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Peru advice and dealing with altitude

(27 Posts)
glitterbiscuits Sun 23-Jun-19 09:25:21

My DH wants to go to Peru for his 50th next year.
Top tips needed please.
I like the idea but the one time I went to Tenerife we took a cable car up mount Teide ( the volcano) and I felt awful. Giddy and nauseous.

I don't want to get all the way to Peru and not see Machu Pichu.
I'd also like to try to see some condors.

Has anyone got any experience and advice to share please before I go off and research with travel agents.
I'm tempted to try to find an escorted tour.

Brugmansia Sun 23-Jun-19 14:05:47

We went last year and had an amazing trip. I planned and booked it all independently. It was really straightforward as there's loads of choice with accommodation that can easily be researched and booked online.

I was a bit concerned about altitude, particularly as DS was only 5 at the time. Because of that we started with 2 days in Arequipa, which is about 2,300m, to help acclimatise. We then went to colca canyon for 3 nights to see condors. Parts of the canyon are very high, we spent one night at 3,600m, but some villages on the edge are much lower.

After that we went to the sacred valley and Machu Picchu. We took our time and spent 4 nights in the sacred valley, in Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Then 2 nights at Machu Picchu- we visited the site twice.
Machu Picchu and the sacred valley are below 3,000m.

We then finished in Cusco for 3 nights. That was the highest place we stayed for any length of time, i think is about 3,600m so similar to the top of Teide. By then we'd been over 2,000m for almost 2 weeks so didn't notice the altitude.

We've been to Teide too. Part of the issue there is you probably went from sea level straight to the top in quite a short time. In Peru you can plan your trip so you work up to higher altitudes over a few days.

Hope this helps. It really is an amazing place. Happy to answer any other questions.

glitterbiscuits Sun 23-Jun-19 21:48:28

Thanks so much for the reply @Brugmansia
I'm sure I will think of specific questions
I'm jealous you got to see the condors. I think I'd rather see them than Machu Pichu.

Did you generally feel safe? What was the food like? We are all vegetarian. I heard Lima is quite a foodie place. Any top tips in general?

It's sounds like you saw lots of the highlights, I'd be a bit daunted to plan all that myself. The only Spanish I have was learned watching Dora The Explorer!

BubblesBuddy Sun 23-Jun-19 23:33:16

Lake Titicaca is the highest place most tourists get to and that gave me quite a problem. Avoid there is your are concerned about altitude. Elsewhere you build up slowly and it’s not over 10,000 ft. Lake Titicaca is much higher.

Condors are great - we saw some in Argentina recently. However Machu Picchu is truly outstanding and not to be missed. Peru is wonderful. I’m not sure about vegetarian but breakfast mostly featured eggs! Lots of standard offerings but not bacon where we went. Cusco, Lima and Arequipa have good restaurant choices and you could look up ones recommended in Lonely Planet. I’m sure some web sites will have info in English to help you plan.

We went on a guided tour and had a food/restaurant journalist on the trip so got lucky with recommendations! I think s guided tour can work well and I would look at a specialist company and one that uses boutique properties. More fun and more memorable! It’s a truly great holiday.

CathScarlett Sun 23-Jun-19 23:45:13

I lived in Peru for a year, in Lima where there's low altitude. I visited Machu Picchu and had the worst altitude sickness believable. It was actually in Cusco, the nearest town, where I was ill. Physically sick, migraine & hallucinations. Luckily you descend into MP from Cusco and I was fine while I was there.

Coca tea helps, but I'd strongly recommend arriving a couple of days before you plan anything. I couldn't walk more than ten yards before I had to sit down for the first couple of days. If you're fine then you'll find plenty to do.

I felt perfectly safe, and seeing MP is out of this world. It was completely worth the illness.

BubblesBuddy Mon 24-Jun-19 08:34:33

I found a strong migraine tablet with me and that worked. I have been to 13,000 ft in Argentina with no problem but altitude sickness can get you when you don’t expect it. Cusco is 11,200 ft so it can be very high if you go there straight from Lima. That’s why most trips don’t.

Brugmansia Mon 24-Jun-19 09:25:19

Yes we felt safe.

