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Portada / Useful information for travel to Peru / Data for traveler / How to prevent altitude sickness in Cusco

How to prevent altitude sickness in Cusco

Altitude sickness is a problem that affects some people when visiting high-altitude locations; however, one can be prepared to avoid this condition. Here, we will tell you how to prevent altitude sickness in Cusco.
"Soroche" or altitude sickness is not related to physical condition, but rather to a sudden change in altitude.

When visiting high-altitude locations such as the city of Cusco, it is possible to experience altitude sickness or Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). It is important to prevent altitude sickness even before noticing the first symptoms or upon arrival in Cusco.

In Peru, this condition is popularly known as "Soroche" and is very common among travelers arriving in Cusco.


Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), or soroche, is caused by lower atmospheric pressure at high altitudes. This results in a decreased amount of oxygen in the blood and, consequently, less oxygen reaches the body's organs.
The human body distributes oxygen throughout the body via the blood. This function is disrupted at altitudes above 2,400 meters above sea level.

What are the symptoms of altitude sickness?

One of the organs most affected by the inadequate oxygen supply is the brain. The typical symptoms of soroche include:

  • Headache
  • Severe dizziness
  • Breathing difficulty
  • A feeling of disorientation similar to being drunk

More severe symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty breathing even at rest
  • Bluish or purplish skin discoloration
  • Chest tightness

In extremely rare cases, which are not common, one might suffer from cerebral or pulmonary edema and death.

It is important to be aware of the symptoms upon your arrival in Cusco, thus making it more likely to prevent altitude sickness.

Hiker at the altitude of Vinicunca, Cusco. Source: CuscoPeru.com
Before engaging in any physical activity, make sure to acclimatize


The human body undergoes functional changes when traveling to places above 2,400 meters above sea level.

Soroche has no established cure. However, humans have lived at high elevations for thousands of years, and remedies are well-known and practiced.

Here are some recommendations to prevent altitude sickness in Cusco:

  • The first recommendation is to slow down, that is, walk more slowly, take steps one at a time. Avoid overexerting the body at all times, as it is in a state of crisis due to the lack of oxygen.
  • The human body usually adjusts to altitude after 2 or 3 days. Although it varies depending on many factors, such as age, physical condition, and tolerance to lack of oxygen. This gradual process is known as acclimatization, once the body has adjusted, physical activities can be performed normally.
  • Nutrition is a crucial factor if it is your first time traveling to high altitudes or if you are particularly sensitive. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and Andean grains helps stabilize the body. Avoid heavily spiced or high-fat foods, as digestion at high altitudes differs.
  • Staying hydrated by drinking water (2 or 3 liters per day per person) is essential to successfully overcome the acclimatization stage.
  • The coca leaf was considered sacred in the Inca Empire and this was not only part of their beliefs but was also based on the extraordinary natural qualities of the leaf. Studies on the coca leaf show it contains more than 15 different alkaloids, many of which are natural regulators of the body. This makes coca leaves a great alternative if you want to calm the body suffering from altitude sickness.
  • There are pills called ‘Sorojchi Pills’ available without a prescription at any pharmacy in Cusco. These help reduce the most uncomfortable symptoms (dizziness, fatigue, headache).
  • Oxygen canisters known as Oxishot are also available in hotels or some pharmacies. These oxygen canisters allow you to breathe as if you were at an altitude of 100 meters above sea level.

Higher altitude locations in the Cusco department:

  • Nevado Ausangate, located to the south of Cusco. Altitude: 6,384 m.a.s.l.
  • Nevado Salkantay, located northeast of Cusco. Altitude: 6,261 m.a.s.l.
  • Rainbow Mountain: located to the south of Cusco. Altitude: 5,200 m.a.s.l.
  • Inca Trail, Warmihuañuska pass. Maximum elevation: 4,200 m.a.s.l.
  • Abra Malaga, located southeast of Cusco. Maximum elevation: 4,297 m.a.s.l.
  • Abra Pirhuayani, located southeast of Cusco. Maximum elevation: 4,725 m.a.s.l.
  • The city of Cusco is at an elevation of 3,400 m.a.s.l.
Height in Machu Picchu, Cusco. Source: CuscoPeru.com
Machu Picchu is at 2,430 m.a.s.l., which does not generally cause altitude issues