4 Proven Tips To Avoid Cusco Altitude Sickness

Cusco Altitude Sickness

If you're heading to Cusco, it's one of the highest risk areas in Peru for altitude sickness. You need to be prepared to avoid the miserable symptoms on your entire trip. Based out of Colorado we know high altitude very well, and we'll share everything you need to know about Cusco altitude and four proven tips to avoid Cusco altitude sickness.

Cusco Altitude

Cusco altitude sits at 11,152 feet (3,399 meters) in elevation above sea level.

You might be surprised to learn that Cusco's altitude is higher than Machu Picchu's altitude, which is 7,972 feet (2,430 meters) in elevation.

As a high altitude destination in Peru, Cusco is an ancient city formally designated as the capital of the Inca Empire that is a popular tourist spot today.² It stands as one of the highest cities in the world.

What many people don't realize is that not only Cusco, but the Cusco region has some of the highest mountains in the world — some of which are only accessible by foot or horseback.

  • Cusco altitude 11,152 ft (3,399 m)
  • Nevado Auzangate altitude 20,945 ft (6,384 m)
  • Salcantay altitude 20,574 ft (6,271 m)
  • Humantay altitude 17,956 ft (5,473 m)
  • Pachatusan altitude 15,886′ (4,842 m)
  • Huayna Picchu altitude 8,835′ (2,693 m
  • Machu Picchu altitude 7,972′ (2,430 m)
  • Salcantay altitude 20,574 ft (6,271 m)
  • Humantay altitude 17,956 ft (5,473 m)

How Common Is Altitude Sickness In Cusco?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, 75% of people higher than 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) will experience altitude sickness symptoms.¹

Based upon this fact, most people visiting Cusco will get altitude sickness since it's at 11,152′ feet high. It's best to be well prepared and knowledgable about Cusco altitude sickness to help avoid or minimize your risk.

Cusco Altitude Sickness

With Cusco altitude being well past 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), Cusco altitude sickness can easily range from mild to moderate.¹ Most people who visit Cusco will experience some type of altitude sickness symptoms.

Altitude sickness, or acute mountain sickness, is caused by a lack of oxygen at high altitudes. When you go from sea level to around 11,152′ feet (3,399 meters), your body experiences a big change in oxygen levels and physiological stress.

Cusco altitude sickness can cause problems like headaches, nausea and fatigue.

Cusco altitude sickness symptoms:

  • feeling and being sick
  • headaches
  • tiredness
  • nausea
  • loss of appetite
  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • difficulty sleeping

If you don't take precautions against Cusco altitude sickness before you get there, it can be very difficult to prevent thereafter.

4 Proven Tips To Avoid Cusco Altitude Sickness

As one of the highest cities in the the world with Cusco Altitude at 11,152 feet (3,399 meters), many travelers often experience altitude sickness when visiting.

Locally known as soroche, altitude sickness can make your trip to Cusco very uncomfortable or even debilitating.

Luckily, being based in Colorado we know there are several proven ways to avoid altitude sickness. We'll share those tips so you can avoid Cusco altitude sickness.

Here's 4 proven tips to avoid Cusco altitude sickness:

1. Acclimate & Rest

If you’re traveling from sea level or live at a lower altitude, it’s important that you give your body time to acclimate before exploring Cusco.

Symptoms of Cusco altitude sickness will typically develop within 24 hours. You want to wait for this period of time at a minimum to ensure you don't have any altitude sickness symptoms, as strenuous activities such as hiking will likely worsen your altitude sickness.

Because Cusco altitude is so high at 11,152 feet (3,399 m), it's best if you can stay a night or two at a lower elevation before visiting. For example, if you fly into Lima first which is 5,080 feet (1,550 m) in altitude, stay a few nights there. By breaking up your altitude ascent in phases, your body can acclimate and adjust better and easier.

Lastly, take naps when possible and get quality sleep, at least 7-9 hours. Rest is paramount to allowing your body to adjust and recover.

2. Proper Hydration

Proper hydration is important to avoid Cusco altitude sickness. Dehydration can lead to acute mountain sickness symptoms such as headaches, nausea and dizziness — all signs of altitude sickness! 

Due to increases respiration and colder, dryer climates at high altitudes, your body will lose fluids faster than normal.

You should drink plenty of water to keep your hydration levels healthy, especially before and then during your trip.. Experts recommend at least an ounce of water per every pound of body weight.

Also avoid alcohol when possible the first few days which can increase dehydration and lower sleep quality.

TIP: To maximize hydration, you can either add sea salt to your water or take Zaca hydration chewables.

3. Drink Coca Tea

Coca leaves have been used by Peruvians locals for centuries as a natural remedy for many ailments including gastrointestinal ailments, motion sickness, and altitude sickness.⁴

While illegal in the US, coca leaves are legal in Peru. You can buy coca leaves and tea at pharmacies, grocery stores, and markets in Cusco or surrounding areas.

Make yourself some coca tea each day for the high Cusco altitude to ease your visit, and also enjoy its many additional benefits including increased energy and immune support.

4. Take Altitude Supplements

Altitude supplements are one of the least utilized solutions to altitude sickness, yet are one of the most effective.

At high altitudes your body is fighting oxidative stress, lower oxygen levels, and dehydration. By supplementing the right altitude nutrients, you can fuel your body to combat these negative effects.

In our years of research we've found specific nutrients, glutathione and glutamine, shown to have science behind high altitude usage.

2 nutrients with altitude research:

1. Glutathione - With the oxidative stress of high altitudes, science shows glutathione was depleted by up to 45%.⁵ Supplementing glutathione can help replenish levels and boost antioxidants.

2. Glutamine - While high attitudes can cause havoc and fatigue your body, glutamine was shown in research to increase hydration⁶, display anti-fatigue properties⁶, and even boost cognition in high elevations.⁷

Supplementing glutathione and glutamine together can have profound benefits to improve your Cusco high altitude experience.

This concludes our list of the top tips to avoid Cusco altitude sickness.

Popular Altitude Supplement

Popular Cusco Altitude Supplement
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1. Altitude Sickness
2. Cusco Wikipedia
3. Do Coca Leaves Help Altitude Sickness?
4. 6 Potential Health Benefits Of Coca Leaf Tea
5. Effect of high altitude (7,620 m) exposure on glutathione
6. The Possible Importance of Glutamine Supplementation to Mood and Cognition in Hypoxia from High Altitude
7. Glutamine as an Anti-Fatigue Amino Acid in Sports Nutrition