Peru’s dry winter season runs from May to September, making this an ideal time to trek the Inca Trail. June to August is particularly cold at night, especially at altitude, and lots of layers are essential for taking you from day to night. March, April, October and November are warmer months but there may be some rain. Many people say that September and October are the best months to travel to Machu Picchu - there are fewer tourists, but the weather is warm and mild.
Whatever the season, the weather in the Andes can be unpredictable, and you will need waterproofs, sun cream and sturdy walking boots with you everyday.
Only about 200 trekkers per day are given permits to walk on the trail, so popular dates, especially July and August, sell out months in advance. We recommend that people book at least one year in advance to ensure of obtaining an Inca Trail permit. Fear not, however, as Explore also offers an 'alternative' Inca Trail route. The Salkantay hike is located in exactly the same beautiful mountainous location as the Inca Trail, but there are fewer tourists and you'll often get the spectacular Andean scenery all to yourself. No permits are necessary for this route and you still visit Machu Picchu at the end of the hike.
The beauty of hiking the Salkantay Trail is that you get a lot more contact with the local Andeans who live high up in the mountains. You'll wonder how they survive in such a hostile environment, some living miles from the nearest village or even their nearest neighbor. They'll often show you some of their weavings, or sell you a cold water or local Inca Kola, a bright yellow fizzy drink that is famous throughout Peru.