Salkantay Trek Altitude Sickness Tips How to Treat Side Effects

by | Jul 11, 2024 | Salkantay Trek | 9 comments

City Tour Cusco Half Day

Worried about altitude sickness on The Salkantay Trail?

Salkantay Trek Tips for Altitude Sickness & How to Treat Side Effects. The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu 5 Days is one of the most stunningly beautiful and rewarding treks. Though perhaps not as well-known as the Inca Trail. The Salkantay Trek offers a wide variety of terrain ranging from high altitudes, rural paths and trails, and rugged mountain terrain. 

Depending on your choice among several options. The treks range from 30 to 40 miles, often over three to five days with different distances traveled each day, depending on the terrain. Elevation variation during the hike will be extensive, and one of the trek’s highlights is its varied terrain. Elevation will vary from approximately 1,500 meters to approximately 4,600 meters (5,250 feet to 15,250 feet). 


Salkantay Trek 4 Days Express

The Salkantay trek is a perfect choice for those who want to see more than just the Inca Trail. You will pass through snow-capped mountains, visit a sacred mountain of Peru’s ancient culture, and go down into the lush jungle below Machu Picchu!

Since this route doesn’t have any restrictions it can provide guests with access from behind enemy lines when hiking up into greatness at Mount Larquhumaukiviq (Machu Pich).
The 4-day adventure offers scenic views not seen on other treks while still providing easy accessibility making sure everyone has their own unique experience

How Difficult Is the Salkantay Trek?

Because of the variety of terrain and altitude changes along the Salkantay Trek route, this question needs a bit of nuance to answer. Any hiker will find some days of the trip and some types of terrain more challenging than others depending on their experience, hiking gear, and fitness.

Generally speaking, though, consider the Salkantay Trek as moderate to difficult. While moderate to difficult, though, hikers with some experience will find the trek achievable, though some days and portions may be more challenging than others, that’s a big part of the adventure. 

The most demanding segments of the route are challenging because of the altitude, the length of the day’s hike (which will vary from day to day), and some portions of the route that can be steep (both uphill and downhill).

One way to manage the difficulty and even the altitude sickness-related potential danger of the trip is to ensure you’re fully acclimatized to higher altitudes before embarking. 

Also, you can read our BLOG:

  2. Salkantay Trek Difficulty How to Prepare Your Hike
  3. Altitude Sickness In Cusco Peru
Salkantay Detailed Information
Salkantay Peru Trekking 5 days

Salkantay Trek Elevation

If you’re looking for a challenge, the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu is not for the faint of heart. With an elevation of nearly 15.000 feet, 4600m it’s the salkantay trek’s highest altitude. But the views are worth it. The trail takes you through stunning scenery, from snow-capped mountains to lush rainforests.

And of course, Machu Picchu is the ultimate destination. Built high in the Andes, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. So if you’re looking for a trek that will take your breath away, literally and figuratively, the Salkantay trek is a great choice.

Best Time To Visit Salkantay Trek Via Salkantay Trek?

Machu Picchu is one of the most iconic sites in South America and is a must-see for any traveler. The question on everyone’s mind is when is the best time to visit Machu Picchu? 👈 Visit the Link. Here’s everything you need to know about the different seasons and how they affect your experience without proper acclimatization!

Rain Season

  • The rainy season in Machu Picchu runs from November to March, and
  • While this may seem like the worst time to visit, there are some benefits. The crowds are thinner during these months, so you’ll have a more intimate experience.
  • Plus, the rains bring out the vibrant colors of the landscape and make for some stunning photos.

Salkantay Trek Weather

  1. The weather on the Salkantay trek can be unpredictable. During the day, it can be warm and sunny. But at night, the temperature can drop below freezing.
  2. So it’s important to pack accordingly. Be sure to bring plenty of layers, including a warm jacket and gloves.
  3. And don’t forget your sunscreen and sunglasses. The sun is strong at high altitudes, so you’ll want to protect yourself from the UV rays.
Umantay lake with Salkatay Trek
Salkantay Base Camp 1st Day Hike

Is The Salkantay Trek Dangerous?

Here’s the truth of it.  Even the most routine treks can be dangerous if hikers and trekking companies are not adequately prepared, equipped, rested, attentive, and disciplined.

Tour Leaders Peru has long experience in leading treks along the Salkantay Trek safely, not to say that you need to know there are no risks. The most significant risk related to the Salkantay Trek, aside from the common but significant risks related to terrain, footwear, and alertness on the trail, can be the risk of altitude sickness. 

The Salkantay Trek typically departs from near Cusco’s town, where many people fly in to embark on their adventure toward Machu Picchu. Because Cusco is located over 10,000 feet above sea level (3,300 m), you’ll likely immediately notice the “thin air” when you arrive. You’ll find yourself winded much more quickly than you imagined just walking around and up and down the stairs in the city. 

How hard is the salkantay trek?

