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Altitude Sickness

One of the most frequent concerns that our trekkers ask us about is the altitude. We are going to discuss altitude below. However, we have to emphasize that we are not physicians and if you have concerns, you want to talk to your physician.

The majority of our trekkers do not come from high altitude locations. This means that your bodies will need time to adjust and sometimes experience uncomfortable symptoms during the process.

 

Important altitudes:

  • Cusco: 3,395 m / 11,135 ft
  • Urubamba: 2,870 m / 9,420 ft
  • Ollantaytambo: 2,792 m/9,158 ft
  • Aguas Calientes: 2,040 m/ 6,691 ft
  • Machu Picchu: 2,440 m/ 8,052 ft
  • Inca Trail Trailhead: 2,572 m / 8,438 ft
  • Inca Trail Elevation Range: 2,400 – 4,215 m / 7,872 – 13,825 ft
  • Salkantay Trailhead: 3,800 m/12,467 ft
  • Salkantay Trek Elevation Range: 1,800 m – 4,650 m / 5,905 ft – 15,252 ft
  • Ancascocha Trailhead: 3,205 m / 10,512 ft
  • Ancascocha Trek Elevation Range: 2,792 m – 4,550 m/ 9,158 ft -14,924 ft

Not everyone gets altitude sickness. Unfortunately, there is no way to know if a person is a going to get it. Being in good physical shape does not reduce the risk. Only once you arrive to a high altitude city, you will know if your body will be affected by the altitude.

Frequent Symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Chest tightness
  • Fatigue

Common sense measures to lessen symptoms:

  • Take it easy on the first day
  • Limit alcohol
  • Drink plenty of liquids
  • Avoid overeating or excessively fatty meals

Suggested prophylaxis:

  • Arrive in Cusco 2 days before your trek – this is the best way to prevent significant altitude sickness
  • Over the counter headache medication
  • Chewing coca leaves
  • Prescription Diamox

Common Myths:

Myth: You can avoid the effects of altitude by going straight to the Sacred Valley (Urubamba) because it is lower altitude.

Truth:It does not help to go straight from Cusco to the Sacred Valley to avoid the “effects” of altitude. This is actually counter productive. While you are there, you will not be acclimating at all. Then, once you are on your trek at higher altitude, your body will not be prepared.

Myth: Spending time in Lima counts towards your days of acclimatization.

Truth: Lima is located at sea level, so your body won´t have to adjust while in Lima.


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