Machu Picchu
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Avoid altitude sickness on your trip
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Altitude sickness in Machu Picchu? What to do?

Machu Picchu is 2,430 meters above sea level (7,972 ft). Because of this, it is normal for tourists to suffer from the famous ‘altitude sickness’ (also known as mountain sickness or, simply, soroche). Although the symptoms usually disappear gradually, there are effective ways to combat this discomfort.


Old man in Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is visited daily by people from all over the world and all ages

Cusco is a city located in the mountains of Peru (the Andes Mountains). There it is common for visitors to suffer from altitude sickness. The symptoms (nausea, fatigue, headache) usually disappear 1 or 2 days later.


What is altitude sickness?

  • Definition : Altitude sickness is the body’s poor adaptation to the decrease in oxygen in high altitude places. Symptoms are usually felt when 2,400 meters above sea level (7,874 ft) are exceeded.
  • Symptoms : Symptoms can vary from person to person and usually disappear after two or three days. The most recurrent are: nausea, fatigue, tiredness, dizziness, insomnia, lack of appetite, headache, and increased heart rate.
  • Treatments : In case of suffering strongly from the symptoms of altitude sickness, we recommend: oxygen therapy and anti-inflammatory drugs. In addition, you should drink plenty of water (coca tea is widely used in the Andes).

Altitude sickness in Cusco?

  • The city of Cusco is 3,399 meters above sea level (11,151 ft).
  • It is normal for tourists to suffer from some of the symptoms of altitude sickness in the city of Cusco.
  • Most tourists feel the symptoms of altitude sickness more intensely on the first day of their visit to Cusco.
  • However, after a day or two, the symptoms usually disappear until not felt at all.
  • If the visitor makes some kind of physical effort (running, climbing stairs, jumping) it is normal to breathe hard as well as feel the heart beat faster.

Altitude sickness in Machu Picchu?

  • The Inca city of Machu Picchu is 2,430 meters above sea level (7,972 ft).
  • Although it is possible to feel the symptoms of altitude sickness, if there was a previous acclimatization to the altitude of Cusco, the discomforts will be almost nil.
  • In Machu Picchu there are hiking routes to the nearby mountains. The most popular are the Huayna Picchu, 2,720 meters from the sea (8,923 ft). and Machu Picchu Mountain, 3,082 meters from the sea (10,111 ft).
  • When ascending the Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu mountains; the tourist will feel difficulty breathing and greater agitation.
Machu Picchu happy tourists
Take due precautions upon arrival in Cusco and enjoy your vacation visiting Machu Picchu

It doesn’t matter where it comes from. Nor how old are you or how experienced or traveling you are; all people can get sick from altitude sickness. However, not all people experience symptoms with the same intensity.


What to do against altitude sickness?

  • Stay calm – Your body is trying to get used to the least amount of oxygen so it is of utmost importance that you take it easy the first few days you are in Cusco.
  • Breathe deeply – Once again your body is trying to get the necessary oxygen. To give your lungs enough oxygen, it is advisable to stop and breathe deeply from time to time.
  • Avoid alcohol – Some studies suggest that the effects of alcohol are greater in high places. Also, alcohol can exacerbate the effects of altitude sickness. Stay away from pisco, at least the first days in Cusco.
  • Drink plenty of water – Altitude sickness can cause a dry throat causing thirst. In addition, drinking water calms heavy breathing and alleviates the feeling of lack of oxygen caused by altitude sickness.
  • Get acclimatized to Cusco – The city of Cusco is nearly a thousand meters (3,280 ft). above Machu Picchu. If the tourist adapts satisfactorily to the city of Cusco, it is sure that they will have no problem visiting Machu Picchu.
  • Sorojchi Pills – One of the recommended medications to alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness is called ‘Sorojchi pills’. You can find them in any pharmacy in Cusco without a prescription.
  • Bring Chlorophyll Drops – This natural remedy increases the amount of red blood cells in the blood. Therefore, there is more opportunity for oxygen to be absorbed by the blood. It can be found in any health food store in Cusco.
  • Drink coca tea – The coca leaf has been used since before the time of the Incas as a remedy for various ailments. Currently, the coca leaf infusion is widely used in Cusco to combat the symptoms of altitude sickness.

Important things about altitude sickness to consider

  • There really is no cure for altitude sickness. The only effective way is to descend back to normal elevation.
  • Altitude sickness affects tourists in the city of Cusco. In Machu Picchu altitude sickness is not really a problem.
  • The Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu mountains are the only places where tourists can feel some of the symptoms of altitude sickness.
  • It is not recommended to climb the Machu Picchu mountains for older adults with heart problems or other physical ailments.
  • The mountain of the 7 colors is the tourist attraction of Cusco located at the highest altitude: 5,200 meters above sea level (17,060 ft).
  • A good option for tourists who want to avoid the height of the city of Cusco is to stay in the town of Urubamba. This town has good hotels and is located almost 600 meters (1968 ft). less than Cusco.
Coca tea in Cusco
Coca tea will help alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness or “Soroche”

Altitudes of the tourist attractions of Cusco

  • Sacsayhuaman – 3,700 m.s.n.m. (12,139 ft).
  • Tipón – 3,600 m.s.n.m. (11,811 ft).
  • Piquillacta – 3,350 m.s.n.m. (10,990 ft).
  • Chinchero – 3,762 m.s.n.m. (12,342 ft).
  • Pisac – 2,972 m.s.n.m. (9,759 ft).
  • Urubamba – 2,871 m.s.n.m. (9,419 ft).
  • Ollantaytambo – 2,792 m.s.n.m. (9,160 ft).
  • Aguas Calientes – 2,040 masl (6,692 ft).
  • Montaña 7 Colores – 5,200 masl (17,060 ft).
  • Maras – 3,380 m.s.n.m. (11,089 ft).
  • Moray – 3,385 m.s.n.m. (11,105 ft).

Advice from people who have been there

Machu Picchu

Victoria ZBy: Victoria Z

“Coca tea“

“I am very nervous and I was very afraid of altitude sickness, but before traveling to Machu Picchu and throughout my stay in Cusco, I took coca tea; It was recommended to me by a friend from Cusco. I had no problem, what's more, take a box of sachets home to make my own infusions and my family liked it, it's delicious, it avoids taking pills and altitude sickness, I highly recommend it.“


 

By Ticket Machu Picchu – Last updated, July 31, 2020