Peru’s geography ranges vastly, and the tail end of its summer season offers different weather patterns depending on where you are traveling. There are three distinct climate zones:
- The desert coastal strip: Pleasantly warm weather during summer with lots of sunshine and little rain. This region includes Máncora, Trujillo, Lima, Paracas, and Arequipa. Peru's coastline near Lima in March averages highs of 79° F (26° C) and lows of 66° F (19° C) with beaches that offer optimal swimming conditions for taking advantage of the Pacific Ocean. South of Lima, you'll experience slightly cooler temperatures than the north (closer to the equator).
- The Andean or highlands zone: For this area, which includes Huaraz, Machu Picchu, Cusco, and Lake Titicaca, March is the last month of the wet season with light to heavy rains. The clouds, fog, 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. If visiting the Cusco region, you’ll experience summer temperatures reaching highs of 65° F (18° C) and lows around 42° F (6° C). Temperatures can also drop quickly when the sun disappears behind clouds so it's best to pack layers.
- The large eastern area covered by the Amazonian rainforest: Warm and humid throughout the year, this sub-tropical climate will likely receive more rain in March than any other month. This region includes Iquitos, Tarapoto, Manu, and Puerto Maldonado. As for temperatures, Iquitos tends to see highs around 88° F (31° C) and lows around 72° F (22° C). The tropical rains usually occur in the afternoon in the form of a downpour or thunderstorm, though it will likely be more frequent in March with an average rainfall of 14 inches.
Cost & Crowds
As March begins, the Inca Trail re-opens and more visitors begin to arrive, particularly as Easter approaches. If Holy Week occurs in March rather than April, expect a surge in crowds and high season prices. Hotel rates will spike and availability will be low so it's best to make reservations far in advance.
With the exception of Holy Week, travel to the Sacred Valley during this time does offer the advantage of fewer crowds, greener scenery, blooming orchids, and typically lower rates for flights and hotels. In general, the mountains and canyons are still somewhat avoided by trekkers this time of year, so March is a good month to come if you're seeking more peaceful (albeit potentially muddy) trails.
As tourism starts to slow down along Peru's coastline and shifts to the inland, March is a great time to visit the beach towns as the weather is still good, there are fewer people, and prices start to go down.
Where to Go
March is a great time of year to visit Peru's coastline when water temperatures are typically the most enjoyable for swimming, as this is the end of the summer season. The most popular beaches are south of Lima: Punta Hermosa, Asia, Pulpos, Punta Negra, San Bartolo, and El Silencio. Further south along the coast is the Paracas National Reserve with sand dunes and cliffs, unspoiled beaches, and diverse fauna. As for the northern coast, younger types should check out cool local spots like Máncora, with pristine beaches and chill vibes. Meanwhile, nearby Las Pocitas is less crowded and offers the area's nicest hotels and resorts.
March is also a popular month for travelers wishing to combine Peru's coastline with a visit to Ecuador's Galapagos Islands
Peru's interior is wetter this time of year but this should not deter you from trekking or sightseeing. As mentioned, March sees the re-opening of the Inca Trail—the only way to hike directly into the park through the Sun Gate and crowds will still be lighter than peak season.
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 abundant nature in the cloud forest with ample opportunities for treks, hiking and exploring lakes and waterfalls.
In Southern Peru, straddling the border between Peru and Bolivia in the Andes mountains is one of South America's largest lakes: Lake Titicaca. Said to be the birthplace of the Incas, this area is also home to numerous ruins, while the Titicaca National Reserve, shelters rare aquatic species such as giant frogs. The climate is very agreeable this time of year with little rain, though, due to the high altitude, nights can get chilly.
What to Do
Beaches & watersports: Because it's still summer in Peru, locals tend to flock to the beaches. The sport of surfing is growing in Peru, and many beach towns north of Lima like Cabo Blanco (home of the "Peruvian pipe"), Chicama, and Máncora offer great surf conditions and a relaxed vibe. Kiteboarding, stand-up paddleboarding, diving, and whale- and dolphin-watching are popular as well. These towns, along with beaches south of Lima, are great for lazing on the sand.
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: Peru has long attracted lovers of the great outdoors and trekking is the most popular activity; however, March tends to be one of the wettest months in the Andes. For those who don't mind a little rain, there are numerous overnight opportunities; here is 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 including visits to waterfalls, caves, and hot springs.
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.
City culture in Lima: Despite the fact that it hardly ever rains here, the layover city of Lima 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), as well as nightlife, and great shopping. Make sure to spend an evening watching the sunset overlooking the bluffs at Miraflores.
Peru is known for its many festivals, with literally thousands of them held all over the country every year. A few notable events in March include:
Fiesta de la Vendimia: If you happen to be in Lima in March, this is a great festival to witness. The festival is 75 years old and celebrates the ancestry and varieties of Peru, especially the turning of grapes into wine. The celebration is even bigger if you're visiting the southern coast's two main wine regions, Lunahuaná and Ica, with harvest festivals and grape stomping.
Semana Santa: Since 85-90% of Peruvian's are Catholic, the week leading up to Easter (either March or April) is an especially holy week, where festivities and processions are carried out along the streets (especially in Ayacucho).
Festival del Verano Negro: The first week of March is the end of the nation’s largest celebration of Afro-Peruvian culture in Chincha, Peru’s cultural capital of African heritage. This is a fun celebration of Afro-Peruvian customs, so you can expect plenty of dancing, gastronomy, poetry competitions, and street parades.