December is one of the best months in Cusco, it is also the same in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The main activities are the famous Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, it attracts many Peruvian visitors, as well as a unique fair in the same main square of Cusco called “Santurantikuy“, which means “holy purchase”, which is one of the largest craft fairs in the Andes.
The difference between the highs and lows of temperature is not much this month: you will have highs around 20° C (68° F) and lows around 7° C (45° F). In December, this strip of the Andes approaches its highest rainfall of the year, although there are always interruptions in the rains. Generally the pattern in the rainy season is that heavy rains arrive in the afternoon. Mornings are usually still dry.
The rain brings happiness and color, makes the mountains and valleys green and is something that many people like, the weather is not an an cold and is a spectacle to see the rain and thunder.
Crowds and costs
Crowds are low at the beginning of the month due to all the wet weather but increase again during the last ten days of December due to the Christmas vacation season.
A custom that occurs around this time is that many people from other parts of the Cusco region descend on the city of Cusco and the small towns of the Sacred Valley to visit their families and friends.
With good luck and planning, you can still get decent weather on a visit to the region this month and not have to share it with many other vacationers. Bad luck and no planning, and you could be surrounded by buses full of other tourists in a continuous downpour.
Where to go
Cusco has a lot to do in December, with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception at the beginning of the month and a craft fair and New Year’s celebrations at the end. With a worse climate that often restricts outdoor activities, it is perhaps a place to spend more days than at other times of the year.
Be very careful if you try any walk that involves precipitous drops like the walk to Wayna Picchu: the rock is very slippery after all the rain.
What to do
Attending one of the many December festivities is a great idea this month. The weather is worse than usual, and there is more than in many months. Cusco, as in other times of the year, is the place where most of the festivities take place.
The persistent rain can make multi-day walks less tempting, but there are a number of incredible day walks in the region. Rafting in one of the river sections around Cusco is generally great right now as the rain swells the rivers. There are some class IV rapids around here at the end of the month.
The flora is also thriving and nature lovers can expect to see many species of flowers blooming in December around Machu Picchu, including orchids.
Please note that if you wish to travel by train from Cusco to Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes train station), the services at the Poroy train station in Cusco will be discontinued at the end of this month: starting in January, you will be taken by bus for the Cusco-Ollantaytambo section and continue by train to Aguas Calientes from there.
Feast of the Immaculate Conception: The feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated on December 8 with processions in honor of the Virgin Mary, particularly in Cusco but also in other places in the region.
Most important handicraft fair: The Santurantikuy Fair, which takes place on December 24, is one of the largest handicraft fairs in Peru. The celebration takes place in the Plaza de Armas of Cusco and focuses on the religious figures and decorations with which Peruvians like to decorate their homes. However, it can also be a good source of interesting souvenirs.
Christmas/New Year: Christmas itself is a religious affair and low profile by Peruvian standards, but New Year’s celebrations in Cusco are famous throughout the country. The beautiful backdrop of the city, illuminated by multiple fireworks, attracts revelers from all over.
I am founder and content creator of Lorenzo Expeditions, since 2006 I started with the Inca Jungle tour, guiding and serving thousands of tourists in a personal way to get to know Machu Picchu in a unique and authentic way.