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Climate and Weather

Peru - Climate and Weather


Peru’s vast expanse of beaches, mountains and jungle means each area has its own climate and breathtaking scenery. What the weather is like will depend on which part of the country you are living in.

The area of La Costa is a desert coastal strip to the west of Peru. Facing the Pacific Ocean, the area has a mild climate. It is pleasantly warm throughout the year with little variation in temperature. There are lows of 15°C in the August winter, and highs of 24°C in February’s height of summer. This means that even summer days are comfortable, despite the desert environment caused by the lack of rain. The sea is never warm, but reaches an acceptable swimming temperature from January to March each year. In the cold season, fog and low clouds are common, especially around Lima, which can feel grey and overcast for several months of the year.

The weather in the La Costa area can be heavily disrupted in years where the El Niño appears, warming the ocean waters, making the air hot and humid along the coast, and soaking the region in torrential rainstorms. El Niño can cause flooding and landslides.

La Sierra is the Andean zone, where high altitudes make the temperatures cool all year. The area is a strip running north to south, separating the La Costa and La Selva areas. The high peaks, which are over 5,000 metres, permanently hold snow, and night-time temperatures drop below freezing at 3,000 metres between May and August. Meanwhile, the Andean Plateau experiences its rainy season from September to May each year, with dry months accompanied by high levels of strong sunshine. The daytimes can get hot, but the temperatures plummet once the sun sets.

La Selva, to the east of Peru, is the area covered by the Amazonian forest. This impenetrable rainforest located in the Amazon Basin is hot and humid throughout the year, with frequent rainfall. Towards the south of the country, the climate is tropical, with relatively dry winters. There are very few habitations of any size in the area.

Peru has three distinct areas, each with their own climate. This means that weather and temperatures around the country will vary significantly.

Most businesses working from modern offices will expect their staff to dress conservatively and smartly whatever the weather. Men in management and professional work will normally wear a suit or jacket with a tie, whilst women should wear either a suit or a smart dress with matching jacket.

Whilst high heels may be appropriate for women working in offices or attending formal evening events, they will be impractical for the widely paved with cobbled streets of Peru’s towns. Either smart flat shoes or a second pair of shoes will help the daily commute.

If you are dealing with officials in any capacity, you may find a smart appearance will help you be taken more seriously. However, you may find you receive more attention from beggars and thieves if you are visibly wealthy. Wallets, expensive watches and handbags are easily snatched if your guard slips or if you wander into the wrong streets.

Sunglasses, sun cream and a broad brimmed hat will protect your skin during sunny days. A bottle of clean water is useful in most parts of Peru on warmer days; in the Amazon rainforest, it will be essential to have immediate access to clean water at all times to prevent sunstroke.

Jeans are typically worn around the streets of Peru. They are easily matched with t-shirts and tops for hot weather, or jumpers and coats for the cooler months.

Fleeces are great versatile for cold and rainy days. In higher latitudes, a thick winter coat, scarves, gloves and a warm hat will be appreciated in winter.

Trainers are the normal, casual footwear worn around town. However, if you are trekking around the countryside or along mountain paths, a pair of proper walking boots with good grips will be essential.

Bars and restaurants usually welcome casually dressed visitors. In more upmarket establishments you may feel more comfortable wearing smart casual clothes; some expensive restaurants may expect clients to dress smartly. Whenever you are entering a religious site, you should be dressed conservatively with your body covered. Short skirts, strappy tops and bare chested men are not welcome.

If you are invited to a family’s home in Peru, don’t be afraid to ask what clothing is appropriate. Casual clothing might be fine for a child’s birthday celebration, but you may find yourself at a more formal family gathering where everyone has arrived smartly dressed.

There are no cultural issues or laws that dictate what women should wear when out and about. Shorts are perfectly normal for younger local women when the weather is hot enough. Unfortunately, as in many places around the world, women who choose to dress in short skirts or low cut tops in Peru may be harassed by men, which in the some areas could become dangerous.

In some areas of Peru, you will be bothered by mosquitos; the pregnant females drink blood before laying their eggs in stagnant water. Some of the mosquitos carry dengue fever, chikungunya, the zika virus, malaria or yellow virus. In addition to making sure your vaccinations are up to date before arriving in Peru, sleep under mosquito netting and wear protective clothing.

Peru sits on top of the boundary between two of the Earth’s tectonic plates. The Nazca Plate and the South American Plate are continuously colliding, moving apart or sliding against each other. It is this movement that created the Andes, and that causes regular earthquakes in Peru.

In October of 1746, the colonial city of Lima was hit by an earthquake which threw people to the ground and led to much of the city’s buildings and infrastructure collapsing. Within a matter of minutes, a tsunami caused by the earthquake killed almost 5,000 people in the nearby port of Callao.

No earthquake in Peru has caused as much damage or loss of life since the tragic events of 1746, but deaths occur every few years. Each year, more than 170 earthquakes in Peru are strong enough to be felt by local inhabitants, and some seismologists are concerned that Peru will experience another devastating earthquake in the not too far future. Thirty percent of the country’s population, 85 percent of its financial industry, 70 percent of its commercial industry and almost all the country’s central government and international commerce is based in Lima, which may be particularly vulnerable to another big earthquake.

Under certain conditions, earthquakes also cause landslides. About 70,000 people lost their lives in the Cordillera Blanca range in 1974 as villages were buried under mud. Similar landslides can be caused by extremely heavy downpours of rain, especially after a period of drought. Often combined with heavy flooding, these events can cut off village roads, destroy bridges, demolish homes or render them uninhabitable, and can be deadly.

The climate in Peru is affected by El Niño, which causes occasional periods of drought. This has an impact on the residents and farmers living in drought hit areas. However, it also increases the risk of wildfire in high summer temperatures, which can spread through thousands of acres before being brought under control.

Finally, Peru’s tectonic plate location means it is home to several extinct and active volcanoes. The latter are a genuine risk, so people are advised to stay away. The public have been officially informed not to trek or climb in the areas of the Sabancaya, Ampato and Hualca Hualca volcanoes in Arequipa.


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