The Weather In Cusco - 5 Things You Should Know
I lived in Cusco for over two years. I fondly recall walking up and down Avenida Sol (Sun Avenue) to get back and forth between the main plaza, my apartment, and the variety of markets and stores in between.
I remember one day, in particular. That morning I read the weather forecast and saw that it would be around 80 F. Shorts and t-shirt would do. About halfway up Sun Avenue, walking towards the plaza, everything became dark. A big gray cloud covered the avenue’s namesake.
Within 5 minutes the weather went from 80 F to about 55 F. Suddenly the flip flops seemed like a mistake. Rain poured. It felt like we were approaching winter. By the time the sun went down in the evening, and temperatures reached the low 40s, I realized an important lesson: in Cusco, everyday of the year, every single season is fair game.
All 4 Seasons
The weather almanac for Cusco is relatively consistent throughout the year. Lows at night are going to be between 30 - 40F and highs are going to be between 60 - 80F. It will feel like winter on most evenings. Snow is extremely rare, so don’t plan on it, but do plan on snow-like temperatures. It will feel like summer on most afternoons. Spring and Fall happen in between.
Rainy v Dry
So, now you know that all 4 seasons are fair game, every day of the year. The part you don’t know is that Cusco really only has 2 distinct seasons: rainy or dry. The rainy season has an accurate name and will be wet, everyday, between mid-December and mid-March. The dry season takes up the rest of the calendar.
The Elevation and The Equator
The reason the weather can fluctuate so quickly between hot and cold is down to the elevation. At almost 12,000’ above sea level, Cusco puts you closer to the atmosphere and the clouds. It also puts you closer to the sun (was that on purpose, Incas?). Yet, it rarely snows, due to it’s proximity to the equator. Fascinating. Weather professionals really should dedicate some time to studying this climate.
Best Time of the Year to Go
Naturally, the question of the day is when is the best time of year to go? The answer is simple. Go between May - Aug if you want to avoid rain, yet you still want to see the sites with greenery. Go during Sep - Dec if you want to deal with less crowds and you don’t mind that the sites are drying out (it is the end of the dry season, after all). Go during Jan - Apr if you don’t mind getting wet. Really wet. The big positive here is that you will have the beautiful scenery mostly to yourself.
These days, when I’m in Cusco, you will still find me frequenting my old haunts on Sun Avenue. It will be easy to spot me: I’m the guy wearing flip-flops, a beanie, pants that unzip to shorts, sun glasses, and one glove, just I in case. Oh, and I’m carrying my winter coat and a poncho.