reach Choquequirao is very similar to the one to reach Machu Picchu. This trek is also in a beautiful section of the Andes, yet its culmination is not in the back of a security line, but rather a vast ancient city that you have hours to explore...on your own. It is a difficult hike to access Choquequirao’s ruins, slightly more challenging than the hike to Machu Picchu, but once you arrive, it’s just you and maybe 20 other people. You’re able to camp on the ruins of the city, there is no “Park Entrance”, there are no bag checks, or cafes outside selling over priced drinks. At Choquequirao, there is only you and the ruins.

People have taken notice of Choquequirao’s majesty and plans for construction have been developed to build an AirTrain that will take visitors right to the front of Choquequirao. This AirTrain will drastically increase the number of visitors to the site, which will result in the same types of Disney-like crowds that currently plague Machu Picchu to descend upon Choquequirao as well. The first tourists to arrive by AirTrain are scheduled to arrive in the summer of 2018.

When was the last time you had an opportunity like this - to be one of the first people to experience exploring an ancient civilization that has remained undisturbed for hundreds of years? The window of opportunity to be one of the first people to explore a newly excavated set of ancient ruins is closing. Everything that makes Machu Picchu one of the Wonders of World is shared by Choquequirao, and then some. It is truly a testament to the Incas and their ingenuity for using their resources to thrive in a difficult and unforgiving landscape. Being able to walk around this city, without crowds is truly a magnificent gift.

“All your life has been spent in pursuit of archeological relics. Inside the Ark are treasures beyond your wildest aspirations. You want to see it opened as well as I. Indiana, we are simply passing through history. This, this IS history." 

–Belloq (Paul Freeman) from Raiders of the Lost Ark

Our Fearless Leader - Erik Bayona

Erik Bayona is the founder of Kusa Treks, his lineage traces back to the Incas themselves. He grew up learning stories about Inca history and culture that have been passed down from generation-to-generation. He has traveled on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu over 400 times and is a resident expert on the tours and treks of Peru.

Erik has earned two University degrees, one in tourism and one in archeology. After graduating Erik worked on a cruise ship as a Tour Scout in order to travel the world to better understand global tourism and how to provide guests with life-changing experiences.

In the past 10 years Erik has developed an incredible amount of knowledge and expertise as one of Peru’s best Trek Leaders. Erik has led thousands of guests from around the world on various treks and tours across Peru. He has led groups consisting of: families with children, youth groups, high-school and university students, world travelers, and even a few international celebrities.

Erik was recently interviewed by National Geographic for his work as a tour guide, and his treks have been featured in several publications. Erik has a deep understanding and an infectious enthusiasm for Peruvian culture, Inca history, and the plant/wildlife indigenous to the Andes. His passion and knowledge are what set him apart as a guide and are what qualify him as the owner of Kusa Treks.

Erik’s 10+ years of planning and executing several hundred treks/tours has helped shape his vision for Kusa Treks; which he created to pursue his long-time dream of running a company that provides its guests with an unforgettable experience at each stage of their journey. Any trip planned by Erik is guaranteed to be a life-changing adventure and an experience you will cherish.

Erik currently lives in his home town of Ollantaytambo where he enjoys playing fùtbol and spending time with his wife and 2 children.

We are Kusa Treks

We are Kusa Treks. We take amazing people (like you) on amazing tours and treks of Peru. “Kusa” means “good” or “great” in the Inca language, and we strive to do everything with greatness!

We started Kusa Treks because we believe that the precious moments you get to spend exploring this incredible world should be as close to perfect as possible. Our mission is provide fantastic adventures that are both hassle free and unforgettable. We want your focus, as our guests, to be on the experiences we’ll share on our treks, and not on the headaches of booking them.

Erik Bayona is the founder of Kusa Treks - he is a native to Peru and his heritage links directly to the Ancient Incas. He is passionate about Inca history and the Andes mountain range that their empire inhabited. Erik studied tourism and archeology during University and is a 10 year trekking guide veteran, who has completed over 400 treks to Machu Picchu in his career.

Kusa Treks is passionate about:

  1. Helping the people of Peru

    • We are all responsible to love and help our neighbors as best we can. Kusa Treks takes pride in giving back to our communities and providing work and aid to those who need it.

    • Porters are local men that assist in carrying the supplies on treks. All trekking companies hire Porters, and Kusa Treks is dedicated to making sure our Porters are treated fairly and compensated generously for the work they do.

    • Many of our Treks give back directly to the villages and communities that we pass through, in fact, as a visitor you will have the opportunity to bring toys, school supplies and other goods to share with local children if you so choose.

  2. Preserving Peru

    • Along with taking care of our people, we are passionate about preserving the earth. Kusa Treks practices the highest environmental standards in everything we do. The majority of our treks and tours involve interacting with nature, and we are focused on co-existing with nature, rather than ruining its majesty.

    • Some of our efforts include, serving eco-friendly food, which is organic, pesticide free, and delicious. We also only use biodegradable packaging for our food products and have a strict, “pack out, what you pack in” policy.

    • We travel with a dedicated “environment porter”, whose job is to collect garbage left on the trails by other groups during our hike. And to help pack out the trash we use throughout the trek.

  3. Gaining your trust and exceeding your expectations

    • Taking an international trip is big deal, we get it.  We understand how much trust you are putting in us to make sure you have an unforgettable experience.

    • We take our job incredibly seriously and we are committed to excelling as guides, trek leaders, historians, and friends.

    • Providing you with a phenomenal experience is our only focus and everything we do as a company we do make your trip as enjoyable as possible.

We are Kusa Treks and we can’t wait to share a life-changing experience with you!

 

-- Erik and the Kusa Treks team