The altitude sickness, also known as soroche, is a problem that afflicts different people who wish to visit destinations with higher elevation above sea level, being the case of the Peruvian highlands one of them. Different sites report on this ailment and it is not surprising that tourists inquire a little about it in order to get information and know how to prevent this discomfort; however, there is nothing to worry about.

Do you want to know more and avoid your plans to be frustrated? Don't worry, here we tell you all about it.

What is the altitude of Cusco and Machu Picchu?

Cusco is a city located in the Peruvian Andes at 3,399 meters/11,152 feet above sea level. Now, what about Machu Picchu? One might think, at least from the photos, that we must climb even higher to reach the Inca citadel as it is located in the middle of the jungle. However, this archaeological complex has an elevation of 2,430 meters/7,972 feet above sea level. More than 950 meters difference!

What is the altitude of the Sacred Valley?

The Sacred Valley of the Incas is located 35 km from Cusco and about 600 meters below the level of the Imperial City. These are the exact altitudes of the towns that make up the valley:

Pisac: 2,980 meters/9776 feet above sea level.
Calca: 2,929 meters/9609 feet above sea level.
Urubamba: 2,870 meters/9416 feet above sea level.
Ollantaytambo: 2,850 meters/9350 feet above sea level.
Note that not all places in the same province will have the same elevation. For example: the district of Chinchero, located in the province of Urubamba, has an average altitude of 3,754 meters/12,316 feet above sea level.

What is altitude sickness and what causes it?

We understand as altitude sickness, soroche or mountain sickness, the little adaptation or habit that our organism has to the decrease of oxygen; being totally normal in places with high altitude. It is said that the symptoms begin to appear once we reach 2,400 meters/7,874 feet above sea level.

What are the symptoms of altitude sickness?

Symptoms vary from person to person, and usually include: tiredness, fatigue, nausea, insomnia, headache, elevated heart rate and lack of appetite. They usually disappear after two or three days.

Of course, more serious symptoms of altitude sickness such as altitude cerebral edema or altitude pulmonary edema are very rare. For these cases, the most sensible thing to do is to return to places with a lower altitude as quickly as possible.

How to prevent altitude sickness in Cusco?

There are natural remedies that can mitigate the symptoms of altitude sickness, but, to avoid bad times, the best way to prevent altitude sickness is to acclimatize. There are also a series of healthy habits to take into account before venturing to higher altitudes:

Be patient. The International Union of Mountaineering Associations (UIAA) recommends a maximum gain of 500 meters/1,640 feet of altitude per day after reaching 3,000 meters/9,842 feet above sea level.

Practice breathing. Specialists recommend taking it easy and breathing deeply to get the oxygen you need.

Stay well hydrated. Altitude sickness leaves us with a parched throat and a great feeling of thirst, so it is advisable to drink plenty of water. Fortunately, drinking water also helps us to calm our breathing and relieves the sensation of lack of oxygen.

Eat without excess. Dishes rich in carbohydrates and natural sugars are recommended before starting the trip.

Sorojchi Pills. Sorojchi Pills, also known simply as soroche pills or altitude pills, are medicine that prevents and relieves the symptoms of altitude sickness. Its use is recommended and can be found in any pharmacy in Cusco without a prescription.

Coca tea. The millenary and sacred coca leaf was used in Inca times as a home remedy for different ailments. Nowadays, it is recommended to drink an infusion of coca leaf to combat the symptoms of altitude sickness.

Chlorophyll drops. Taking chlorophyll drops increases the amount of red blood cells in the blood, giving us more chance for oxygen to be absorbed by it. Don't worry if you forget to take them, they are also sold in health food stores in Cusco.