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If you’re visiting Peru in December, you’ll be visiting during the rainy season in the highlands. While the weather is mostly rainy in this region, some sunny days are sprinkled in. Be flexible with your plans and change them with the weather forecast. If you’re seeking sunshine, visit the coast to relax on the beach or take surfing lessons. As Christmas approaches, festivities are in full effect due to the Catholic influence in the country. Here are some of the reasons why traveling to Peru in December may just be your best plan!
The pros of visiting Peru in December
Beach season begins along the coastal region during this month. Although the weather is moderate year-round (especially north of Lima), the water and air temperatures are noticeably more pleasant for swimming. In addition, the fog that settled over Lima for much of the year finally disperses in December. As sunshine hits the city’s coastline, Lima fills with energy as locals and tourists head to the beaches.
Blue Skies in The North of Peru
Cusco is lively throughout December because of the town’s Catholic heritage. If you’re visiting around Christmas, the Plaza de Armas twinkles with decorations. On December 24th, shoppers bustle through the streets for the Santurantikuy market. For the rest of the month in the highlands, you may have to brave some rain, but you’ll be rewarded by higher nighttime temperatures. Also, you can easily book accommodations without much-advanced planning. (However, if you plan to visit around the holidays, make your reservations ahead of time!) If you plan on visiting Machu Picchu, you won’t be limited by the peak season entrance times. You’ll be able to spend the day at the ruins in leisure. So, even if some clouds roll through, you can wait for the skies to clear instead of being rushed through the crowds.
The Machu Picchu Region
The Cons of visiting Peru in December
Heavy rain falls from December through to March, and it can ruin a trip if you’re not prepared. Plan your activities wisely to work with the weather. Muddy trails create slippery hiking conditions, and low cloud cover reduces the visibility of the surrounding mountains. Flexibility is key!
Trekking Trail in Rainy Season
In the Amazon, water levels in the jungle rise, so trails that were accessible during the dry season are once again underwater. Mosquitos are worse during these wetter months, so bring plenty of insect repellent!
Things To Do in December
If you’re heading to the beach, Peru has many coastal towns and villages to visit. Mancora is renowned for its nightlife, beginner-friendly surfing, and beautiful beaches. More advanced surfers will enjoy surfing at quieter spots close to town, such as Los Organos or Cabo Blanco.
Surfing in Mancora
Now that the fog has passed, head to Lima for a delightful culinary experience. Try the Peruvian classics like ceviche with a pisco sour to sample some of the delicious local cuisine. Stroll or bike along the Malecón de Miraflores in the evening to watch the sunset over the crashing waves. Keep an eye out for paragliders as they fly high along this coastal ridgeline, using the uplift of wind from the ocean.
Hiking in Peru in December can be wet and muddy, but you can find solitude along the trails. In the mornings, you’ll get the highest chance of clear skies. Cloudy skies increase throughout the day and obstruct mountain views. In general, plan to hike early to take in the views before low-hanging clouds roll in. However, the weather is no guarantee. Check the forecast before heading out, and align your hiking plans accordingly. If you are visiting Peru to trek, but don’t like the rain, you might opt for a lodge-based trip instead of a long backpacking excursion. Many day trip options are available throughout the Sacred Valley, and mountain lodges provide quick access for day hikes. The main trek in the wet season is The Lares Trek which can be hiked safely during the rainy season.
Trekking with Llamas
So, is it worth traveling during the rainy season?
Absolutely! Peru really can be visited all year round, with every season offering a unique experience of its own. The rainy season may be the wettest, but it’s also the warmest time of the year, with showers often only lasting a few hours. Traveling in the low season also means fewer crowds and queues of tourists; more stunning, greener scenery; and lower costing flights and accommodations. The weather will naturally impact your trip in some way. But fog, rain, sun, or blue skies, in a country like Peru, the landscape, nature, history, culture and people always remains beautifully fascinating. December is the low tourism season therefore there are few travelers in hotels, on the hiking trails, on the trains, and of course in Machu Picchu. There is also a mystical and magical cloud cover hanging over Machu Picchu adding to its already mysterious charm. Plus everywhere is green!
Plaza de Armas Lima
Christmas and New Year in Peru
Enjoy the chocolatadas a great way for local interaction!
In early December, the Christmas celebrations in Peru start with Christmas decorations and chocolatadas. Chocolatadas are ‘social Christmas Events’ organized by local companies or institutions where they give a Christmas present and a hot chocolate to those who have less. That’s where the name comes from (“chocolatadas”): a large quantity of chocolate is given in glasses and cups to children and others; many of them traveled extensively from the higher located villages in the Andes to wait in a long line for this simple pleasure. Sometimes they get a slice of panettone (see more below: a cake filled with dried fruit) and small gifts for the little ones.
Will you be in Cusco in December? If so, you are lucky to visit Peru’s most famous Christmas market, the Santurantikuy Market. Artisans come from all over the country to sell their creations at this crowded and exciting market. It is said that acquiring one of the amulets is equivalent to making a wish. Do you want to travel next year? Buy an airplane charm. Do you want to get married? Buy a charm that looks like a bride or groom, and so on. The main Plaza is turned into a marketplace for Christmas celebrations and it is certainly where you can buy some unique Christmas presents!
On Christmas Eve, you can hear fireworks throughout Peru. Technically, it is illegal, but that will not stop the Peruvians from having fun while lighting their fireworks. If you see it for the first time, you might get confused for a moment, thinking it’s New Year’s Eve. New Year's Eve is another event famous for its colorful displays and loud bangs throughout the country.
Fireworks in Arequipa
Takanakuy sees townspeople fighting it out with their friends, enemies, and everyone in between. The celebration takes place in areas that have little police infrastructure, and they are done in an effort to secure a happy and conflict-free new year- by essentially getting all of the fightings out and done in one day. The remote Andean towns that celebrate Takanakuy are reported to be happy, neighborly towns. While Takanakuy is not a new tradition, there are even older traditions that reminisce about this event.