When is the best time to hike the Inca Trail?

Inca Trail - intipata

If you’re wondering when the best time to hike the Inca Trail or go trekking in Peru is, you’ve come to the right place! In this blog, we provide detailed information about Peru’s climate and how it affects hiking in Cusco and other parts of the country. We also cover the rainy season in Peru. The rainy season can significantly impact trekking around Cusco and the Inca Trail, which is closed in February due to the weather.

When planning your Inca Trail hike, you’ll also want to consider the best time to visit Machu Picchu and Cusco, as these are must-see attractions in the Cusco area.

Key Questions Travelers Ask When Planning a Trip to Peru:

  • When is the best time to hike the Inca Trail?
  • What is the best time to visit Machu Picchu?
  • When is the best time to visit Cusco, Peru?
  • Inca Trail Trekking Tips: Best Time to Hike the Inca Trail

What is the Best Time to Hike the Inca Trail?

So, you want to know: “When is the best time to hike the Inca Trail?” In short, there’s no single answer: each season has its own advantages and disadvantages. The dry season offers more route options and more comfortable and less risky hiking conditions. However, being the high season, tourist traffic is intense in Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and the mountain trails.

The best time to hike the Inca Trail is generally considered to be from May to August, when days are bright and sunny, and nights are cold. With good visibility, you should enjoy clear views of the distant snow-capped mountains and warmth while you hike. Early September sees some rains, with more rain expected in October and November.

Since the best time of year to hike the Inca Trail is from May to August (coinciding with the summer holidays in the Northern Hemisphere), you’ll find that Inca Trail permits sell out many months in advance. Before COVID, you needed to book up to 6-8 months in advance for high-season dates. We expect that once tourism recovers, the Inca Trail will be as popular as ever!

Inca Trail Permits and Availability

Inca Trail permits that typically sell out quickly include dates around Easter and Corpus Christi (May/June). These dates are movable dates each year. Fixed dates that also sell out well in advance include those around the solstices: June 21 and December 21, and other popular dates around Inti Raymi (June 24) and Christmas and New Year’s.

Even though Christmas and New Year fall in the heart of the rainy season in the Andes, many people choose to escape the Northern Hemisphere winter and hike in Peru during this period. Imagine visiting Machu Picchu on New Year’s Day – it would be very special! Additionally, there are charming Christmas celebrations in Cusco, including the Santikurakay market described in Christmas in Peru.

tour guide enjoying the view on the inca trail

So, when is the best time to hike the Inca Trail?

In our opinion, the shoulder months of April, September, and October are the best months to hike the Inca Trail. So, you get the best of both worlds – less crowded conditions in the cities and hopefully not too much rain.

April, early May, and September are right next to the high season, meaning the city and trails aren’t yet packed with tourists and hikers. As the seasons begin to change, these are also the months with the best weather.

If I had to choose, I’d say late April is the best time of year to hike the Inca Trail, as the mountains are green, whereas by late summer, they’re a pale yellow or brown. Of course, it’s wise to avoid Easter, which sometimes falls in late April.

Daytime/Nighttime Averages and Precipitation for the Inca Trail and Cusco

Here’s an introduction to the best times of the year to hike the Inca Trail.

January – Inca Trail

Daily high temperatures around 19°C/66°F, nighttime lows around 7°C/45°F. Expect 18 days of rain, bringing a total of 145mm/5.7 inches of rain. Remember that in January, it rains almost every day, although there are beautiful bursts of sunshine when it can feel hot and humid.

May – Inca Trail

Daily high temperatures around 19°C, nighttime lows around 2°C, rarely dropping below -1°C. Rainfall is minimal, maybe 2 days of rain with about 5mm/.3 inches of rain.

August – Inca Trail

Daily high temperatures around 18°C, nighttime lows between 1°C and 3°C, rarely dropping below -2°C. Rainfall is similar to May overall.

October – Inca Trail

Daily high temperatures around 20°C; nighttime lows between 5°C and 6°C. Rainfall is about 40mm or 1.6 inches per month with many good days.

Month-by-Month Guide to Hiking the Inca Trail

Note: Weather, as with all places in the world, is unpredictable, but this is a fairly accurate guide to what each month offers for hiking the Inca Trail.


January is the rainiest month in the Andes, so expect heavy rains every day. While the rains can come in the form of hail, or even snow and sleet at high altitudes, they have a tropical pattern and usually occur in the afternoons. That said, after the New Year rush, the Inca Trail is less crowded than at other times of the year. Note that rockfalls can occur, which have caused injuries and fatalities in the past.

One advantage of hiking the Inca Trail in the rainy season is that, unlike other trails in the Andes, much of the Inca Trail is paved, making it solid and relatively dry. On other trails, the path can be slippery or muddy, making hiking uncomfortable.

