Best Time to Hike Inca Trail to Machu Picchu – When to Go?

machu picchu

If you’re planning to trek the iconic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, choosing the right time to go can significantly enhance your experience. With its rich history and breathtaking scenery, the Inca Trail is a journey that draws adventurers from around the globe. However, Peru’s varying weather conditions can make or break your trip. Whether you’re embarking on the classic four-day trek or the popular 2-day Inca Trail hike, knowing the best time to hike is crucial. Let’s dive into the details to help you decide when to lace up your boots and head to Peru.

Understanding Peru’s Seasons

Peru has two main seasons: the dry season and the wet season. The dry season, from May to October, is generally considered the best time to hike the Inca Trail. The wet season, from November to April, brings heavy rainfall, which can make the trail more challenging and sometimes even unsafe.

Dry Season: May to October

Benefits of Hiking During the Dry Season

  1. Stable Weather: The dry season offers the most stable weather conditions, with sunny days and cooler nights. This makes for comfortable hiking and clearer views of the stunning Andean landscapes.
  2. Less Rain: With minimal rainfall, the trail is less slippery, reducing the risk of accidents. River levels are lower, making crossings safer and more manageable.
  3. Optimal Photography Conditions: Clear skies mean better lighting for photography, allowing you to capture the majestic scenery and ancient ruins in their best light.

Drawbacks of the Dry Season

  1. Crowds: This is the peak season for tourists, meaning the trail can be quite crowded. Permits for the Inca Trail sell out quickly, so you need to book well in advance.
  2. Higher Prices: Increased demand during the dry season often leads to higher prices for permits, accommodations, and tours.

Wet Season: November to April

Benefits of Hiking During the Wet Season

  1. Lush Scenery: The wet season brings lush, green landscapes and blooming flowers, offering a different kind of beauty compared to the dry season.
  2. Fewer Crowds: With fewer tourists on the trail, you can enjoy a more solitary and serene hiking experience. Permits are also easier to obtain, even on short notice.
  3. Lower Prices: Travel costs, including tours and accommodations, are generally lower during the wet season.

Drawbacks of the Wet Season

  1. Unpredictable Weather: Heavy rains can make the trail muddy and slippery, increasing the difficulty and risk of hiking. Landslides are also a concern, which can sometimes lead to trail closures.
  2. Limited Visibility: Cloud cover and rain can obscure the breathtaking views, reducing the overall visual appeal of the trek.

Best Time for the 2-Day Inca Trail Hike

The 2-day Inca Trail hike is a shorter and less strenuous alternative to the classic 4-day trek, making it ideal for those with limited time or less hiking experience. However, the timing considerations remain largely the same.

Optimal Months for the Short Inca Trail

  1. April to October: These months offer the best combination of good weather and manageable crowds. April and October, at the edges of the dry season, are particularly great as they are less crowded than the peak months.
  2. November and March: These shoulder months can be a good option if you want to avoid the crowds and don’t mind a bit of rain. The weather can be variable, but you might get lucky with some clear days.

Seasonal Highlights

Each season on the Inca Trail offers unique experiences and highlights. Here’s a breakdown to help you choose the best time for your hike:

Dry Season Highlights

  1. Inti Raymi: Celebrated on June 24th, the Inti Raymi festival in Cusco is a vibrant celebration of the Incan sun god. This is a great time to experience Peruvian culture before or after your trek.
  2. Clear Views: With minimal cloud cover, you can enjoy unobstructed views of the mountains, valleys, and archaeological sites along the trail.
  3. Stargazing: The clear night skies during the dry season are perfect for stargazing, adding a magical touch to your camping experience.

Wet Season Highlights

  1. Lush Vegetation: The trail is at its greenest, with an abundance of wildflowers and flourishing plant life. This is a paradise for nature lovers and photographers.
  2. Quieter Trails: Enjoy the tranquility and solitude of the Inca Trail without the usual crowds. This can make for a more personal and reflective journey.
  3. Cultural Immersion: With fewer tourists around, you have more opportunities to interact with locals and experience the authentic side of Peruvian life.

Preparing for Your Hike

Regardless of when you choose to hike, preparation is key to a successful Inca Trail adventure. Here are some tips to help you get ready:

Physical Preparation

  1. Fitness Training: Start a fitness regimen that includes cardio, strength training, and hiking. Aim to improve your endurance, as the trail can be physically demanding.
  2. Altitude Acclimatization: Spend a few days in Cusco or another high-altitude location before starting your trek to help your body adjust to the thin air.

Packing Essentials

  1. Weather-Appropriate Clothing: Layering is crucial. Bring moisture-wicking base layers, warm mid-layers, and waterproof outer layers. A good pair of hiking boots is essential.
  2. Rain Gear: Even in the dry season, weather can be unpredictable. Pack a lightweight rain jacket and rain cover for your backpack.
  3. Hydration and Snacks: Bring a refillable water bottle and high-energy snacks like nuts, dried fruit, and energy bars.

Booking and Permits

  1. Advance Booking: Permits for the Inca Trail are limited and can sell out quickly, especially during the dry season. Book your trek and permits at least six months in advance.
  2. Choosing a Tour Operator: Select a reputable tour operator who provides experienced guides, quality equipment, and good reviews from previous trekkers.


Choosing the best time to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu depends on your preferences for weather, crowd levels, and budget. The dry season offers the best conditions and clear views, while the wet season provides lush landscapes and fewer crowds. For the 2-day Inca Trail hike, consider April to October for the best overall experience. No matter when you go, the Inca Trail promises a once-in-a-lifetime adventure through one of the world’s most iconic landscapes.


What is the best way to get permits for the Inca Trail?

The best way to get permits is to book through a reputable tour operator well in advance, especially if you plan to hike during the peak dry season.

Can I hike the Inca Trail without a guide?

No, the Peruvian government requires all trekkers to be accompanied by a licensed guide to protect the trail and ensure safety.

Is the 2-day Inca Trail hike suitable for beginners?

Yes, the 2-day Inca Trail hike is a great option for beginners or those with limited time. It is less strenuous than the classic 4-day trek.

What should I pack for the Inca Trail during the wet season?

Pack waterproof clothing, a rain cover for your backpack, moisture-wicking layers, sturdy hiking boots, and plenty of high-energy snacks.

Are there alternative treks to Machu Picchu?

Yes, alternatives include the Salkantay Trek, Lares Trek, and the Inca Jungle Trek, each offering unique experiences and varying levels of difficulty.