Machu Picchu, a must-see destination for anyone traveling in Peru and for most the main reason of why to even come here in the first place. Countless pictures on the internet show us how beautiful the ancient citadel is. So each one of us wants to take a picture like that as well. However, what if it is raining or cloudy? Or what if there are so many people in the picture because there is a huge wave of visitors that day? Basically: When is the best time to visit Machu Picchu?
So essentially the question is if you want to avoid crowds or rain. Rainy season is generally from November to March and during this time there are way less tourists as most people are not very keen on getting into a heavy rain shower, and there is a great possibility. Also, the view can be very foggy, but with a great chance that it will clear up later. The peak of rainy season is in February. Machu Picchu remains open, however, if you are planning on hiking there via the Inca Trail you will be disappointed, it is closed the whole month due to the heavy rain.
Dry season, generally from May to October, is said to be the best time to visit Machu Picchu. The days are sunny and warm, with colder nights, though. During this time you will probably be able to take the best photos of the once forgotten Inca city. But be aware of the hordes of tourists that will probably also be in your photo. In North America and Europe, the main vacations are in summer there, which means mainly in July, August and September.
March and April as well as October and November are considered as “shoulder months”. That means that you will probably encounter nice weather but rain can be expected. These months are actually perfect for your visit to Machu Picchu. Why? Because the weather is mild and there are not a lot of people. There might be a bit of fog in the mornings, however, it usually clears up later.
Now knowing that, what else is important to know to be able to plan your trips to Machu Picchu? First of all, how to get there: You can either go by bus and train or hike from Cusco to Machu Picchu. There are daily buses that will take you to Ollantaytambo or Poroy train station, the latter with less train frequency, though. From there you can take a train that is operated by either PeruRail or IncaRail. If you prefer a hike and especially the Inca Trail, be aware that you need a ticket for this trail and they are limited. Particularly in dry season, which is also known as “busy season”, tickets can sell out up to six months or a year in advance. There are amazing alternative treks, such as the Salkantay Trek, that has no limited amount of trekkers. For each tour to Machu Picchu you have to go to Cusco first, it is considered as the starting point. Cusco is at around 3,400 m which means that altitude sickness is real. For everyone the effects are different but unfortunately, there is no way around of coming to Cusco first. So how high is Machu Picchu then and will I be affected by altitude sickness? The good news is that Machu Picchu is around 1,000 m lower and altitude sickness can hardly be felt, if any at all.
Next thing is what you need to be able to enter the sanctuary. An entrance ticket is obligatory which is recommendable to be purchased in advance. Since 2019 there are 9 hourly time slots, starting from 6 AM until 2 PM. You have 4 hours in total for your visit, unless you want to do an extra hike like Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu mountain. Both mountains are directly located at Machu Picchu Archeological Site, with Huayna Picchu being by far the more popular one. However, Machu Picchu mountain has gotten popular over the years. It is an around 1,5 hour hike up to the top from where you have an incredible view over the whole citadel including Huayna Picchu. It is a great spot, if not the best, to take amazing pictures of your visit. To be able to do the extra hike you have to include it in your general entrance ticket to Machu Picchu. It is around an extra USD 25.00 pp and it also allows a total stay of approximately 7 hours (for the citadel including Machu Picchu mountain). Remember to take your passport with you, otherwise you will not be able to enter.
Now that with all that information on the best time to visit Machu Picchu, hopefully it will help you to plan your trip better. It is possible to do the visit on one’s own, but there are also countless travel agencies in Cusco that are happy to organize the perfect and most relaxed visit for you.
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