We recommend traveling to the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu any time from March through December. The most popular months to travel for both destinations is April and May, and trips sell out very far in advance. June, July, & August are the second most popular time to visit both. March, September, October, November, and December aren’t as popular, but all have their good points, including smaller crowds.
In Peru, the high and low seasons correspond with the weather. In the Galapagos, the High Season and Low Season mostly correspond with holidays. The Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter Holidays are the busiest times in the Galapagos, and it can be very challenging to find a great cruise available over these dates, unless you are booking a year or more in advance. Summer and spring break times are also very busy. The Low Season is usually any time outside of these periods: after New Year’s in January, February, and September through the first half of December. Sometimes it’s possible to get a discount for traveling during the Low Season, but it depends on the boat.
December to April
Peru: The average high temperature for December to April is 65F (18C), and the average low is 39F (4C).
The rainy season starts in early December, and continues to about mid March. But traveling at the beginning or end of the rainy season is still a good time to travel.
December and March have rain nearly every day, but usually not a ton of rain at once. December is the end of the dry season, so the landscape is still quite dry and brown. March, at the tail end of the rainy season, is considered the start of the green season. The rain is less frequent, but the landscape is lush and green.
April is a lovely month. The rain has tapered off, everything is green and lush. It’s still possible to get rain occasionally, as it’s not quite in the dry season yet.
January and February are the rainiest months. We recommend avoiding traveling in Peru during these months, as there can be mud slides that make travel difficult. The Inca Trail is closed during February for maintenance.
Galapagos Islands: The daytime temperatures average between 77F – 88F (25C – 31C). It cools off a bit a night, but it never gets cold.
This is summer in the Galapagos. It can get really hot, with the warmest months being February and March. It can rain every day, but the Galapagos is a really dry place, so the it never rains all day every day. You might get a bit of rain in the afternoon, either a sprinkle or a downpour.
This is the time of year when the water temperature is the warmest: 73F – 78F (23C – 26C). This is a lovely time to snorkel and play in the water. Some people don’t need a wet suit during these months, but it’s not tropical warm. If you do wear a wetsuit, you can stay in the water longer more comfortably, and have more opportunities to see wildlife!
These months are when the currents are the most calm, and you won’t feel a lot of motion while on a boat or snorkeling. When you’re in the Galapagos, you’re very protected by all of the islands, so it’s very rare that you’re in open ocean. When you’re crossing between islands, there will definitely be waves and currents, it’s not flat water everywhere. But during this time of year, the water is very calm, nearly flat, when you’re in sheltered areas.
The wildlife in the Galapagos doesn’t migrate, so you’ll always be able to see most of the iconic wildlife of the islands! The only exception to this is the waved albatross. The albatross migrate away from their home base of Española Island from December through April. During this time of year, when the water is warmer, there are fewer nutrients in the water, so the marine wildlife isn’t as active. The currents are calmer, so the visibility is better, but the wildlife isn’t as active as when the water is colder, so it’s a bit of a trade off. You’ll still see a lot of wildlife though!
May to November
Peru: The average high temperature is 65F (18C), and the average low is 30F (-1C). It is cooler during this time of year, but the difference in at night. While the day time temperatures don’t change much throughout the year, it is colder at night from May to November. And it is drier this time of year. There is less likely to be rain, with the driest months being July and August.
It’s very green during May and June. The rainy season tapers off in April, and the landscape is lush and verdant. This is a very popular time to go, because of the great weather and the summer solstice (June 20 or 21) brings lots of local festivals.
In July and August, you have the driest weather in southern Peru. You are still high up in the mountains, so there is always the possibility of rain, but these are the driest months. The vegetation is starting to dry out, and the mountains are more brown than green. This is definitely not a bad thing! The mountains and landscapes are stunning no matter what time of year you go. This is one of the busiest times of year, because of the great weather and a lot of people are traveling on summer holidays.
In September through November, it’s a bit of a transition season. It is mostly dry. There are occasional rain showers, but it’s definitely not the rainy season. These dates aren’t as popular to travel to Peru, but that is mainly because it’s after the summer holidays, when more people travel. You’ll have fewer crowds during this time!
Galapagos Islands: The daytime temperatures average between 68F – 80F (20C – 27C). It cools off a bit a night, but it never gets cold.
This is winter in the Galapagos, and when you’ll find the coolest weather. It’s also drier. The Galapagos is generally always quite dry, but there’s less likely to be rain. It is also the Garua Season, so you will have high misty clouds in the morning, usually burning off by noon.
This is the time of year when the seas in the Galapagos is influenced by the Humboldt Current, which brings cold water to the islands. The water temperature is 70F – 74F (21C – 23C). In La Nina conditions, the water temperature can be approximately 5F (3C) cooler. We recommend that you always wear a wetsuit, even in the warmer months, because you can stay in the water longer, more comfortably, and see more wildlife!
These months are when the currents are less calm, and you will feel a lot of motion while on a boat or snorkeling. That being said, the waves are never very big in the Galapagos. You’re very protected by all of the islands, so it’s very rare that you’re in open ocean. But if you’re very susceptible to sea sickness, we recommend that you avoid during September or October.
The wildlife in the Galapagos doesn’t migrate, so you’ll always be able to see most of the iconic wildlife of the islands! This season is when you will be able to see the waved albatross on Española Island. While the strong currents decrease visibility while snorkeling, the colder water brings more nutrients that feed all of the numerous marine animals, so the underwater wildlife is often more active during this time.
NOTE: Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu are high in elevation (8,000 – 11,000 ft / 2,440 – 3,350 m), and the weather can change at any time. While these descriptions of the weather are the general trend, you should always be prepared for hot sunshine, cold rain, and everything in between.