Cusco Acclimatization: What You Need to Know

Believe it or not, strategic planning of your Peru trip in consideration of the high altitude can make all the difference for an enjoyable trip to see Cusco and Machu Picchu. The city of Cusco is at an altitude of around 3,400 meters above sea level, which is high enough to cause altitude sickness in many travelers, especially when you’re not used to being at high altitude.

How long do you need to acclimatize in Cusco? We always recommend planning 1 to 3 days at the beginning of your travels to slowly ease your body in to the high altitude of Cusco, Peru. That means staying at relatively the same altitude and avoiding any strenuous activity such as hiking or trekking.

Here are some ideas for what to do during these first few days of acclimatization to Cusco:

  • Book your hotel in the historic center of Cusco so that you’re within walking distance of the Plaza de Armas of Cusco and can explore downtown on your own.
  • Have us guide you through the main sites in downtown Cusco on the Cusco City Walking Tour.
  • Go on the Cusco City Tour to see the archeological sites near the city at relatively the same altitude.

Once your body has had sufficient time to get used to the high altitude of Cusco, you’re ready for Machu Picchu! Our most popular Machu Picchu tour is the Sacred Valley-Machu Picchu Tour, which surprisingly doesn’t require any hiking at all, but you will be walking for around 2 to 3 hours at the archeological site itself.

As the Machu Picchu archeological site is a day trip away from the city, this tour takes advantage of the first day to stop by worthwhile sites along the way to Aguas Calientes (the town closest to Machu Picchu). After an overnight stay in Machupicchu Town, you’ll see Machu Picchu bright and early on Day 2 and then head back to the city of Cusco.

Now you’re ready for a more adventurous trek or two! Don’t be afraid if you feel like the walking or hiking is harder on your body than normal. The high altitude can fool you into feeling like you’re not as fit as you thought you were, but after the aforementioned acclimatization and if you take your time, the incredible landscape, breathtaking views, and experience itself will be worth the effort.

Here are the top Cusco day hikes in order of popularity:

Planning your Peru trip? Interested in Cusco day hikes? Contact us!


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