Despite rainy season being here in earnest, January can be a surprisingly good month to hike the Inca Trail. Once Christmas and New Year crowds have dispersed, there will be fewer hikers on the trail or sightseers in the Sacred Valley than at almost any other time of year. And the sun still comes out between the showers to capture the region in all its beauty, sometimes all the more dazzling for being part-covered in mist and cloud.
Best of Inca Trail
Typically a four-day walk, previous kimkim travelers have enjoyed making it a five-day trek to avoid the crowds, and to start in the sacred Inca site of Ollantaytambo. The challenging climbs (and knee-pounding descents) aren’t easy, but you’ll be rewarded with staggering views, like the panorama from the cliff-hugging Inca site of Phuyupatamarca “the place above the clouds” with a breathtaking panorama across verdant mountains to the sacred peak of Salkantay.
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The Inca Trail is closed this month for maintenance, but the good news is that Machu Picchu is still open, as are some of the other classic Inca Trail alternative treks, such as the Salkantay trek. The year's heaviest rain this month makes hiking muddier and less appealing that at other times of the year: time, perhaps, to divert to some of the Sacred Valley's indoors attractions.
The Inca Trail reopens this month, seeing a surge of visitors to the hike and to Machu Picchu not seen since the previous October. This is still wet season in the Sacred Valley, but the rains are beginning to subside as the month wears on, bringing better hiking weather. If Easter falls this month, Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations bring even more visitors to the region.
It is hard to envisage a better time to hike the Inca Trail than April. Wet season is over by the middle of the month, and crowds are nowhere near the levels they will be in high season. Flora is thriving across the region after the rains, brightening almost every view, and communities of the Sacred Valley put on colorful Semana Santa celebrations (should Easter fall after the first week of April).
Shoulder season segues into high season as May goes on, which means higher numbers of trekkers on the Inca Trail. But trail conditions are improved dramatically: it is largely dry underfoot and generally sunny during the day, although camping out at night is colder than it has been in recent months. Overall May is one of the best months for hiking the trail, though, and interesting festivals throughout the Sacred Valley add to the color of the experience this month.
June is high season in every sense on the Inca Trail and in the Sacred valley surrounding it. Weather is at its best for hiking (sunny and dry, although chilly at night) and the daily trekkers on the trail are at their maximum levels. In addition to this, it is big party time as the Sacred Valley celebrates Inti Raymi, the ancient Incan festival of the sun.
You'll be hiking the Inca Trail in dry, sunny weather this month, and the Sacred Valley resounds with the color and clamor of near-constant festivities. No wonder July is such a popular time of year to visit the region—this is when the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu regularly meet their maximum visitor capacity. Read on for more about weather, crowds, and activities.
August is the final month of high season and a popular time for North American and European holiday-makers to converge on the Inca Trail (and all Sacred Valley sights, for that matter). The Inca Trail will still likely be at capacity for much of August. If you want to escape the crowds, there are plenty of hikes apart from the Inca Trail to enjoy the great weather and beautiful landscapes in solitude.
The end of the dry season is a great month for hiking: crowds in the Sacred Valley and on the Inca Trail are down, while bright, sunny weather predominates. Although the chances of rain are increasing, temperatures are sneaking up, too. Altogether, this is one of the best months for outdoor activities in the Sacred Valley before the rains commence in earnest next month.
October is still officially dry season, and sunny weather persists despite more frequent bursts of rain as the month wears on. Trekkers still descend on the region to make the most of the last spells of dry weather before the wet season kicks off at the end of the month. There are also, as always, important festivities in Cusco—read on for more on October events, weather, and more.
Wet season is here—but the rain does not stick around all day in the Sacred Valley. If you're one of the relatively few travelers coming to the region this month, you will enjoy sightseeing at the least-crowded time of year and probably still see the sun quite a bit. Trekking is wetter and muddier than usual, but flora is thriving and rising water levels increase the appeal of rafting. An activity that combines both, such as the Inca Jungle Trek, is ideal around now.
December is a mixed bag on the Inca Trail. The rain is coming down on an almost daily basis, but the flowers and plants are thriving, beautifying the trail views. Crowds can be very low (at the beginning of the month) or very high (over Christmas and New Year). A few memorable festivities take place this month to spice things up pre- and post-hike, too: read on for more about what to expect.
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