February is prime summer season in Peru. Due to the country's varying geography, there are different weather patterns depending on where you are traveling. Here are three distinct climate zones:
The desert coastal strip: This area offers pleasantly warm weather in February with lots of sunshine and very little rain. This region includes Mancora, Trujillo, Lima, Paracas, and Arequipa. Peru's coastline near Lima averages highs of 79°F (26°C) and lows of 66°F (19°C) and these popular beaches offer optimal swimming conditions. South of Lima, you'll experience slightly cooler temperatures.
The Andean zone or highlands: February tends to be the warmest and wettest month with temperatures that range depending on your altitude. This region includes Huaraz, Machu Picchu, Cusco, and Lake Titicaca. For other areas of the country, If visiting the Cusco region, you’ll experience highs around 64°F (18°C) and lows around 43°F (6°C) with periods of light to heavy rains. However, the clouds and moisture during this time of year should not deter you from visiting—the flora and fauna will be abundant and there are always breaks in the showers. Keep in mind that certain treks like the Inca Trail are closed for maintenance.
- The large eastern area covered by the Amazonian forest: This area is warm and humid year-round, with more rain this time of year. This region includes Iquitos, Tarapoto, Manu, and Puerto Maldonado. The Amazon jungle near Iquitos tends to see highs around 90°F (32°C) and lows around 72°F (22°C). The tropical rains usually occur in the afternoon in the form of a downpour or thunderstorm.
Crowds & Costs
Due to the wet season in Peru's interior and jungle regions, this is also when tourism slows down for the year. Machu Picchu receives its lowest number of visitors during February, partly due to the fact that terrain in the Andes and Amazon can get quite muddy and popular trails may close down for maintenance (i.e. the Inca Trail).
Travel during this time does offer the advantage of fewer visitors, greener scenery, and typically lower rates for flights and hotels. In general, the mountains and canyons are somewhat avoided by trekkers this time of year, so February is a good month to come if you're seeking solitude.
Alternatively, this is a prime time of year to visit Peru's coastline. February is one of the busiest (and most expensive) months along the coast with towns along the Pacific Ocean offering a lively atmosphere, full-service beach facilities, and outdoor festivals.
Where to Go
For sun-seekers, this is a great month to explore the Peruvian coastline. The most popular beaches are south of Lima; Punta Hermosa, Asia, Pulpos, Punta Negra, San Bartolo, and El Silencio. Further south is the stunning Paracas National Reserve with sand dunes, untouched beaches, and diverse fauna. Or head north to hideaways beloved by locals like Máncora, with pristine beaches and a chilled-out atmosphere. Meanwhile, nearby Las Pocitas is less crowded and offers the area's nicest hotels and resorts.
A visit to the Sacred Valley in Peru's Andean highlands is highly recommended, along with ancient Cusco and Machu Picchu, which forms the heart of the Inca Empire. Despite the rain, the actual site remains open in February, though it will be more challenging (and muddy) for those wishing to trek. Case in point: the classic Inca Trail is closed this month, and the Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain trails may also be periodically closed for maintenance during this period.
A possible alternative trail this month 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 alternative is the Cotahuasi Canyon Trek in the world's deepest canyon. Though likely wet, there are many trekking options, from one-day hikes to a six-day trek.
Off the beaten path, 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 a cloud forest ecosystem perfect for hiking and exploring lakes and waterfalls.
What to Do
Beaches & watersports: Locals flock to the beaches during summer months, especially near Lima. The sport of surfing is growing in Peru, and many beach towns north of Lima like Cabo Blanco (home of the "Peruvian pipe") and Chicama offer great surf conditions through March, and a relaxed vibe. Kiteboarding, stand-up paddleboarding, diving, and whale- and dolphin-watching are popular as well.
Wildlife viewing on the Ballestas Islands: Accessible from the beach town of Paracas (near Pisco) by tour boat, these islands, nicknamed ‘the Galapagos Islands of Peru', are home to rare birds like pelicans, penguins, Peruvian boobies, and Inca terns. It’s also common to spot sea lions, turtles, dolphins, and whales in the park. Due to its ideal location on the Pacific coast, day trips can be made while you explore the sand dunes of Huacachina.
Trekking: There are trekking opportunities all over Peru, though February does experience some closures for maintenance and heavy rains in some places. For shorter hikes, here's a list of the best Day Hikes in the Sacred Valley near Cusco.
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 & #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. Here's more on what to do in Lima.
History & Inca ruins: Within the Sacred Valley, you’ll find a host of ruins like Ollantaytambo, Sacsayhuaman, and Pisac near the colonial city of Cusco. While these smaller sites are 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.
Dig into local cuisine: The guinea pig dish called cuy is Peru’s most authentic edible experience, often found in highland towns like Cusco and the Urubamba Valley. Also look for fresh ceviche, stir-fried beef, and creamy chicken dishes. Potato dishes are ubiquitous, having been cultivated in the Andes for 10,000 years. 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. A few notable events in February echo the Roman Catholic calendar and are celebrated with great pageantry, especially in indigenous highland villages, where Catholic feast days are often linked with traditional agricultural festivals:
Fiesta de la Candelaria: Starting with a procession on February 2nd along petal-strewn streets, this popular 18- day highland festival (especially in and around Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca) includes dance competitions, folkloric music, fireworks and partying. Though Puno is the place to be, there are also smaller processions that take place in many parts of Peru.
Pisco Sour Day: On the first Saturday in February (thanks to the Peruvian government) is El Día del Pisco Sour, or Pisco Sour Day. Expect to see various promotions, tastings, and other pisco-related events.
Carnaval: Held on the last few days before Lent (in February or March), this celebration is popular in the highlands, with the fiesta in Cajamarca being one of the biggest, though hotspots also include Puno and Ayacucho, as well as beach towns where you'll find parades, feasting, and floats. This holiday is often celebrated with weeks of water fights (not balloons, rather buckets), so it's best to keep your car windows closed and your camera in a watertight bag. Crime also tends to rise during the main carnaval dates, so keep an extra eye on your gear and watch out for pickpockets, especially in Lima.
Lunahuaná Adventure Sports Festival: Typically starting in late February, Lunahuaná has an active and growing adventure sports scene, especially river running.
Festival del Verano Negro: During the last week of February is the nation’s largest celebration of Afro-Peruvian culture in Chincha, Peru’s cultural capital of African heritage. This two-week festival is a fun celebration of Afro-Peruvian customs, so you can expect plenty of dancing, gastronomy, poetry competitions, and street parades.