Read more at: Inca Trail in January


February is also an extremely rainy month on the Inca Trail, which is why it’s closed. You’ll see information saying February is rainier than January, but hey, it’s wet. By February, the steep mountainsides are loose and slippery, and this month is considered the most dangerous due to landslides and rockfalls.

Essential maintenance is performed on the Inca Trail in February! If you can only vacation in February, don’t despair: Machu Picchu remains open, and there are other good rainy-season hikes, such as the Lares trek and Machu Picchu.

Read: Why is closed Inca Trail in February?


The Inca Trail opens for the year in March and can be a good time to hike with less rain and daily sunshine. The trails tend to be less crowded, and everyone is fresh and full of anticipation for the year. In our opinion, it’s a good time to hike unless the rains last longer than usual and there is some risk of landslides.

Read more at: Inca Trail in March


In our opinion, the best time of year to hike the Inca Trail is April. It should be quite dry and sunny, and there aren’t as many tourists. Check your calendar when booking, as Easter often falls in April.

Read more at: Inca Trail in April


One of the driest months and the best time to hike the Inca Trail is May, especially early May. If you are fascinated by the mix between Andean traditions and Christian religions, you might want to plan your trip around the Corpus Christi festivities, which are a movable date that also falls in May. The QollorRiti festival dates are the 4 days before Corpus Christi and are for hardy travelers wishing to see something out of this world.

Read more at: Inca Trail in May


Dry during the days, cold at nights, June is often described as the best time of year to hike the Inca Trail. Not only is the weather good, but Inti Raymi, the Sun Festival, takes place on June 24 and is usually the busiest time of year in Cusco.

Read more at: Inca Trail in June


Another excellent month to hike the Inca Trail, but note that Peru’s national holiday is in late July (July 28/29), and it is also a busy time for Peruvians to undertake the Inca Trail or visit Machu Picchu by train.

Read more at: Inca Trail in July


The weather in August for the Inca Trail is very similar to June and July, and it is another very popular month to hike the Inca Trail. The only downside we can think of is that there are fewer festivals in Cusco in August, so you won’t experience some of these colorful Peruvian traditions.

Read more at: Inca Trail in August


We believe September is one of the best times of year for the Inca Trail, with generally dry days and occasional rains. Nights are slightly warmer than the freezing mid-winter months, and often, with the Northern Hemisphere summer ending, there are fewer people traveling.

Read more at: Inca Trail in September


If you choose to hike the Inca Trail in October, you should be rewarded with slightly warmer weather, though rain is now more frequent. Permits might not sell out as far in advance as between May and August. One of our favorite things about October is that it is the ‘Purple Month’, and it’s common to see devotees of the Lord of Miracles dressed in purple. If you’re lucky, you might be in Cusco or Lima on one of the major feast days – it’s worth checking out!

Read more at: Inca Trail in October


November marks the beginning of the rainy season, sometimes very quickly! However, you might get good hiking conditions and likely won’t need to book your Inca Trail pass as far in advance.

Read more at: Inca Trail in November


While December is definitely wet (you can expect around 5 inches/125mm of rain during the month), it is also a popular holiday time for both Peruvians and international travelers. There can be a lot of activity around Christmas and New Year, as these permits sell out well in advance.

Read more at: Inca Trail in December

Best Time to Hike in Peru

When considering the best time to travel to Peru, trekking in the rainy season can be quite pleasant, especially if you’re well-prepared with excellent rain gear! The rains turn the mountains a bright green, giving you a completely different perspective of the Andes. Being the low season, it can be a good time to fully experience the remoteness of the routes and enjoy the high Andean solitude.

February is another great month. It is the warmest time of the year and also when Carnival is celebrated in the Andes, a crazy time when strangers attack each other in the streets with water balloons, water guns, and foam. It is also the best time to visit Machu Picchu. With the Inca Trail closed, the number of daily visitors to the site is significantly reduced, meaning you’ll have much more quality time to engage with Inca history and enjoy the beautiful views. The mist that often envelops the site this time of year only adds to its ethereal appeal!

Being in the peak of the low season also means February is when tourists have the most bargaining power! Some might consider it the best time to travel to Peru, as great deals on food and accommodation are often found.

That said, some routes are impossible to hike during the rainy season. This is due to the unpredictability of the weather and trail conditions. On most routes, you are likely to experience mud, rockfalls, fog, snow, river swelling, and general slipperiness on the trail. The best rainy-season hikes are the Lares Trek and the Inca Trail.

