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How to Avoid Altitude Sickness on the Inca Trail

February 3, 2015|Posted in: Hiking, Inca Trail, Peru

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The Inca Trail is a terrible place to get altitude sick. You’ll either feel miserable hiking with a pounding headache or desperate as you search for a secluded, makeshift bathroom to deal with stomach issues brought on by altitude sickness. And, to be frank, there aren’t many secluded spots on the popular Inca Trail.

Here are four tips to help you ensure that you don’t end up in this uncomfortable situation.

  • Spend two to three days in Cusco. You can explore the nearby Inca ruins, visit a weaving community in the neighboring Sacred Valley, wander through the local market, and look for signs of Inca rebellion at the colonial cathedral while you give your body a chance to adjust.
  • Slow down. On the Inca Trail, slow and steady wins the race. It’s normal to feel panicky about your ability to keep up. Instead of giving into the temptation to rush, though, slow to a pace that allows you to keep your breathing under control. Huffing and puffing is a sure sign that you are hiking too fast.

  • Hydrate. Dehydration sneaks up on you at high altitude. This is because in the thin, high altitude air, sweat evaporates almost as fast as it forms. The bad news about dehydration is that it makes you more vulnerable to altitude sickness. So, make sure to drink plenty of water as you hike.
  • Consider medication. Talk to your doctor about taking medication that can help your body adjust to the altitude. The two biggest mistakes I see people who have brought medication make are to start taking it too late and to stop taking it too soon.

Finally, if you have the misfortune to get altitude sick, tell your guide right away. He or she can administer oxygen to you or, if need be, evacuate you from the Inca Trail.

Think you are ready for the Inca Trail? Check out our Inca Trail to Machu Picchu trip now!


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