Before you begin the Salkantay Trek, you must acclimatize to the thin air and higher altitudes to avoid the risks and dangers of altitude sickness.

Our team at Tour Leaders Peru has years of experience supporting hikers through this process and staying safe despite these risks. Trust their expertise and follow their advice.

Salkantay Trek Tips for Altitude Sickness prepare yourself

If you are planning to hike in Peru – First, I want to thank all of my ex-customers for such a nice opportunity to hike together on this wonderful trail.

Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu is one of the complete hikes in Peru because it has stunning views, Nature, Snow, archeological sites, and many waterfalls, in the short term is one hike you’ll never forget. Also, this Salkantay trekking has been considered one of the best hiking trails in the world by National Geographic.

  • Salkantay Altitude: 6,271 m/20,574 ft. (is the glacier you will not going to rich this peak)
  • Salkantay Pass elevation: 4600 meters /15090 ft. (The highest Elevation that you will hike)
Salkantay Trekking Tour 5 Days
Salcantay Glacier 6200 m / Picture by Tour leaders

Warm greetings and best recommendations from our top Tour Leaders in Salkantay Peru.

Most of my Peru trekkers survived the altitude sickness on the Salkantay Trek which is over 15,000ft! also Thank you for all of your hard efforts hiking with me and mostly for your recommendations and tips for this blog post. I hope this article is going to help or resolve Salkantay Trek Altitude Sickness for other future hikers because Altitude Sickness is not a joke.

Other tour operators offer this Tour Package as if it were an average walk in the park, but know that it is not. There are times when people have to return to Cusco after the first day because the hike is too arduous for them.

keep in mind, in this best alternative trekking. The emergency horse is necessary which is included in our Company Tour Leaders Peru. Most of the other travel agencies do not include a horse, you are required to pay it price of approximately 30 to 40 US dollars only for 2 hours.

Salkantay Trek Tips for Altitude Sickness
Top-of-the-line Equipment REI – Co-Up

Why do We Need Horse Riding in Salkantay (Ex Tour Leaders Suggestion)

It is in case you get too tired and need some rest. You can use the horse for free on the way up to the summit of Salkantay Trek before getting Altitude Sickness.

We made this article Titled Salkantay Trek & Altitude sickness because I have been hiking the Salkantay trek for more than 300 times and know how intense altitude sickness can be. If you don’t acclimatize properly before your hike you will have a hard time.

Please consider this Blog not only for the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu. You can keep this article as a reference for other trips around Cusco Region because we have a lot of hiking options and most of them are almost at the same elevation as the Salkantay trek.

Keep this advice for The Inca Trail to Machupicchu 4D/3N, Lares Trek to Machupicchu 4D/3N, Choquequirao Trek 5D/4N, or any other tour related to Salkantay Trek Tips for Altitude Sickness & How to Treat Side Effects.

Salkantay Trek Tips Altitude Sickness
The highest point along the Salkantay trek is 4600 m

What Makes it Unique and Special about the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu?

Salkantay Trek is considered one of the best and most unique alternative hikes in Cusco, Peru. One of the most popular options for hiking to Machu Picchu is very recommendable.

This trek is full of beautiful landscapes as you hike from the bottom of the Glacier to the tropical jungle. Throughout your hike, you will observe the gorgeous glacial Umantay Lake, and waterfalls, and hike through the Peruvian cloud forest. The air you breathe will be pure and fresh as you are up at approximately 4,600m/15,000ft.

Salkantay Trek Tour Leaders Peru
Umantay Lake along this wonderful trek

Awesome Pictures of Salkantay Trek

What Exactly is Altitude Sickness? Does it dampen your Trip?

At high elevation the air is thinner and cold, meaning each breath you take contains less oxygen than what you’re used to. Altitude sickness will affect some travelers regardless of acceding your physical condition, age, and gender.

Also, your body needs to breathe faster. Pumping blood more rapidly to take in the same amount of oxygen it is accustomed to receiving in the place you come from. But for many hikers, the Salkantay trek adventure comes as a shock to the body causing various symptoms such as:


  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heart racing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble sleeping

For some, it will pass within a few hours, however for many the condition if gone untreated may last for several days.

There is not a “cure” for altitude sickness, other suggestions would be descending back down to a normal elevation. Cusco is at 10,826 feet (3,300 meters). Machu Picchu is significantly lower at 7,545 ft (2,300 m). Altitude sickness generally starts affecting people at 8,000 feet or higher, so Machu Picchu isn’t the potential problem–Cusco is. Everyone who goes to Machu Picchu must pass through Cusco.

How altitude sickness is going to affect you on the Salkantay Trek & Altitude Sickness?

According to our Experience is more probable if you did not Acclimatize very well before this trip. You will have side effects according to the day of hiking thanks for reading Salkantay Trek Tips for Altitude Sickness & How to Treat Side Effects along This astonishing Trip.

