What is altitude sickness?
Cusco is located at an altitude of 3,400 metres (11,200ft) and it is common for many visitors to experience some symptoms of altitude sickness or ‘soroche’ as it is known locally. It’s hard to tell if you will be affected by altitude sickness as some people can be more susceptible than others regardless of age, sex or physical condition.
Mild symptoms can include headaches, breathlessness, nausea & dizziness, loss of appetite, fatigue, disturbed sleep and a general feeling of malaise. Climbing the stairs to your hotel room can sometimes feel like the last mile in a marathon in the first few days of your trip!
How might altitude sickness affect my trip?
Mild altitude sickness should not interfere too much with your normal activity. Symptoms are usually felt within 12 – 24 hours of arrival and tend to subside within 3 days. If you continue to feel unwell ask your hotel to call you a doctor as more severe reactions may require medical attention. Many hotels provide coca tea or ‘mate de coca’ to guests and they also have oxygen available to help you acclimatise.
Before travelling to Cusco consult your doctor particularly if you have any heart, lung or other severe health problems as not all people can travel to Cusco or the Sacred Valley due to the altitude.
Tips to avoid altitude sickness:
- Take a few days to acclimatise to the altitude before attempting any treks or strenuous activity.
- If symptoms persist after a few days descend to the lower altitude of the Sacred Valley. The town of Pisaq for example is at a lower altitude of 2900 metres.
- Drink lots of water both on the plane before you arrive in Cusco and throughout your stay.
- Avoid tobacco, alcohol and drugs such as sleeping tablets and tranquilisers as these can make symptoms worse.
- If symptoms persist consult a doctor.
This information is intended as a guide only. Consult your doctor for more information on altitude and altitude sickness in Peru.