The best time to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu depends on your preferences for weather, crowd levels, and overall trekking experience. The dry season from May to September offers the most stable conditions. It is ideal for most hikers, while the shoulder seasons of April and October provide a balance between favorable weather and fewer crowds. If you prefer a quieter, more budget-friendly trek and don’t mind the rain, the wet season from November to March (excluding February) might be suitable for you.

Learn how Cusco's vibrant festivals and events, such as Inti Raymi and Fiestas Patrias, can influence your hiking plans. Whether you prefer the clear skies of the dry season or the lush landscapes of the rainy season, our Ultimate Travel guide provides all the information you need to plan an unforgettable adventure on one of the world's most iconic trails. Start your journey to Machu Picchu fully prepared and make the most of your once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Seasons and Weather Conditions on the Inca Trail

When planning a hike on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, understanding the seasons and weather conditions is crucial. The climate can greatly affect your experience, from trail conditions to the views you'll enjoy along the way. Here’s a detailed overview of the seasons and how they influence the best time to hike the Inca Trail.

Dry Season (May to September):

The dry season on the Inca Trail typically runs from May to September, offering some of the best conditions for trekking to Machu Picchu. During these months, you'll experience: 

Inca Trail views


  • Clear skies and minimal rainfall are ideal for trekking and viewing the breathtaking landscapes.
  • Pleasant daytime temperatures range from 20°C to 25°C (68°F to 77°F).
  • There is less risk of landslides and muddy trails.


  • Cold nights, with temperatures dropping to around 0°C to 5°C (32°F to 41°F).
  • A higher number of trekkers makes the trail more crowded.

Wet Season (November to March):

The wet season on the Inca Trail, from November to March, brings a different set of conditions and experiences for trekkers. Here’s what to expect during this period:


  • Lush, green landscapes and fewer tourists.
  • Warmer nights compared to the dry season.


  • Increased likelihood of rain, leading to slippery and muddy trails.
  • Risk of landslides and trail closures.
  • The Inca Trail is closed for maintenance in February.

Shoulder Seasons (April and October):

The shoulder seasons of April and October offer a blend of conditions from both the dry and wet seasons, providing a unique and appealing time to hike the Inca Trail. Here’s what you can expect during these transitional months:


  • Moderate weather with less rainfall than the wet season.
  • Fewer crowds compared to the peak months of the dry season.
  • Blooming flowers in April and vibrant greenery in October.


  • Unpredictable weather, with occasional rain showers.
  • Some trail sections may still be muddy from the wet season.
View of Machu Picchu from Sun gate

Crowds and Availability In the Inca Trail

Understanding the crowd levels and availability on the Inca Trail throughout the year can help you plan the perfect trek. Here’s a detailed breakdown by season:

Peak Season (May to September)

  • Busy Trail: This period coincides with the dry season, making it the most popular time for trekking. Expect the trail to be bustling with trekkers, especially in June, July, and August.
  • Social Atmosphere: The high number of hikers creates a lively and social atmosphere. You’ll meet many fellow adventurers, which can be enjoyable and motivating, but it also means crowded campsites and viewpoints.
  • Popular Sites: Major attractions along the trail, such as archaeological sites and scenic spots, will have more visitors, so be prepared for a busier experience.
  • High Demand for Permits: Permits sell out quickly, often months in advance. It’s crucial to book your trek as early as possible, especially if you’re planning to hike in the peak months.
  • Tour Operators: Popular tour operators and preferred dates might be fully booked, so flexibility in your schedule can be beneficial. Consider booking your tour six months to a year in advance to secure your spot.
  • Accommodation: In addition to the trail permits, accommodations in Cusco and Aguas Calientes can also fill up quickly during this period, so it’s wise to book these early as well.