Day one: 

It’s most probably you will start with a little headache, nausea, and less appetite.

Second Day:

Is considered Challenge Day for many reasons.  If you still with altitude problems you will continue with a hard and painful headache, and you will feel full of appetizers but keep in mind is just the gravity and the pressure of the air that is going to put you in this situation. It is very uncontrollable don’t be shy or pretend to be strong enough to talk with your Tour Leader.

In case gets worse you have Altitude sickness hiking on the way up to the Summit ask for Oxygen from your Tour Leader. they usually carry oxygen for an emergency in their backpacks. As soon you start descending after Salkantay pass,  believe me, you will feel better and probably you’ll start getting the appetizer. (Remember this depends on your Immune System and how quickly are going to adapt on the Salkantay trek)

The third day:

Consider a Normal as a normal day no more Salkantay Trek & Altitude Sickness

We highly recommend you read and follow these suggestions to reduce the chances and/or severity of Salkantay Trek & Altitude Sickness to Machu Picchu.

Before departure, speak with your healthcare provider. They may recommend the medication Acetazolamide (Diamox), which in the U.S.

Is a prescription drug often used to treat Glaucoma; however, it has been found to reduce altitude sickness. the symptoms if taken a day or two before you arrive in Cusco. learn more about Diamox peels here

Diamox Side Effects and How Can Help along Salkantay Trek Tips for Altitude Sickness.

Hard bits faster than normal you’ll probably need to pee more frequently:

Not very convenient when you are traveling as soon you get the effect of Diamox in your system probably your fingers start getting Nam or Tingling. Don’t Panic because sometimes it’s very strong. and you can get these effects on any part of your body mainly in your Fingers and Feet.

Make you void all the time: this can be funny. When you are already hiking on any trip probably you will Urynete more than normal. along the Salkantay trek, we already created a phrase (Pick a flower), meaning you need to find your special spot for void or series business which could be behind the rock or tree.

Upon arrival take it easy. Allow your body to adjust by lying down for 10-15 minutes. Rest as much as possible during the trip. Overexertion can exacerbate the symptoms.

Salkantay Trek Packing List

When you’re packing for the Salkantay trek, it’s important to pack light. You’ll be carrying your gear, so you don’t want to be weighed down by unnecessary items. But at the same time, you’ll want to make sure you have everything you need. Here’s a basic packing list to help you get started:

-Hiking boots

-Comfortable clothing






-Trekking poles

-First aid kit

-Water bottle




Top Tips to Avoid Altitude Sickness in Cusco – Salkantay

  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before and during your stay. Many find saline nasal drops/sprays beneficial.
  • Stick to a light diet the day before traveling to a high-altitude area. Foods found easy to digest include fish, chicken, and hot liquids. Avoid fried foods, beef, lamb, and caffeinated or alcoholic beverages.
  • Oxygen can be beneficial and is easily found Hiking along the Salkantay Trek to Machupicchu. Or could be at airports, hotels, and pharmacies.
  • For headaches, over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve) are helpful.
  • Coca tea and wild mint (Muńa) may ease the symptoms.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink bottled water and avoid consuming ice cubes made with tap water.
  • A diet high in carbohydrates, bread, cereals, grains, and pasta can also help alleviate the symptoms.
  • Once again, we highly recommend that you consult your healthcare provider before deciding to travel to any high-altitude destination and before choosing any course of treatment.


conquering the Salkantay Trek: A Triumph Over Altitude

The Salkantay Trek is an unforgettable adventure, pushing you through breathtaking landscapes and challenging your physical and mental limits.

While altitude sickness can be a concern, with proper preparation and a healthy respect for the mountain, it needn’t be a barrier. By acclimatizing in Cusco, listening to your body, and staying hydrated, you can maximize your chances of summiting Salkantay Pass and enjoying the trek to its fullest.

Remember, the most rewarding journeys often come with a few hurdles. Embrace the challenge, take it slow, and savor the sense of accomplishment that awaits you at the end of the trail.


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  2. Hedy Elvis

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    • Tour Leaders Peru

      Thank you for your comments.

  5. Johnathan Nipps

    What a information of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious knowledge about unpredicted emotions.|

    • Tour Leaders Peru

      We greatly appreciate your comments. We hope you can visit and experience the Salkantay Trek.

  6. Jae Pallares

    Excellent post. I was checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed! Very helpful info particularly the last part 🙂 I care for such info much. I was looking for this particular info for a long time. Thank you and good luck.|

    • Tour Leaders Peru

      The Salkantay Trek is a unique journey in Peru, but it requires acclimatization and preparation for experiencing four seasons in a single trip. Thanks For your comments


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Cesar Conde

I’m Cesar Conde Licensed Tour Guide in Peru, owner of Tour Leaders Peru and Travel Advisor. My other side job is a Digital Nomad. I share my amazing travel experiences, stories, guides, and itineraries for travelers like you and me!


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