Best time to go to Cusco

If you are thinking of visiting the city of Cusco, Peru, and you don't know the best time to organize your trip, here I give you a hand.

Nicolas Reffray

Nicolas Reffray

9 min read

Best time to go to Cusco

Vista aérea de Machu Pichu |© Guillermo Diaz

Cusco is a destination full of magic. If you want to know it in depth you should know that the climate here is one of the most important factors to take into account when organizing your trip. The city has a dry season and a rainy season. From December to March you are very likely to encounter heavy rainfall, the rest of the year, however, is usually much drier, with warm and pleasant temperatures.

In this article I will tell you everything you need to know to choose the ideal time to visit Cusco and make the most of your trip. There are many things to see and do in Cusco, and many of them are outdoors, so a good weather is essential. Visiting Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley or the Historical Center of the city, for example, are unique experiences that you cannot miss. Read on and you will know when to travel to Cusco.

1. When is the best time to visit Cusco?

Aerial view of Cusco|© Robert Rusell
Aerial view of Cusco|© Robert Rusell

Definitely, the best time to visit Cusco is during the dry season, that is between mid-April and late November. With so many outdoor activities, such as visiting the ruins of Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley, Sacsayhuaman or the Temple of the Sun, it is extremely important to know that we will not have rain.

Although you have to know that the high season in Cusco is from June to August, when the weather is dry and sunny, it is a very busy period in which accommodation prices are usually higher.

The intermediate season from April to May and from September to December can be a good option, as there are fewer tourists, the weather is pleasant and prices are much more reasonable. Finally, the low season is from December to March, in this period there is more rain and temperatures are much cooler, but prices are lower, although nothing guarantees that you can do all the excursions.

Book an excursion to Machu Picchu from Cuzco

2. Best time to visit Cusco if you want to enjoy the ruins of Machu Picchu greened up

Machupicchu,|© Adriana Aceves
Machupicchu,|© Adriana Aceves

If you want to know when is the best time to see the majestic Inca ruins of Machu Picchu greened, let me tell you that everything here has to do with the rains. The months from December to March tend to be very unstable, they register a large amount of rainfall. It is for this reason that Machu Picchu closes in the month of February due to the inaccessibility of the route, and to carry out any maintenance that may be necessary.

When it rains during this period, it is natural that the following months (that is April and May) allow us to appreciate a greened landscape. Finding the ruins in the middle of such an orchard is undoubtedly an incredible experience, more than recommended if you are a photography enthusiast. Anyway, always before booking an excursion, I recommend that you check the weather in Cusco to make sure you don't have any surprises.

Book a tour to Rainbow Mountain from Cuzco

3. Visiting Cusco in May is the best time if you want to enjoy the ruins with few people and save money

Man sitting admiring the ruins|© Louis Hansel
Man sitting admiring the ruins|© Louis Hansel

In the month of May there are still few who are encouraged to visit Cusco, the shadow of the rains is still near, and although rainfall is not very common during this month, temperatures tend to remain unpredictable, with some cold days and quite humid. If you are not one of those who need to count on 25 degrees Celsius to have a good time, May is a very good option, as it is still low season, which will guarantee you lower prices and far fewer tourists.

You will be able to enjoy the main attractions, such as exploring the Temple of the Sun, tasting the delicious Peruvian cuisine or simply strolling through the historic center of the city, which is undoubtedly one of the top 10 things to do in Cusco.

May is also a good month to visit Cusco with children

Although in May the temperatures are not the warmest, the rainy season has already come to an end and the natural environment of the city of Cusco is brimming with greenery. That is why it can be one of the best times to visit Cusco with children. You will be able to enjoy some of the best activities to do in the city with much less people, less queues, and at cheaper prices.

Traveling with children is always an adventure, and in Cusco they will be fascinated by the Inca culture, its stone constructions, its traditions, the colors that flood the city. If you visit Cusco in May, be sure to take a city tour through the center of the city, so the guide can tell them the incredible stories that the city treasures.

Book a guided tour of Cusco

4. Visiting Cusco between May and June is the best time if you want to enjoy the Corpus Christi and Inti Raymi festivities like a local

Corpus Christi procession|©David Stanley
Corpus Christi procession|©David Stanley

If you are interested in experiencing the culture and history of Peru, then visiting Cusco during the months of May and June are ideal, as the festivities of Corpus Christi (late May) and Inti Raymi (June 24) take place.

Corpus Christi is a Catholic celebration that takes place 60 days after Easter Sunday. In Cusco, it is celebrated with an impressive procession that includes hundreds of participants dressed in traditional costumes, carrying banners and flags. This procession culminates at the Cusco Cathedral, where a special mass is held.

On the other hand, Inti Raymi is an Inca celebration that marks the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere and takes place on June 24 at the Sacsayhuaman Fortress, just outside Cusco. During Inti Raymi, traditional ceremonies, dances and processions are held in honor of the sun and Pachamama (Mother Earth). Pachamama is the deity that represents the earth for the native cultures of the Andean region.

