While there are generally two seasons in Cusco, a rainy one (November to April) and a dry one (May to October), this doesn’t really tell the full story of weather in the Cusco area. For instance, although December is technically within the rainy season, it’s still a very pleasant time to visit. February is the height of the rainy season, so you won’t want to go trekking during this month but you can still have a great trip exploring all of the Inca ruins (and you won’t be sharing them with all the crowds!). So while planning your Cusco or Machu Picchu trip, there is a lot more to it than just looking at what season it is.
To learn about what to see and do in Peru read our Peru Travel Guide.
The Rainy Season technically runs November through April. However, January through mid-March is the wettest/muddiest time of year and we really don’t recommend traveling during this period unless you have inexhaustible patience and a penchant for mud slogging. While this is just slightly off from our rain calendar below, the ground just seems to dry out more quickly early in the season so a bit of rainy hiking in early-December isn’t as taxing as a mid-March muck-fest.
Actually my favorite months to travel in Cusco are May and October; although there’s some chance for rain, it’s generally very clear, a bit warmer, the landscape is a bit greener (especially in May), and you’ll miss the June-August crowds. Lots of other travelers have really enjoyed hiking and sightseeing in April and early-December as well; late-December travelers usually do experience afternoon showers, but they rarely complain (maybe it’s the holiday spirit).
The Dry Season technically runs from May through October (though I’ve seen some pretty wussie guidebooks recommend that you only visit during the driest of months, namely June through August, which is being overly cautious to say the least). You’re unlikely to encounter much rain, if any, during these months though you should be prepared for all weather if you’re going out trekking.
It should be mentioned that there really isn’t a hot or really cold season. The daytime highs hover between 62 and 69 degrees fahrenheit and nighttime lows are around 43 degrees (closer to 32 degrees June – August).
Of course, here’s the promised month-by-month rain summary that should steer you in the right direction as well (average number of rainy days and average monthly precipitation in total inches).
- January: 17 days & 6 inches
- February: 13 days & 5 inches
- March: 11 days & 4.2 inches
- April: 8 days & 1.8 inches
- May: 3 days & .3 inches
- June: 2 days & .1 inches
- July: 2 days & .1 inches
- August: 2 days & .2 inches
- September: 7 days & .6 inches
- October: 8 days & 2 inches
- November: 12 days & 3 inches
- December: 16 days & 4.5 inches
This info was provided by one of my favorite websites: World Weather & Climate Information. Gotta love a website that cuts to the chase and tells you exactly when to visit.
“When I decided to move to Peru for several months, the timing in my life was perfect – unfortunately, the season was not…or so I thought. Let’s put aside for a moment the fact that this is the first ski season in 27 years that I will not slide gleefully down mountain slopes in a winter wonderland…sorry, I got lost there for a minute. My concern was simple: every “average weather in Cusco” search I conducted brought the same results: something along the lines of “the weather in Cusco can be divided into two very distinctive seasons, the dry season from May to October, and the rainy rest of the year. Sweet. I was scheduled to arrive in Cusco on November 13th. I’m a sun girl (ideally a sun with snow girl), and need regular doses of Vitamin D to charge my batteries. So, of course I was a little concerned that I was about to enter a Seattle-esque winter in the southern hemisphere…
Average temperature and precipitation numbers, and the corresponding graphs, don’t give the best idea of what the rainy season is actually like in Cusco. I would also like to add my own caveat about ‘averages’ here: weather is crazy all over the world these days. Whatever you want to link it to, Mother Nature has been having some mood swings in recent years, so the weather’s not quite as predictable these days.
I can only give my personal account of this rainy season, and I will have to say I’m pleasantly surprised. My experience has been – to put it simply – so far, so good. Aside from a couple of consistently rainy weeks around Christmas, it seems like each day offers at least a few hours of strong, wonderful sunshine, and the rain tends to come in relatively quick, heavy showers. Think southern Florida, not Seattle.
The mornings are generally beautiful, so I take advantage of this time to go for a hike or a ride above the city and enjoy the view of the clouds breaking up over the mountains as the sun’s rays intensify. If it’s going to rain, it generally rolls in mid-afternoon or in the evening, often without advance notice. Probably the best piece of advice I can offer is to always be prepared for rain; carry your rain jacket or an umbrella where ever you go. And, if you’re booking a multi-day trek (keep in mind the Inca Trail is closed in February), definitely be prepared for some soggy days. I’m not predicting the weather (weather forecasts don’t even exist here), I’m just saying be prepared. Overall, you may also be pleasantly surprised by the rainy season in Cusco: if nothing else, you’ll probably be able to find some great deals on hotels and tours and have a little more elbow room to yourself at the popular destinations.
As for me, I’ve just made plans with a friend to ride one of the local downhill classics bright and early tomorrow morning, so I guess I’ll get to test my ‘the sun is always shining, unless you mention it’ theory.”
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