May is Peru's autumn season, though weather patterns depend on where you are traveling. There are three distinct climate zones:
The desert coastal strip: This region includes Máncora, Trujillo, Lima, Paracas, and Arequipa. You can expect mostly sunny skies and mild spring-like temperatures in May (though southern areas can get cooler and foggier than summer months). Lima in May averages highs of 72° F (22° C) and lows of 61° F (16° C). South of Lima, you'll experience slightly cooler temperatures than the north (closer to the equator).
The Andean zone or highlands: This region includes Huaraz, Machu Picchu, Cusco, and Lake Titicaca. May really dries off making this is a great time to visit the country's interior. If visiting the Cusco region, you’ll experience more sunshine and slightly cooler temperatures with highs around 66° F (19° C) and lows around 37° F (3° C).
- The large eastern area covered by the Amazon rainforest: This region includes Iquitos, Tarapoto, Manu, and Puerto Maldonado, with warm and humid weather throughout the year. Iquitos tends to see highs around 86° F (31° C) and lows around 72° F (22° C) with quite a bit of rain for the month of May, especially in the north (the south area sees lessening rain this month).
Crowds & Costs
May is widely regarded as one of the best months to visit Peru, given the vegetation is lush green from the recent rains and the land has yet to turn dry from the summer’s heat. On top of that, the crowds have yet to arrive, and there are still decent rates for flights and hotels. In general, the mountains and canyons are still on the quieter side this time of year, so this is a good month if you're trying to avoid the high season.
As tourism slows down along Peru's coastline and shifts inland, May 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 December through March.
Where to Go
Peru's interior, specifically the Sacred Valley, is usually the top site 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. 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 alternative is the Cotahuasi Canyon, the world's deepest canyon, located in the high Andes northwest of Arequipa. There are many trekking options, from one-day hikes to a six-day trek.
Though it's often too chilly for swimming in the Pacific Ocean unless you're further north and closer to the equator, it's worth visiting Peru's stunning coastline. Further south is the Paracas National Reserve with sand dunes and cliffs, unspoiled beaches, and diverse fauna.
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 from 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. 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.
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.
Hiking, biking & rafting: With trails drying off, there are plenty of options for combining any or all of these activities, like this two-week option in Southern Peru. This is a great time of year for enjoying any of these activities.
Peru is known for its many festivals, with literally thousands of them held all over the country every year. In fact, the month of May is loaded with festivals and religious events honoring everything from miraculous manifestations to mountain gods. A few to look out for:
Labor Day: On May 1st, this day off for Peruvians usually involves a large amount of beer.
Fiesta De Las Cruces: On May 3rd, this fascinating festival is celebrated in Lima, Cusco, and Ayacucho and other towns. It is a procession of crosses decorated with flowers which are carried to hills and neighboring churches. Fiesta de la Cruces is accompanied with traditional music and dances.
Festival del Mar: The first week in May celebrates the arrival of Takaynamo, the man history tells us founded Chan Chan. They celebrate every other year in Huanchaco with surf contests, dancing, and partying.
Noche en Blanco: In early May, the streets of Lima's Miraflores district are closed to cars while arts, music, and dance take over. This event is inspired by Europe's White Nights.
Q’oyoriti: In late May/early June, this more traditional Peruvian festival celebrates the Andean rites at the foot of majestic Ausangate, the tallest mountain in Peru.