August is prime winter in Peru and the country's most consistent dry season, though weather patterns depend on where you are traveling. There are three distinct climate zones:
The desert strip zone: All along Peru's coastline, you'll typically find mild, sunny, and dry in winter with some fog, especially near the capital. This region includes Mancora, Trujillo, Lima, Paracas, and Arequipa. Lima averages highs of 64° F (18° C) and lows of 59° F (15° C). In August, Lima's weather may include a thick, grey sea mist that lingers over the city that brings a chill. North of Lima, it gets warmer and sunnier as you get closer to the equator.
The Andean or highland zone: You will likely not see little to no rain in August and cooling temperatures (especially at night) that vary depending on your altitude. This region includes Huaraz, Machu Picchu, Cusco, and Lake Titicaca. Cusco has temperatures with highs around 68° F (20° C) and lows around 36° F (2° C).
- The large eastern area covered by the Amazonian forest: This region, including Iquitos, Tarapoto, Manu, and Puerto Maldonado, has warm and humid weather throughout the year with the least amount of rain in August—about six inches of rain compared to 14 inches in March (the tropical downpour usually occurs in the afternoon). Iquitos tends to see highs around 88° F (31° C) and lows around 70° F (21° C).
Crowds & Costs
August is the busiest season for international tourism, given there’s no rain and the skies are clear for hiking and sightseeing in the Andes and the jungle. This is also when North and South Americans and Europeans have their summer vacations, so be sure to book your tours and accommodations several months in advance if you’re visiting during this time. (Hint: Inca Trail permits go on sale in January and popular months sell out quickly.)
Since it is low season along the coast, August is a great time to visit the beach towns, especially north of Lima, where the weather is still good and rates tend to be lower than its prime season: December through March.
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Where to Go
Peru's interior, specifically the Sacred Valley, is usually a must for international visitors. Machu Picchu is the most popular and important of all Incan ruins, and the Inca Trail is the only way to hike directly into the park through the Sun Gate, though August will experience peak crowds. A great alternative trail is the Salkantay Trek—a lesser-known 5-day trek to Machu Picchu where you'll hike past coffee farms, glacial lakes, and rugged snowcapped peaks before lowering into the dense cloud forest for your approach to the Incan ruins.
Another great trekking area, and much less crowded, is the Cotahuasi Canyon, the world's deepest canyon, located in the high Andes northwest of Arequipa. There are many trail options ranging from one-day hikes to a six-day trek.
For those interested in experiencing Peru's Amazon rainforest, this is the best time of year to visit. The area possesses the planet’s highest levels of biodiversity and is one of the wildest places on earth with coiling rivers, cloud forests, indigenous communities, and wildlife. You can combine a trip to the jungle with the Inca Trail on this 12-day tour.
A hidden gem, Northern Peru is an area that is often overlooked by tourists. Here you can find beautiful landscapes with countless bird species, pre-Incan archaeology including the adobe city of Chan Chan, and abundant nature in the cloud forest with ample opportunities for treks, hiking and exploring lakes and waterfalls. Here's a 10-day itinerary in the northern Peruvian Andes, Huaraz & Cordillera Huayhuash Trekking.
You'll find few crowds along Peru's coastline this time of year due to the winter season. Beach-goers should head north to surf towns like Máncora with warmer weather thanks to the equator. Further south is Paracas National Reserve with sand dunes and cliffs, and a diverse species of birds, fish, and marine mammals. There are also archaeological remnants of pre-Columbian cultures.
What to Do
Trekking in the highlands: Peru's Andean range has long attracted lovers of the great outdoors, and trekking is by far the most popular activity. There are numerous multi-day opportunities to choose from other than Machu Picchu; check out a list of the Best 10 Treks in Peru. For shorter hikes, here's a list of the Best Day Hikes in the Sacred Valley near Cusco, many that include visits waterfalls, caves, and hot springs
Sightseeing in Lima: Despite the fact that it hardly ever rains here, this layover city often gets overlooked for Cusco. But Peru's capital is rich in history and culture with beautiful architecture, cathedrals, interesting museums, a growing culinary scene (including #6 and #7 on The World's 50 Best Restaurants list, nightlife, and great shopping. Make sure to spend an evening watching the sunset overlooking the bluffs at Miraflores.
History & Inca ruins: Within the Sacred Valley near Cusco, you'll find a host of ruins like Ollantaytambo, Sacsayhuaman, and Pisac. While these sites are smaller and more spread out than Machu Picchu, you’ll have your fill of Spanish colonial villages, handicraft markets, and Incan history if you manage to visit them all. Also, straddling the border between Peru and Bolivia is Lake Titicaca, said to be the birthplace of the Incas, with numerous ruins.
Hiking, biking & rafting: This is a great time of year for combining any or all of these activities with many options, like this two-week option in Southern Peru.
Cruising the Amazon River: August is an excellent time to head to Peru's jungle region with many options for hiking, canoeing, and birdwatching. For more adventurous types, you can take a river rafting expedition—or simply opt for a relaxing river cruise through Peru's wild jungle. Here's a list of the best river cruises ranging from 2 to 12 days.
Sample local cuisine: Brave diners should try the guinea pig dish called cuy, Peru’s most authentic edible experience, often found in highland towns like Cusco and the Urubamba Valley. Also look for fresh ceviche and fish (especially along the coast), stir-fried beef, and creamy chicken dishes. Potatoes have been cultivated in the Andes for 10,000 years and there are a dizzying number of types on offer (great with spicy cheese sauce). Also, make sure to try the picarones, or Peruvian donuts.
Peru is known for its many festivals, with literally thousands of them held all over the country every year. Here are a few to look out for:
Day of the Pachamama: These ancient worship ceremonies begin on the evening of August 1 in honor of Mother Earth as a way to thank for the crops.
Anniversary of Arequipa: On August 15th, this festival in Arequipa is celebrated with serenades, the parade of friendship and fairs, etc.
Feast of Santa Rosa de Lima: Taking place every year on August 30th, major processions in Lima, Arequipa, and Junín honor the patron saint of Lima and of the Americas. Santa Rosa de Lima was the first native-born American saint canonized by the Catholic Church, and her legacy is celebrated throughout the world, with the grandest festivities take place in her home country of Peru. Celebrations and memorials take place throughout the country, the most famous being in Santa Rosa de Quives just outside of the capital city itself.