1

My wife and I are contemplating a hitchhiking trip to Peru, ideally involving some hiking, in late December/early January. We do not like to plan everything in advance, so we are looking to sleep either in our tent, or in whatever accommodation we can find on the spot in whatever cities we traverse.

We would like to spend most of the time in the Sierra. We would especially like to see Machu Picchu (or maybe some other, less touristic Inca ruins) and lake Titicaca; so a tentative itinerary would be something like Lima -> Cusco -> Juliaca -> La Paz.

Looking at the climate charts, the amount of rain (and lack of warmth) seems a little scary. For example here in Cusco for December: 20.8°C max/6.5°C min, 120mm precipitation, 16 rainy days per month. But in would be nice to have some subjective impressions, as raw numbers can be deceptive.

Has anyone done a similar trip in that season? Do you think it would be one of those miserable "all-of-your-belongings-are-drenched-and-there-is-no-chance-to-get-them-dry-because-it-just-keeps-raining-and-raining" trips, or is there still enough sunshine to make it enjoyable? I have seen that a lot of people still do the Inca trail in the rainy season. Surely it must not be that bad?

Also, what are the chances of finding a hostel or cheap hostel on the spot when arriving to a new city?

  • Are you used to hiking at fairly high altitudes? Lake Titicaca, for example, is at 12,500 feet. If you do most of your hiking at lower altitudes you may need to adjust how far you plan to walk in a day. – Patricia Shanahan Nov 18 '17 at 0:42
  • I cannot say that I am used to high altitudes. I've been to mount Elbert once (4400m, in Colorado), and did not feel any ill effects (except possibly walking a little slower than usual, but I am not sure about that). – Ilia Smilga Nov 18 '17 at 1:03
  • Related (early 2017): travel.stackexchange.com/questions/90819/… – user40521 Dec 18 '17 at 13:07
6

It appears you are somewhat confused. Summer in Peru is December to March, so those months are the warmest throughout the country, that being the southern hemisphere. Peru is not very much south of the Equator though so summer and winter temperatures are not that different.

In terms of wetness, there summer is wetter indeed but that depends completely on the area. Coastal Peru is extremely dry and includes some of the driest desert on Earth. It is said that it never rains in Lima, although I did see a light drizzle once but really anywhere in the cost and slightly inland, you will rarely encounter any rain. There are plenty things along the coast where I used to lead Northern and Southern coastal tours, both have historic sights but those on the south are more famous and they have more tourist infrastructure.

The Andes is where things vary the most in terms of rain. It is cold there all year and it rains quite a lot from December to March. The cold and rain combination is particularly tough. Things are mountainous and get wet, so there is a high risk of mudslides. Many trails get closed temporarily for that reason. It is possible to visit pretty much throughout the year but as hitchhikers, as opposed to bussers, you will be much more vulnerable and since it is also cold and will be rather cloudy, things that get wet will take a long time to dry.

The oriente as they call the Amazonian basin east of the Andes is wet all year round. It can rain almost every day usually as strong bursts of downpours for a few hours and then clearing, rather than rain all day is it happens in other places. There are fewer roads there, so I would imagine this to be difficult for hitchhiking any way. While I have been to all of Peru, I am not very familiar with this region but while I was here, I relied on small boats mostly. Although I have been many times slight north in the jungles of Ecuador, which are very similar.

The high altitude plateau between Peru and Bolivia is cold but less wet year round. It still rains quite regularly with more wetness in the summer than other times but not as much as Cusco. There is quite a bit of traffic there and better roads than in the northern Andes. If you plan to go to this area make sure to get very warm layers of clothing and well protected tents.

You can check historical temperature and precipitation averages here if you would like. You will see, pretty much only the Andes and Oriente have much rain.

  • Thank you for your answer. I am a bit surprised by what you say about the plateau around the border with Bolivia, as the climate data seems to suggest that it is still quite rainy (for January, Wikipedia gives 134mm/20.7 rainy days for El Alto, 137mm for Desaguadero, 133mm for Juliaca). Do you have other information? – Ilia Smilga Nov 18 '17 at 0:00
  • Guess I should have said dryer or less wet. It rains less than Cusco as far as I know but certainly not as dry as the coast. Will edit my answer. – Itai Nov 18 '17 at 0:20
2

After I've done the trip, I can share my experience. (Of course this is only anecdotic evidence: weather is not the same as climate!)

  • Our itinerary was indeed Lima -> Huancayo -> Ayacucho -> Abancay -> Cusco -> Puno -> La Paz, roughly in the last two weeks of December.
  • We ended up sleeping in hotels almost all the time, as they are so cheap. We used the tent only once, near lake Titicaca.
  • The cold was not an issue at all; we found the temperatures very pleasant.
  • The rain was present but seemed mostly manageable. The only night that we spent in the tent, it rained pretty hard, starting a couple of hours after nightfall and all the way until the morning. Our stuff did get a little wet, however our tent is old and leaky. On the other hand, there have been days with no rain at all. Overall, if we had been sleeping in our tent every night, I think we would have had, on average, plenty enough episodes of warmth and sunshine to dry whatever things got wet in the occasional rainstorm. (It's hard to tell though, since this is not what we did after all; it is easy to underestimate night rain when you have a solid roof!) But this was certainly NOT one of those nightmarish trips where it just keeps raining and raining and raining (that I have sometimes experienced in Western Europe).
  • Finding accomodations was not an issue at all. Hotels are plentiful in all towns, small and large; and during the whole trip, we have never encountered a single one that was full (of course it is the low season for tourism). Moreover, for receiving tourists, Peru is very well organized, to a degree that we found absolutely unbelievable. When arriving into a new town, you can always find someone to help you.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.