You’re here! You’re finally here! You read all about Machu Picchu in grade school. You’ve seen countless pictures of the incredible ruins perched high on a mountain top and swore that one day you’d be there. You bought tickets months in advance and saved your money to travel half-way across the world just to be here. You got up at 3 am to be one of the first people in line for the bus ride to the entrance. Or you’ve spent the last 3 days camping and hiking you’re way across the mountains just to watch the sun rise over Machu Picchu.
And it’s cloudy.
And it’s raining.
And you can’t even see the ruins through the thick, swirling mist hanging low over the mountain.
This is exactly what happened to me and my boyfriend K when we recently visited Machu Picchu. This spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site (and one of the New 7 Wonders of The World!) has been on my bucket list for ages. I planned an incredible 3 week adventure through Peru and, like everyone else, had waited in quiet anticipation to finally see Machu Picchu in the flesh so to speak.
It had been raining all night, then off and on while we waited in line for the bus at 4 am. But as we drove up the mountain, the clouds looked like they were starting to clear and I thanked my lucky stars that the weather was cooperating.
As we entered the grounds there was a thick fog hanging over the ruins, making most of structure invisible. I figured we’d just wait it out and the clouds would burn off once the sun rose high in the sky.
We did a 2 hour tour of the ruins in the sprinkling rain before hiking all the way up Huayna Picchu. Thankfully the rain stopped and I thought our bad luck would be over. I was wrong.
At the top of Machu Picchu’s neighboring mountain we found zero views of Machu Picchu below. We even waited for an hour and a half hoping the clouds would clear.
Finally we admitted defeat and hiked down, figuring we’d just explore the ruins. At least it’d stopped raining, right? But as mountain weather is notoriously unpredictable, instead of clearing it started pouring. For hours.
Once down from Huayna Picchu, we were soaked and made a beeline to the front entrance. Ducking into the snack bar we spent an hour drying out and patiently waiting for the rain to stop. When it became clear that this would be our weather for the day (our one and only day at Machu Picchu), we made a decision. We decided to suck it up, go explore and try to make the most of our visit. I mean, you’re only here once, right? With the last minute purchase of an over-priced umbrella, we wrapped ourselves in Gortex and braved the weather.
The rain continued pouring down for another hour of so and then gradually turned to a a light drizzle. The clouds rolled up and over the ruins giving us brief moments of clarity where we frantically snapped the iconic Machu Picchu shot.
By mid-afternoon though, the clouds and rain had completely cleared. And wouldn’t you know it, the sun even came out! During our last hour or so we had to strip off our layers and put on our sunglasses as the mountain top heated up. We couldn’t have been happier as we skipped around the now visible ruins and enjoyed stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
When doing outdoor activities or visiting sites outside, sometimes you just have to take what your given. Rather than leave and be disappointed with our experience, we prepared, had a little patience and kept a positive attitude. These factors turned our potentially bad day into an amazing one. Here are some tips of how you can make the most out of your visit to Machu Picchu in the pouring rain!
1. Be Prepared
Despite what the weather man tells you, bring rain gear! Funnily enough, while we were sitting in the snack shop waiting for the torrential downpour to stop, I checked the weather app on my phone. I was hoping good news would be in the forecast for the rest of the day. Guess what it said? Machu Picchu was currently cloudy with no mention of rain! Thanks weather man.
Machu Picchu is located in a RAINforest so expect it to RAIN! Bring a Gortex jacket, wear quick dry/rain pants and Gortex hikers. This is what I wore and actually stayed pretty dry. When my pants did get soaked, they dried out quickly when we went inside for a break. A rain cover for my backpack saved my camera gear and extra sweater from getting soaked.
Weather changes quickly on the top of a mountain so bring layers. While I got warm hiking up and down Huayna Picchu, I did cool off later on and was thankful for my sweater. When the sun finally came out later in the afternoon, temperatures shot up. With this dramatic change, I stripped down to my tank top and slapped on some sun screen.
2. Be Patient
Patience and perseverance will help. A lot. As I’ve already mentioned, the weather finally did let up but not until later in the day. K and I had planned on spending the entire day at Macchu Picchu so we really weren’t in a rush to leave. I mean, you’re only here once! Around lunch time, when we were sitting in the snack bar drying out, I noticed a huge line of people waiting for the bus back down the mountain. They had simply given up on the weather. Well, due to their lack of patience they missed out on a beautiful afternoon!
3. Bring A Good Attitude
They say that attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. This couldn’t be more true than when exploring the outdoors in bad weather. Though I was disappointed that I didn’t have the greatest views from the top of Huanyna Picchu, I was still trilled just to be up there!
And of course I was disappointed when the pouring rain wouldn’t stop but I didn’t let that ruin my time at Machu Picchu. Instead of sulking and shying away from the rain, K and I bundled up and headed straight into the storm. We thought, what a story we’re going to have (and a great blog topic)! We simply accepted that we had no control over the weather and that this was going to be our Machu Picchu experience.
A visit to Machu Picchu is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Like a bride on her wedding day, everyone wants it to be perfect. The weather can definitely impact your experience but don’t let it make or break your time there. Leaving too soon because of bad weather will leave you disappointed and let down on what was supposed to be an amazing experience. Don’t build it up so much in your head and accept that in travel, you really don’t have control over certain things. Come prepared, bring along some patience and a good attitude. With these simple things in mind you’ll still have the most incredible adventure, even if it wasn’t the one you had planned.