The food was great but we're meat and fish eaters and there was lots of both. I didn't really note what it was like for veggies. The main sites are very touristy though and cater to a very wide range of types of tourists, from backpackers up to very high end luxury travel. There's lots of choice with types of hotels so overall most types of dietary requirements are probably be catered for too.

When planning or trip i found there's are lots of travel blogs that helped, with a variety of different perspectives. I was mostly looking at ones focusing on travelling with kids but i am pretty sure there were some focused on vegetarian travelling that would probably have recommendations for particular places to eat.

We mostly stayed in small boutique hotels and guest houses. There were some lovely places, particularly in the sacred valley. Once place that was particularly special is El Albergue in Ollantaytambo, which is in the old railway station.

BubblesBuddy Mon 24-Jun-19 09:38:09

I took etc

BubblesBuddy Mon 24-Jun-19 09:44:55

To expand what I said earlier: I think you need to plan in advance and go higher as you go through the holiday. And decend slowly too. Don’t rush it and spend several days in one place before you go higher and as you decend. As I said, Lake Titicaca is the highest lake so visiting there is wonderful but it is high!

We went to Peru in August and didn’t find it ludicrously busy and you can get to villages and less touristy areas on some of the tours. However the people there need to make a living from tourists and therefore it can feel “touristy”. However some tours take you off the off the beaten track and it’s great to spend time doing this and seeing local markets and small colourful towns.

Whatnotea Mon 24-Jun-19 09:46:57

I was there last year and did pretty much the same trip Brugmansia.
Started in Lima, Arequipa (lovely little city), Scared Valley, we did the day's walk from 82km (train stop) to Machu Picchu - breathtakingly beautiful. Take it slow, take time to get adjusted. Drink the coca tea and take a anti-sickness tablet if doing the hike.
The hike was quite hard, I was very sick at the start, I think this was down to too much breakfast & overheating. There was a group of doctors and they gave me an anti-sickness tablet & I finished the walk. Plus we did the trip to the Canyon to see the condors.
It was an amazing drip, did not feel unsafe but keep your wits about you. We stayed in a old monastery in the Scared Valley which was fab.

stellavisionandunderstanding Mon 24-Jun-19 09:51:56

Stay in Cusco to climatise and take altitude tablets.

mummymeister Mon 24-Jun-19 12:22:26

We went to venezuela at altitude. we did it gradually throughout the holiday and I have never felt so awful in my entire life - relentlessly awful. I thought I would be OK as although I have had altitude sickness in other places (Teide as well!) I followed all the guidance, the tablets, everything and it made no difference. so if you have had a previous issue of altitude sickness then sorry to be blunt but it is very likely that it will happen to you again and you need to plan for this. We went to Belize to see the Mayan ruins because I knew I could never do Machu Pichu or anything like it again. I am sure its a lovely place to go but think really carefully about it if you have had previous issues because honestly, it ruined the 3 or 4 days we spent at altitude and I have never forgotten how dreadful I felt.

BubblesBuddy Tue 25-Jun-19 00:38:21

I was Ok in Argentina though. That was just as high as Lake Titcaca. It does not seem to be a given that if you have it once, you get it again. I do not think you can go straight to Cusco from Lima to acclimatise. Its over 11,000 ft from sea level. Go slowly and build up height. Hiking is not for everyone and, at altitude, it is more difficult: there are trains. Be sensible if in any doubt.

The Maya are not the Incas. I know a world expert on the Maya civilisation and she spends all her time in Guatemala. Extraordinary people. There are, of course, other Inca citadels in Peru. I am not sure what height they are, but it might be worth looking at them.

secretllama Tue 25-Jun-19 09:07:47

We went to Peru last year, and we planned/booked it all ourselves.

We flew in and out of Lima but visited Paracas and Huacachina (loved it there but the sand buggies are terrifying shock ) We then flew from Lima to Cusco but immediately transferred to the sacred valley for 3 nights to acclimatize and visit Machu Picchu from there. On the way back to Cusco we booked a transfer with 3 sightseeing stops along the way in the sacred valley and it wasn't too expensive.

We never had altitude sickness in Cusco but we done a day trip from there to Rainbow Mountain where I felt really awful at the top (trek starts at 4,500 then ascend to 5,300m!)...I've never had a headache like that in my life, I felt drunk and the weirdest symptom was my fingers swole up like balloons which can happen apparently. The trek was hard, I'm a regular gym-goer but the lack of oxygen cancels all that out. There are horses you can ride to summit though.

Brugmansia Tue 25-Jun-19 11:32:28

I'd agree, do not go straight to Cusco. That is the highest point you'd be likely to stay for a few days (unless you also go to Titicaca). All the advice on altitude is to increase gradually to acclimatise. Here is the NHS guidance:
Spend a few days at lower altitudes before going above 3,000m.

Machu Picchu is around 1,000m lower than Teide, so the fact you suffered on Teide does not mean you would have problems at Machu Picchu.

glitterbiscuits Tue 25-Jun-19 16:58:15

Thanks so much for all these helpful tips. It's interesting to read how everyone's experiences at altitude vary. I don't know Machu Pichu was lower than Teide! Fantastic.

Is Lake Titicaca worth the risk?

I have had a travel agent put together an itinerary for me. We fly into Lima which counts as Day One. I'm assuming we are too exhausted to care.
But day 2 only includes half a day in Lima ( half day is an organised tour, which I requested) before we move on to Arequipa
That doesn't sound enough time in Lima to me.

Swiftier Wed 03-Jul-19 21:55:47

Peru is awesome and definitely recommended. We spent around 4 weeks there and just planned to acclimatise by gradually going higher, as others have said. It was fine. We walked the Inca trail towards the end of our trip so had to hike in the heat and altitude, we did get breathless etc but that’s to be expected. Otherwise no issues with altitude.

Don’t worry too much about the altitude as long as you take your time to acclimatise, Lima - Arequipa - Colca - Titicaca - Cusco - Lima would be a good route. Colca is well worth it, the condors are insanely large (we saw loads and they came very close).

Veggie food is easily available and we found it to be of very high standard, we really enjoyed the food there.

Oh and we planned everything ourselves, I think it’s pretty easy to travel around, it’s a safe and well developed country. Transport and logistics will be fine especially if you are covering a fairly well travelled route like the one I suggested above.

Hope that helps, sure you will have an amazing time.

ImperceptablePerception Wed 03-Jul-19 22:34:33

No advice but I'm envious! Machu Picchu (and Patagonia) have been on my bucket list forever! Not exactly wheelchair friendly for me... have a fab time!

glitterbiscuits Fri 05-Jul-19 09:49:23

Thanks for all the comments.

I'm just trying to get a few quotes in from some travel companies.

It's looking quite tempting!

BubblesBuddy Fri 05-Jul-19 13:45:51

Lake Titicaca has the reed boats and islands. It is fascinating but only you can decide if it’s worth the risk. I was the only one on our trip who was ill. Therefore I think most people are ok. As I said, I’ve been just as high since with no problems.

You might wish to consider seeing far more than Machu P in the Sacred Valley. There are markets and other Inca sights as well as the traditional way of life with virtually no tourists. Highly recommended are Pisac. Moray, Salinas, Ollantaytambo, Huchuy Cusco, and Urubambo. Both Pisac and Urubambo have great markets so I would definitely include them if Lake T isn’t floating your boat!

Lonecatwithkitten Sat 06-Jul-19 06:07:17

Over the counter viagra can be very useful for altitude sickness. Webmed have these details []]{.

glitterbiscuits Sat 06-Jul-19 17:27:59

Lonecat I would be going with my DH and my teenage DS.
I can imagine the look on their faces if I gave them Viagra!

Maybe it better to have altitude sickness!

Inniu Sat 06-Jul-19 17:36:25

DH and I went to Peru with 4 kids last year. You can get altitude sickness tablets which one of the kids and I needed but once you take them it is fine.
The very good hotels in Cusco pipe oxegyn in to your bedrooms so that helps.
A top tip for Machu Picchu is to stay one night in the Belmont Sanctuary Lodge the only hotel within Machu Picchu itself.

BubblesBuddy Sun 07-Jul-19 10:44:29

That Lodge is mega expensive though so not everyone can afford it.

fuzzyduck1 Sun 07-Jul-19 18:54:33


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