Sooner or later if you plan on taking a trip to Cusco you will have to deal with some sort of Altitude sickness. So, how to deal with altitude sickness? Remember this problem can start as soon as you arrive in Cusco.
The normal route of the traveler heading to Cusco is via plane. The flight from Lima to Cusco is a very short one averaging an hour and fifteen minutes, so you are basically going from sea level (Lima) to 11,000+ feet (3,400 meters) upon your Cusco arrival. That is a very sudden change in altitude; this can affect some people very mildly or rather heavily depending on several factors. Some people will adjust in under 24 hours while feeling slight pressure while others might have symptoms including vomiting, headaches etc. Below are a few factors that relate to altitude sickness:
- Fitness level
- Previous altitude experience
- Recent meal (how much and what types of food you ate recently)
- First day activities
It might sound redundant to mention that being in good physical condition would benefit someone in high altitude but in fact is very helpful and definitely worth mentioning. While in high altitude your body will try harder to receive the same amount of oxygen it would at sea level. This means that if you are already in relatively good physical condition your body will adapt at a faster rate. This isn’t always the case though but it does help most of the time. So remember if your Peru trekking tour is coming up it would be wise to hit the gym a few more times/week or adjust your cardio.
Previous Altitude Experience
If you’ve never been in high altitude than going from sea level to over 10,000 feet above sea level can be quite the experience. This is also a major factor, travelers who’ve had hiking experience in relatively high altitudes will adjust much faster to Cusco.
The flight from Lima to Cusco takes about an hour and fifteen minutes so whatever you ate at the Lima airport or whatever snacks you tried during the flight might make it harder to adjust to the height where Cusco is located. Start your adjusting period from before you even board the domestic flight to Cusco, make sure you have a small meal that isn’t too much work to digest. The idea is to try to make your body adjust to the altitude and not spend time trying to digest a big meal.
First Day Activities
As mentioned above, your first day in Cusco should be dedicated to acclimatization. Your body will need to rest basically. Various methods have been tested and sleeping in high altitudes is the best way for your body to adjust. On your first day remember that sleep, light walks, light meals and plenty of fluids is the way to go.
- As a side note, elevation masks do not work for this purpose.