Shoulder Seasons (April and October)

  • Moderate Crowds: Crowd levels are moderate compared to the peak season. Fewer people on the trail mean a good balance of social interaction and peaceful trekking.
  • Quieter Campsites: Easier access to quieter campsites and more personal space at popular spots. This makes for a more relaxed and enjoyable experience.
  • Comfortable Weather: The weather is generally mild, which attracts a decent number of trekkers without overwhelming the trail.
  • Better Permit Availability: Permits are better available, and there are more options for booking with preferred tour operators. It’s still advisable to book in advance, but you’ll have a wider selection of dates and tours.
  • Flexible Planning: Compared to the peak season, you can often secure permits and accommodations with less lead time, allowing for more flexibility in planning your trek.
  • Travel Deals: Some tour operators may offer special deals or discounts during the shoulder seasons, making it a cost-effective time to hike.

Slow Season (November to March)

  • Least Crowded: This is the least crowded time of the year on the Inca Trail. Ideal for those seeking solitude and a more introspective trekking experience.
  • Quiet Trails: Very few trekkers in February, as the trail is closed for maintenance. During the rest of the wet season, you’ll encounter fewer people, offering a more serene and personal journey.
  • Rainy Conditions: Be prepared for frequent rain showers, which can range from light drizzles to heavy downpours. The trail can become muddy and slippery, requiring careful navigation.
  • High Availability of Permits: Permits are more available, and you have greater flexibility in choosing your trekking dates. It's easier to book last-minute trips, though it’s still wise to plan ahead when possible.
  • Discounted Rates: Some tour operators may offer discounts or special rates during this period, making it an economical option for budget-conscious travelers.
  • Accommodations: Hotels and lodges in Cusco and Aguas Calientes are also more likely to be available, often at lower prices than during the peak season.
Intipata - Inca Trail

Festivals and Events in Cusco

Cusco, known as the historical capital of the Inca Empire, is a vibrant city that hosts a variety of colorful festivals and events throughout the year. These events are deeply rooted in the rich cultural heritage of the region and attract many visitors. When planning a hike on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, it’s important to consider these festivals, as they can impact the best time to visit. Here’s a detailed look at the key festivals and how they influence your hiking plans:

Most important Festivals and Events in Cusco

Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun) – June 24

  • Description: Inti Raymi is one of the most significant and spectacular festivals in Cusco. It celebrates the winter solstice and honors the Inca sun god, Inti. The festivities include elaborate reenactments of ancient Inca rituals, traditional dances, and parades, culminating at the Sacsayhuamán archaeological site.
  • Impact on Hiking: June is the peak tourist season, especially around Inti Raymi. Accommodations and permits for the Inca Trail are in high demand. If you want to experience this festival and hike the trail, it’s crucial to book several months in advance.

Corpus Christi – Late May or Early June

  • Description: Corpus Christi is a major religious festival in Cusco, featuring processions where 15 statues of saints and virgins from different districts are brought to the main square, the Plaza de Armas. The event includes traditional music, dances, and a vibrant market.
  • Impact on Hiking: During Corpus Christi, Cusco becomes very crowded, and services may be more expensive. It’s a wonderful time to experience the culture, but expect larger crowds both in the city and on the trail.

Semana Santa (Holy Week) – March or April

  • Description: Semana Santa is a week-long series of religious processions and events leading up to Easter Sunday. It’s a deeply spiritual time with numerous ceremonies, including the famous Lord of Tremors procession.
  • Impact on Hiking: Similar to Corpus Christi, Semana Santa attracts many visitors. Prices for accommodations may rise, and the Inca Trail can be busier than usual.

Fiestas Patrias (Peruvian Independence Day) – July 28-29

  • Description: Fiestas Patrias celebrates Peru’s independence with nationwide festivities, including parades, concerts, and fireworks. Cusco hosts lively events that showcase Peruvian culture and pride.
  • Impact on Hiking: While not as crowded as during Inti Raymi, Cusco is still bustling during Fiestas Patrias. The Inca Trail will see an increase in hikers, so it’s a good idea to plan and book ahead.