Trekking in Peru: Wet Season vs Dry Season

Outside the city, temperatures and conditions can vary from those experienced in the city. The Sacred Valley is generally warmer than Cusco, as it is situated at a lower elevation but is also usually windier. Most hiking routes pass through elevations much higher than Cusco, meaning temperatures are generally a few degrees cooler. During the rainy season, when it rains in Cusco or the Sacred Valley, you can expect snow at higher elevations!

Best Time to Visit Peru

The best times to visit Peru largely depend on the climate, so to answer “When is the best time to travel to Peru?” we will spend a lot of time discussing Peru’s weather!

Peru is located in the Southern Hemisphere, where winter runs approximately from June to August and summer from December to February. The Andes (the area around Cusco and Machu Picchu) experience two distinct seasons: the dry season and the wet season. The dry season runs roughly from May to September, and the wet season from November to March; April and October are considered “shoulder months” experiencing mixed weather as the seasons begin to change.

This is essentially opposite to the weather experienced on the coast, including Lima. On Peru’s coast, during the Southern summer months, the coast experiences warm temperatures, lots of sunshine, and virtually no precipitation; during winter, it is cooler, constantly cloudy, and occasionally has light rain.

So, the best time to visit Peru depends heavily on where you want to go and what you want to do! Peru has a colorful and activity-filled festival calendar, and that also helps answer the question: “best time to go to Peru?”

We should also add that Peruvians tend to travel locally during the following holidays:

  • Easter
  • Independence Day
  • Christmas

These are usually very busy times in Cusco and Machu Picchu!

Best Time to Visit Cusco

Cusco is located in the heart of the Andes, so we need to look at the weather in Cusco – and the festival calendar! In my opinion, these two elements dictate the best time to go to Cusco!

Cusco city tour - coricancha and the main plaza of cusco

As the name suggests, the dry season in the Andes experiences the lowest average precipitation during the year, and this is what makes it the high tourist season: less rain makes traveling in the mountains easier, both by vehicle and on foot. In Cusco, daytime temperatures during the dry season can be quite warm as the sun is intense, but the nights are extremely cold and frequently drop to below freezing.

The Dry season in Cusco

The dry season in Cusco starts in late April or May and is one of my favorite times of the year. The mountains remain lush and green, but the days are sunny and not too cold. By June, the land begins to dry out and turn a straw-yellow color: the nights are freezing, but days in the sun can be hot, and you can wear short sleeves. June in Cusco is the “month of festivals” and from early in the month, the streets fill with dancing people; this culminates in a massive city-wide party on June 23, when all Cusqueños (Cusco residents) dress in red ponchos, and then on June 24, a reenactment of the Inti Raymi celebration is held in Sacsayhuaman and the Plaza de Armas.

cusco, peru, dance-6557354.jpg

If you’re looking for the best time to visit Cusco, definitely check the official festival calendar, as there are tons of festivals throughout the year, and if you can coordinate your dates to see one – well – you won’t regret it!

The Rainy Season in Cusco

During the rainy season, nighttime temperatures are considerably warmer, but the cloudy skies and rain can make it feel quite cold. At this time of year, the rains are more frequent and can sometimes be quite intense; however, the rains are usually short-lived. Most of the time, you can expect heavy rain in the early afternoon or evening almost every day, but the rest of the day might have sunny breaks.

Read more: Best time to visit Cusco.

Best Time to Visit Machu Picchu/Hike Machu Picchu

For most people, the best time to travel to Peru will coincide with the best time to visit Cusco and Machu Picchu. Therefore, as Cusco is a starting point for the famous ruins, the best time of year to travel to Machu Picchu is the dry season.

A significant difference between the Cusco area and Machu Picchu is that the ruins are at a lower altitude, known locally as the “eyebrow of the jungle” or high jungle. This means it is green year-round and generally warmer and more humid than Cusco.

Machu Picchu itself does not host any festivals, though it is always busier than usual on the summer and winter solstices, which occur on June 21 and December 21. The Inca builders of Machu Picchu were so talented that when the first light of dawn on the winter solstice rises, the first light shines through one of the two windows of the Temple of the Sun and lands on the special stone inside. The second window does the same on the summer solstice.

If you cannot hike the Inca Trail, don’t despair: there is a wonderful variety of alternative hikes in Peru, including the well-known Salkantay trek and lesser-known options like the Ancascocha trek.

Read more at: Best time to visit Machu Picchu.

So: Best Time to Hike the Inca Trail and Trek in Peru

There you have it: we’ve shared with you more than 15 years of experience trekking in the Andes! There’s been sun, rain, hail, snow, and sleet!!! To clarify: we are not bloggers who just took a trip through the Andes; we have been there and experienced all the seasons. We hope our information about when is the best time to hike the Inca Trail and indeed trek in Peru is useful and enlightening. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get out and hike Peru!

AdventureInPeru, a 100% Cusco-based local tour operator.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *