A sizzling strip of coastal desert. Endless snow-capped Andean summits. A humid expanse of rainforest mazed by mighty rivers. These three types of terrain form a triumvirate of completely different climates, ensuring there is no bad time of year to visit Peru.  

This is a tradition-entrenched, festival-focused land, with at least one vibrant celebration a week to add color to your trip. Whether you're a city lover stopping in the famous foodie capital of Lima or an adventurer heading for the Inca Trail, you'll find what you need to plan your perfect Peru vacation here.

June to August is the best time for Andean and Amazonian adventures

Most Western travelers prefer Peruvian winter. This isn't only because it coincides with their main holiday period, but because the crystal-clear weather casts the Andes, where the country’s most popular tourist sights beckon, in sharp sunlight. 

Fascinating festivals also occur, and the tantalizing trekking ground is dry underfoot. Adventure season is in full swing.

The ancient Incan capital of Cuzco grabs the most attention, along with the nearby Sacred Valley, where picturesque, Inca-ruin-dotted gorges invitingly thread through to the greatest site of them all: Machu Picchu.

The big treks – especially the Inca Trail, but others in Sacred Valley and those in snow-bedaubed Cordilleras Huayhuash and Blanca – are also irresistibly beautiful in the brilliant sunshine, but it's peak hiking season and they do get very busy.

June brings an array of fabulous fiestas, which enliven thoroughfares in Cuzco and other regional towns on a near-daily basis, the most notable being Inti Raymi, an Inca celebration of the winter solstice.

Further south down the Andes, Lake Titicaca glitters like a blue jewel, with tempting tradition-rich islands. The Selvámonos festival kicks off in Oxapampa at the end of the month and its live music and cultural celebrations are a wonderful way to spend a week in the valley.

It's dry season in the Amazon Basin too – July is as dry as it gets in the Amazon, even though it's never truly dry there! The sunnier weather in the cloud forest lures birdlife out into the open, including the bright orange-red Andean cock-of-the-rock, Peru’s national bird, which mates at this time.

Down in the low jungle, wildlife is easier to spy than on the riverbanks, and forays down rivers like the Tambopata, near Puerto Maldonado, yield especially diverse sightings.

Lower water levels mean excellent whitewater rafting conditions: the Apurimac, near Cuzco, and the Tambopata are ideal for rapids-riding. Locals take to the streets in Paucartambo in mid-July to celebrate La Virgen del Carmen with music, dancing and colorful costumes – it's like a mini Mardi Gras.

Two travelers look at Machu Picchu.
You'll have many trails to yourself during shoulder season © sharptoyou / Shutterstock

September to November is best for quiet hikes and surfing without crowds

It's shoulder season everywhere, particularly in the Andes, where clear sunny days linger through September. For trekkers who prefer to have the mountains to themselves, this is the best time to go – utter solitude beckons on many hiking routes.

The Inca Trail is always well-trodden, but alternatives such as the Salkantay Trek, where you traverse a 4630m (15,190ft) pass loftier than any point on the Inca Trail, allow you to lose the crowds.

September also marks the end of the jungle’s dry season, so it's a good time to try rainforest trekking or wildlife-watching on a boat trip from Iquitos or Puerto Maldonado before the spring rains descend and make travel trickier.

As the action in the interior decreases, it's pre-peak season on the coast. Toward late spring, the thick garúa (coastal fog) that's been enveloping Lima since July begins to lift, but it's still worth visiting Peru’s dynamic gastronomic capital earlier. 

Temperatures are rising along the country’s sandy beaches, but the masses have not yet checked in. By November, waves at Peru’s best surfing spots – including the home of the planet’s longest left wave at Puerto Chicama – are approaching their cresting best. 

Día de los Muertos is celebrated all over the country at the start of the month. Though this occasion is about loved ones who have passed away, the atmosphere is anything but somber – it's a celebration of love and life.

People sand-boarding in Peru
Sandboarding down the dunes at Huacachina is the region’s greatest adrenalin rush © Jan-Niklas Keltsch / Shutterstock

December to February is the best time for beach lovers

This is the season to see Peru’s magnificent beaches at their best. Sunbathing on the searingly warm northern beaches is delightful – temperatures routinely hover in the 30°C to 40°C (86°F to 104°F) realm, and crowds flock to see-and-be-seen resorts like trendy Máncora.

Cusco hosts the biggest celebrations for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8 – a national holiday in Peru.

It's peak surfing season too. But for a different coastal experience, take a boat trip to the rarely glimpsed mangrove forests near Tumbes, or to the rocky sealife sanctuary of Islas Ballestas near Paracas, where sea lion pups are born in January.

From Paracas, it's a straight shot inland to Peru’s most colossal dunes at Huacachina – sandboarding down is the coastal region’s greatest adrenalin rush. Lima is largely garúa-free, so capitalize and try activities like paragliding over the city.

Inland, the wet season is at its height, and the Inca Trail is closed through February. Carnaval kicks off at the end of February and Latin America's biggest party is celebrated in style across the entire country.

People with multicolored dresses and hats marching during the celebration of the Palm Sunday of Easter at Ayacucho city, Peru
Ayacucho has the biggest celebrations during Semana Santa © Mauro_Repossini / Getty Images

March to May is best for budget travelers and festival fanatics

With the exception of the riotous pre-Easter revelry of Semana Santa (Holy Week), this is a wallet-friendly time to visit Peru. Summer’s manic crush of visitors is over, the coast retains pleasant weather through March and deals can be struck as popular spots try to eke out their custom.

Carnaval season in Peru continues from February into March with an explosion of color and celebrations everywhere.

It's not yet high season in the Andes or the Amazon, despite increasingly sun-kissed weather and bursts of bewitching greenery tinting the slopes, so accommodation and tours will be well below high-season tariffs.

The coastal strip entices as grapes ripen to the picking point, erupting in Ica’s wine-harvesting celebration, Fiesta de la Vendimia, in the second week of March.

Up in the mountains, against a canvas of steadily improving dry, bright weather, May can rival high season in terms of eye-popping festivals. 

Marvel at the spectacle of El Señor de Muruhuay, one of South America’s biggest pilgrimages held near Tarma, or the intriguing religious celebration of Fiesta de las Cruces, in cities like Cuzco, Ayacucho, and Lima. 

This article was first published March 2021 and updated November 2023

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