How We’re Handling The High Elevation In Cusco, Peru

How We’re Handling The High Elevation In Cusco, Peru
Heather Nicholds, C.H.N.


When I booked our flights to Cusco, Peru, which is at about 11,200′ elevation, I looked into all kinds of ways to prevent altitude sickness.

A friend of mine had a really unpleasant experience adjusting to the altitude, so I was maybe a bit overcautious in preparing, but I think that’s better than underpreparing, right?

We started two weeks before we were heading to Cusco by taking gingko biloba. What I read didn’t say that it would definitely help, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt anything and wasn’t expensive.

We drank tons of water before and after our arrival here. Hydration’s never a bad idea, but Phil read somewhere that it can really help adjust to altitude.

We’ve also been drinking herbal coca tea. They haven’t done studies on it apparently, but it’s been used for a long time to help adjust to the altitude.

Coca is the plant that’s used to make cocaine, but the tea has a totally different effect. The alkaloids have to be chemically extracted and highly processed to get to the drug.

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Phil had some muna tea in a restaurant, which he’d read is also good for altitude.

There are also altitude sickness pills you can take, but we found we didn’t need them.

We took it very easy the first few days, not walking too quickly (especially up hills and stairs) and not doing any exercise.

That was kind of hard for me, because I like to run or do something active every day. To appease myself, I did some easy yoga instead.

So in the end, I’m not sure if it was anything in particular, or a combination of things, or just being lucky, but neither of us had any trouble adjusting to the altitude here.

We were a bit short of breath the first couple of days, especially going up our steep stairs to the upper floor of our small apartment.

I’ve also noticed that I’ve been really dry – eyes, mouth, nose – but I’m not sure if that’s because of the altitude or the cool nighttime temperatures (with no heat in our apartment).

Those are some really minor effects of being at altitude, though, considering some of the things we’d heard from others, so we had a good experience adjusting.

Have you ever spent time at high altitudes? Let me know what your experience was like below.


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