Santuranticuy – December 24

  • Description: Santuranticuy is a large artisan fair held on Christmas Eve in the Plaza de Armas. Local artisans sell a variety of crafts and traditional goods, making it a great time to buy unique souvenirs.
  • Impact on Hiking: This festival mainly affects Cusco itself rather than the Inca Trail. The city will be busy, but it won’t significantly impact your hiking plans.
Cusco Corpus Cristi

Best Time to Hike the Inca Trail: Month-by-Month

When planning your hike on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, understanding the weather and conditions throughout the year is essential. Each month offers different experiences, from weather changes to crowd levels. Here’s a detailed month-by-month guide to help you choose the best time for your trek.


January is in the middle of the rainy season, with daytime highs around 19°C (66°F) and nighttime lows around 7°C (45°F). Heavy rainfall is common, making trails muddy and slippery.

The landscape is lush and green, with vibrant plant life, but the high chance of rain makes hiking difficult and sometimes hazardous. Fewer tourists mean quieter trails and more solitude.


February continues the peak rainy season, with temperatures similar to those in January. The Inca Trail is closed for maintenance and to prevent damage, but Cusco still offers rich cultural experiences with fewer tourists in the city. The heavy rainfall and potential landslides are significant cons during this month.


March sees daytime highs around 19°C (66°F) and nighttime lows around 7°C (45°F). Rainfall begins to decrease towards the end of the month, but trails are still wet. The scenery remains lush and green, and gradually improving weather conditions make hiking more feasible. However, significant rain can still lead to muddy trails, making conditions challenging.


April marks the transition to the dry season, with daytime highs around 20°C (68°F) and nighttime lows around 6°C (43°F). There is a marked decrease in rainfall, offering better weather for hiking. Blooming flowers and green landscapes add to the beauty, and fewer crowds compared to the peak season make for a pleasant hiking experience. Early April can still have some rain, so trails might still be slightly muddy.


May brings daytime highs around 21°C (70°F) and nighttime lows around 4°C (39°F). Very little rain marks the start of the dry season, making it ideal for hiking. Clear skies provide excellent views of the surrounding scenery, and moderate crowds make for a comfortable hike. Nights can be quite cold, so warm clothing is necessary.


June offers daytime highs around 21°C (70°F) and nighttime lows around 2°C (36°F). Minimal rainfall ensures clear and dry conditions, perfect for hiking. The Inti Raymi festival in Cusco adds a cultural dimension to your visit. However, it is a high tourist season, so expect crowded trails and higher prices for accommodations and services.


July features daytime highs around 21°C (70°F) and nighttime lows around 1°C (34°F). The dry season continues with almost no rain, making it an excellent time for hiking with clear skies and beautiful views. The Fiestas Patrias celebrations add cultural excitement, but the peak tourist season brings very crowded trails. Booking permits and accommodations well in advance is essential.


August maintains the dry season with daytime highs around 21°C (70°F) and nighttime lows around 2°C (36°F). Consistently good weather makes for pleasant hiking conditions and clear views. It is still peak tourist season, so expect crowded trails. Nights remain cold, requiring warm clothing.


September sees daytime highs around 22°C (72°F) and nighttime lows around 4°C (39°F). The dry season is ending, but there is still minimal rain. This month offers great weather for hiking, with slightly fewer tourists, making the trails less crowded. Clear skies and good visibility enhance the hiking experience.


October has daytime highs around 22°C (72°F) and nighttime lows around 6°C (43°F). It marks the beginning of the transition to the rainy season, with occasional showers. Mild weather and fewer crowds compared to peak months make it a good time to hike. Beautiful landscapes with emerging greenery add to the scenic beauty.


November brings daytime highs around 21°C (70°F) and nighttime lows around 7°C (45°F). The rainy season begins, with more frequent showers. Lush, green landscapes start to emerge, and fewer tourists make for a quieter hike. However, the higher chance of rain makes the trails muddy, and the less predictable weather can complicate planning.