Keep in mind that these are very popular festivities in Cusco, so it is the perfect opportunity to feel part of the city and its people. In addition, the color that covers everything on these dates is beautiful, perfect for taking some great pictures.

Book tickets for the Cathedral of Cuzco

5. Visiting Cusco between January and March is the best time if you want to enjoy its picturesque carnivals

Pisaq Carnival, Cuzco|©motoperu
Pisaq Carnival, Cuzco|©motoperu

Cusco is a popular tourist destination throughout the year, but during carnivals, this city is full of life, color and music, making it a must-see place to visit in Peru. The Cusco Carnivals take place in January and March, coinciding with the celebration of Lima's carnival.

However, in Cusco, the carnival has a unique touch, which makes it especially interesting for travelers who want to experience the local culture and history of Peru.

During the celebrations, the streets of Cusco are filled with troupes, musicians and dancers who bring the city to life with their dances and songs. The festival begins with the Ch'alla or ceremony of the blessing of the earth, in which offerings are offered to the Pachamama (Mother Earth) to ask for her protection and fertility.

Afterwards, the city becomes a great stage for dance and music. The streets are filled with people who join the comparsas to dance to the rhythm of traditional Andean music, such as the huaylia or the carnavalito. There are also sports competitions, traditional games and costume contests, in which the people of Cusco show their creativity and skills.

Book the Cuzco tourist bus

6. Visiting Cusco in December and January is the best time if you want to enjoy the Christmas, New Year and Epiphany celebrations

Christmas Day in Cusco|©Vlad Podvorny
Christmas Day in Cusco|©Vlad Podvorny

If you want to know the Andean version of the Christmas and New Year celebrations, then the month of December is the ideal time to visit Cusco. It is a unique experience not to be missed. During these dates, the city is filled with celebrations and rituals that combine the Catholic religion with ancient Andean traditions. In the main square, a large Christmas tree is installed and the streets are decorated with lights and garlands.

December 24th is a very important date for Peruvians, and in Cusco it is celebrated with the traditional Misa de Gallo (Midnight Mass) in the cathedral. If you have the opportunity to visit the city for these dates, you can try some of the typical dishes of the region, such as stuffed turkey, shrimp chupe or aji de gallina.

On December 31, the city prepares to welcome the New Year with a big party in the Plaza de Armas. Here, you can enjoy live music, traditional dances and fireworks. It is also a perfect opportunity to taste the punch, a hot drink that is consumed during the Christmas season.

But the celebrations don't end there. On January 6, the traditional Bajada de Reyes is celebrated, where the images of the Three Kings are carried in procession from the cathedral to the church of La Merced. This is an opportunity to appreciate the religiosity and devotion of the people of Cusco.

Reserve tickets for the Cathedral of Cuzco

Dry season and rainy season in Cuzco

streets of cuzco in the afternoon|© Adrian Dascal
streets of cuzco in the afternoon|© Adrian Dascal

Below, I leave you a comparative table between the dry season and the rainy season in Cusco. You will see that although the thermal difference is not very marked and temperatures remain quite cool throughout the year, the average number of dry days in one and the other is very different:

  • Dry season
  • May - October
  • Climate: dry and temperate
  • Maximum 20ºC during the day
  • Minimum 5ºC at night
  • Dry days: between 23 and 25 per month
  • Rainy season
  • November - April
  • Climate: humid and rainy
  • Maximum 14ºC during the day
  • Minimum 2ºC at night
  • Dry days: between 8 and 10 per month

High season and low season in Cusco city

People in the streets of Cusco|©Renny Gamarra
People in the streets of Cusco|©Renny Gamarra

Beyond the rains and the weather in general, Cusco, like other markedly tourist destinations, has its low season and its high season. It is very important, when organizing your trip, to know the difference between the two, since in low season you can get good lodging options for much lower prices. Also, you will find much less touristic affluence, which will allow you to visit the city in a much more relaxed way.

High season

In Cusco, the months of June, July and August are considered high season, which translates into a more pleasant climate and many more people in the city, higher prices in lodging, and a greater difficulty when booking a tour of its main attractions, such as Machu Picchu, the Sacsayhuaman Fortress, the Sacred Valley, or any of the many destinations you can explore on a full day tour from Cusco. Depending on what you are looking for in your trip, it can be a very good option to organize it in high season.

Low season

The months of November, December, January, February and March are considered low season, meaning that you are more likely to encounter several days of rain, lower temperatures, better lodging prices and less hassle when booking a city tour. This time is perfect if you already know the main highlights of the city and you don't mind a little rain, as Cusco can be really fascinating to visit during these months.

In any case, you can always do indoor activities, such as visiting some of Cusco' s best museums or, for lovers of local flavors, take a Peruvian cooking class.

As you can see, it is always a good time to visit Cusco. Whether you are traveling with children, you are interested in taking excursions to the main Inca ruins or you just enjoy strolling through the city center, visiting this jewel of Peru is an experience you will not forget. Come on, Cusco is waiting for you.

Book a guided tour of Cusco