Planning & Practicalities in Peru's Off-Season
When it comes to tourism, Peru has distinct high and low seasons. The vast majority of travelers choose to visit during the country's dry season, which generally lasts from May to September. But don't write off the rainy season from November to April just yet.
There's an upside to rain, after all. During the low season, water levels are high along the Amazon, creating a great opportunity for travelers to canoe and kayak down waterways (keep your eyes open for pink dolphins!). If you're looking to avoid the crowds at Machu Picchu, go during rainy season: it might just be a handful of travelers and a couple of llamas at the world-famous site.
If you'd rather avoid a downpour, consider a trip to the beach in northern Peru, where the climate is warmer and dryer. Or embrace the rainy weather and stay inside. A major perk of traveling in Peru during the off-season is that prices are low. It's easy to find great deals on hotels throughout the country; this is the time to treat yourself to a luxurious overnight stay at a fraction of the price. Check out this article on luxury travel in Peru for ideas on how to spend your hard-earned cash.
Rain or shine, Peru's extreme ecosystems and diverse climate make it a destination you can visit year-round. Read on for specific ideas of how to structure an off-season trip.
Take the Train to Machu Picchu
The country's main attraction, Machu Picchu, is open throughout the year. But the Inca Trail is closed in February — and trekking to Machu Picchu could be a challenge at any point during the rainy season, as the trail often washes out.
Not to worry: there's a train from Ollantaytambo that takes you to Aguas Calientes, a.k.a. Machu Picchu Pueblo, in less than two hours. From there, you can catch a bus to the top of the site and meet your local guide at the entrance. Though the site will be much less crowded at this time of year, be sure to book in advance because of new ticketing restrictions. Read this article for everything you need to know.
Going in the rainy season usually means you're surrounded by a forest of clouds — followed by a few hours of showers in the afternoon — at Machu Picchu. It also means a warmer climate and a lush green landscape. For those on a budget, visiting during the off-season will also decrease flight and hotel costs in the area. Plan to spend an extra night or two in nearby Cusco to enjoy the ancient city's museums and ruins. Here are some ideas of where to spend the night.
Canoe Through the Amazon Rainforest
Interested in visiting the world's largest rainforest? The off-season is a good time to go. There are distinct advantages to traveling in the Amazon region during the high-water season from January to June: while temperature and rainfall are pretty consistent year-round, increased rainfall raises the water levels and decreases the temperature slightly.
More rain means more outdoor adventures, too. During the off-season, you can canoe and kayak down the river and explore a larger number of waterways on a boat — a fun alternative to walking or hiking, especially as it allows passengers to see a wider range of flora and fauna. Find out about the best cruise options in the Peruvian Amazon here.
Whatever your plans, be smart and prepared when it comes to packing. If you're heading to the Amazon, it's important to bring light clothes, a hat, extra bug spray, and sunscreen. Mosquitoes are more prevalent in the rainforest during this time of year, so avoid thin or tightly fitting clothing that bugs can bite through.
For more on the best outdoor activities that the country has to offer, check out this round-up of Peru's best adventures.
Catch a Wave on the Northern Coast
It may seem like a paradox, but the coast of Peru is mostly desert. Convenient for travelers who are visiting in the off-season: while it's wet and rainy in much of the country, it's dry and comfortable at the beach.
The further north you go the warmer the weather — and the water. For a wonderful beach experience in Peru, head north to Mancora Beach and the Tumbes region. The weather averages around 80°F, and the area sees little rain. On these beaches, you can lounge on the sand, surf the country's most famous waves, and dance to reggaeton on the sand at night.
A word of warning for the savvy traveler: if you're unlucky, you could experience the phenomenon of El Niño (a Pacific climate cycle), which would increase rainfall exponentially. Check the long-term forecast (and the Farmer's Almanac) before you book your tickets.
Visiting Peru during the high season? Read this article for tips on where to go and what to see.