Altitude management & what to be aware of when you’re planning to head into the Andes

Altitude sickness

One discomfort often faced by travellers in Peru is altitude sickness, locally known as soroche. Typically occurring at elevations above 8,000 feet, altitude sickness is common at the country’s popular inland destinations including Machu Picchu, and can affect any traveler, regardless of physical fitness. Symptoms include headache, nausea, and lethargy, among others.

It’s recommended to bring Diamox tablets with you in case you react strongly to changes in elevation—but know that if you do become ill, your guides, hotel staff, and other locals are extremely well-versed in knowing the signs and caring for travelers with altitude sickness. Taking extra time to acclimatize, getting lots of rest and water, and consuming coca tea and leaves should help.

For treks or climbs above 4,000m we recommend you arrive at least 2 days prior to departure to acclimatise fully before any physical exertion. When planning to arrive in Cusco, it’s often a good idea to stay in the Sacred Valley which is 1,000m lower than Cusco and this helps greatly with the altitude acclimatisation if you’re not using to being at altitude.

For other medical needs, most private clinics and hospitals have good facilities and well-trained doctors. When you’re in rural areas, however, quality medical care can be scarce—in case of emergency, head to Lima if possible, or the closest city. Consider investing in travel insurance for emergency and evacuation coverage, especially if you are planning a more active adventure in remote areas.

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