Altitude sickness is a common condition that affects travelers visiting the high-altitude destination of Cusco, Peru. As a company with years of high-altitude experience, we'll share with you how bad is altitude sickness in Cusco and six steps to avoid it.
Altitude sickness in Cusco can be really bad and be a major setback to your trip if you're not prepared.
By exceeding 10,000 feet like in Cusco Peru, altitude sickness can be more severe than most destinations and effect up to 50% of people.²
With altitude sickness being this bad in Cusco, keep reading to get all the details on Cusco's altitude and how to avoid altitude sickness there.
Cusco altitude is marked at 11,152 feet above sea level. Cusco is considered to be among some of the highest cities in the world over 10,000 feet including La Paz (Bolivia), Lhasa (Tibet), and Leadville (Colorado).
Located in the Andes Mountains of Peru, Cusco is just the starting point for many travelers who want to explore the high altitude destinations in the region. There are several popular destinations that offer stunning natural beauty, unique cultural experiences, and a chance to explore the Andean way of life.
One of the most popular high altitude destinations near Cusco is Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail that leads to it. This ancient Inca city offers breathtaking views, fascinating history and culture. Visitors can explore the ruins, and also hike to the Sun Gate or Huayna Picchu.
With the elevations of Cusco and its surrounding areas being so high, you'll want to take proper precautions when visiting.
50% of people visiting Cusco are reported to have altitude sickness.⁹ That gives you a 50/50 chance of getting altitude sickness on your Cusco trip.
Being based in Colorado with a lot of high-altitude experience, it takes usually at least 1-3 days to acclimate.
Technically, it can take a few weeks to fully acclimate. But for practical reasons being on vacation or during adventures in Cusco, you'll want to give yourself a few days minimum for acclimatization.
To take in account your visit to Cusco Peru, it takes on average 6-24 hours for altitude sickness symptoms to show. A good measurement is whether you feel any symptoms or not after a day upon arriving.
Yes, it can be hard for some people to breathe in Cusco.
Cusco has an estimated 9-10% less oxygen levels than at sea level.¹ With only around 13% oxygen in the air, this can make it substantially more difficult to breathe, especially if coming from sea level type of elevations.
Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and increased heart rate are all symptoms of altitude sickness which are at high risk in Cusco.
Cusco symptoms of altitude sickness can vary from person to person, but they often can include headache and nausea among many others.
These Cusco altitude sickness symptoms that may develop are:
Symptoms usually begin within 6-24 hours upon arrival, so be on the lookout of altitude sickness signs when you arrive in Cusco.
No, you do not need oxygen in Cusco.
While oxygen could only be helpful, keep in mind that the science of canned oxygen is somewhat questionable. You would need supplemental oxygen, which is what comes from an oxygen tank.
Oxygen is typically used for extreme altitudes, which is elevations over 18,000 feet.¹⁰ Unless you're doing some intense climbing in altitudes between 11,500 and 18,000 feet, oxygen tanks are not commonly used.
When you fly into the Cusco airport, you'll immediately land at 10,860 feet (3,310 m). You'll only go higher from there, with Cusco being 11,152 feet high.
To prevent altitude sickness flying in can be hard, but one thing that visitors can do is visit Secret Valley first. With an elevation average around 9,000 feet and gets as low as 6,730 feet, you can stay in Secret Valley for your first few days to help acclimate.
Lowering your elevation can be the best way to prevent altitude sickness, so Secret Valley can help lessen the blow of altitude sickness to acclimate before heading to Cusco.
No, on average one day is not enough time to acclimate in Cusco.
It takes about one day to see signs of altitude sickness. We generally recommend 1-3 days to acclimate, and with Cusco's high altitude that could take even up to a week.
Diamox is the most popular medication for altitude sickness that you can use for Cusco.
As a prescription drug, Diamox will have to be prescribed by a doctor. Dexamethasone is another altitude sickness medicine prescription drug.
For OTC drugs that are used for altitude sickness, Ibuprofen such as Advil and Motrin has been found in research to lessen the occurrence of altitude sickness symptoms like nausea and headache.¹¹
It is highly recommended to use altitude sickness tablets for Cusco. Tablets can be another reference to altitude sickness medicine such as Diamox, Dexamethasone, and Ibuprofen.
Altitude sickness is a common issue for people traveling to Cusco and surrounding areas including Machu Picchu.
As a company with over 10 years of high altitude experience, we'll share essential steps you can take to help avoid altitude sickness.
Here's our six steps how to avoid altitude sickness in Cusco:
In summary, these six steps will help you avoid Cusco altitude sickness — including maximizing your hydration, acclimating gradually, getting ample sleep, avoiding alcohol, limiting strenuous exercise, and supplementing antioxidants.
Introducing Zaca chewables, the ultimate supplement is here to help you conquer your next adventure with ease. Formulated with a blend of natural ingredients such glutathione and prickly pear, all of which work together to enhance your body's antioxidant support. These chewables are also infused with a potent dose of Japanese Raisin, an ancient remedy known in traditional Chinese medicine.
But don't just take our word for it — thousands of travelers, hikers, and adventurers have already tried and tested Zaca chewables, and the results speak for themselves — reporting feeling more refreshed, energized, and recovered. Take 2-4 chewables per day while traveling. Try Zaca's chewable supplement today and fuel your next travel destination.
1. Oxygen Levels at Altitude
2. High-altitude illness (including mountain sickness) (Beyond the Basics)
3. Cusco Elevation
4. Machu Picchu Elevation
5. Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Elevation
6. Sun Gate Altitude
7. Huayna Picchu Altitude
8. Sacred Valley Elevation
9. Cusco Altitude Sickness Prevention
10. Effects of high altitude on humans
11. Ibuprofen Can Prevent Altitude Sickness
12. Cusco Airport Elevation - Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport
13. Why Do You Need to Drink a Lot of Water at a High Altitude?
14. Sleep: The Secret Ingredient of Injury Recovery
15. Effects of Alcohol
16. High altitude and oxidative stress
17. Oxidative Stress and Diseases Associated with High-Altitude Exposure
18. Effect of high altitude (7,620 m) exposure on glutathione