December has daytime highs around 20°C (68°F) and nighttime lows around 7°C (45°F). Frequent rain, but still some sunny days, characterize this month. The scenery is green and vibrant as the rainy season sets in, and the festive atmosphere in Cusco with Christmas and New Year celebrations adds to the experience. The high chance of rain and muddy trails can make hiking challenging, and crowds increase during the holiday season.

Phuyupatamarca Inca Trail

Frequently Asked Questions

Planning your hike on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu involves considering many factors, including the best time to go. Here are the ten most frequently asked questions about the best time to hike the Inca Trail, with detailed answers to help you make an informed decision.

What is the best month to hike the Inca Trail?

The best months to hike the Inca Trail are from May to September, which fall during the dry season. These months offer clear skies, mild temperatures, and the best trail conditions, making your hike more enjoyable and safer.

Is it possible to hike the Inca Trail during the rainy season?

Yes, it is possible to hike the Inca Trail during the rainy season, which lasts from November to March. However, it can be quite challenging due to muddy and slippery trails. February is an exception, as the trail is closed for maintenance. If you choose to hike during the rainy season, be prepared for wet conditions and potential delays.

How does the weather affect the hike?

Weather greatly impacts the hiking experience on the Inca Trail. During the dry season (April to October), you can expect clear skies and mild temperatures, providing ideal conditions for hiking and photography. In contrast, the rainy season brings heavy rains, making the trails muddy and slippery, which can be dangerous and uncomfortable. Additionally, views of the surrounding mountains and valleys may be obstructed by clouds and fog.

Are there fewer crowds at certain times of the year?

Yes, there are fewer crowds during the rainy season (November to March) and the shoulder months of April and October. Hiking during these times offers a more solitary experience, allowing you to enjoy the trail without the large groups typically seen in the peak season. However, the trail conditions can be more challenging due to rain and mud.

What are the temperatures like on the Inca Trail?

Temperatures on the Inca Trail can vary significantly. During the day, temperatures typically range from 19°C to 22°C (66°F to 72°F). At night, especially at higher altitudes, temperatures can drop to between 1°C and 7°C (34°F to 45°F). It’s important to pack layers to stay comfortable in these varying conditions.

Do I need to book in advance?

Yes, it is highly recommended to book your hike well in advance, especially during the peak season from May to September. The Inca Trail has a limited number of permits available each day, and these can sell out months in advance. Booking early ensures you secure your spot and can plan your trip without last-minute stress.

What are the benefits of hiking during the dry season?

The dry season offers numerous benefits for hikers. The weather is generally better, with less rain and more stable trail conditions. Clear skies provide stunning views of the surrounding scenery, including the iconic Machu Picchu. However, it’s also the most popular time to hike, so you’ll need to contend with more crowds and potentially higher prices for accommodation and services.

How do festivals in Cusco affect my hike?

Festivals like Inti Raymi in June and Fiestas Patrias in July attract many tourists to Cusco, creating a lively and culturally rich atmosphere. These events can enhance your overall experience, but they also mean more crowds and higher prices for accommodations and services. If you plan to hike the Inca Trail during these times, be sure to book your permits and lodging well in advance.

What should I pack for different seasons?

Packing appropriately for your hike is crucial. During the dry season, pack layers for cold nights and warm days, including a good hat for sun protection. In the rainy season, waterproof gear is essential. Bring a rain jacket, waterproof pants, and a waterproof cover for your backpack to keep your belongings dry. Regardless of the season, always pack sturdy hiking boots, a warm sleeping bag, and enough food and water for your journey.

Are there any months to avoid hiking the Inca Trail?

February is the month to avoid because the trail is closed for maintenance. Additionally, hiking during the peak rainy months, such as January and February, can be particularly challenging due to heavy rainfall and poor trail conditions. If possible, plan your hike for a different time to ensure a safer and more enjoyable experience. Arrival to Machu Pichcu

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