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Salkantay Trek Tips for Altitude Sickness & How to Treat Side Effects

Oct 18, 2018 | Peru Travel Blogs | 6 comments

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 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 amongst 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 4,500 meters (5,250 feet to 15,250 feet). 

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, 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 which 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. 

Umantay lake with Salkatay Trek

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. 

Before you begin the Salkantay Trek, it’s essential that you 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 a lot of waterfalls, in shorth terms is all in one hike. 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. (Highest Elevation that you will hike)
Salkantay Trekking Tour 5 Days
Salcantay Glacier 6200 m / Picture by Tour leaders

Most of my Peru trekkers survived the altitude sickness on the Salkantay Trek wich 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 no a joke.

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

keep in mind, in this Peru trekking. The emergency horse is necessary wich is included in our Company Tour Leaders Peru. Most of the other travel agencies do not include a horse, you are required to pay for it price 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 Ridding? (ExTourist 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
Highest point along the Salkantay trek 4600 m

What makes unique and special about Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu?

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

This trek is full of beautiful landscapes as you hike from the bottom of Glacier to the tropical jungle. Throughout your hike, you will observe the gorgeous glacial Umantay Lake, 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 really 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 in order to take in the same amount of oxygen it is accustomed to receiving in the place you come from. But for many hikers, Salkantay trek adventure comes as a shock to the body causing various symptoms such as:


  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadednes
  • 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 really 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 really the potential problem–Cusco is. Everyone who goes to Machu Picchu must pass through Cusco.

How altitude sickness is going to affect you on 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: 

its most probably you will star 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, you will feel full lest appetizer but keep in mind is just the gravity and the pressure of the air which is going to put you in this situation. It is very uncontrollable don’t be shy or pretended to be strong enough to talk with your Tour Leader.

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

The third day:

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

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

Prior to departure, speak with your healthcare provider. They may recommend the medication Acetazolamide (Diamox), 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 any trip probably you will Urynete more than normal. along the Salkantay trek, we create already a phrase (Pick a flower) so that means you need to find your special spot for void or series business which could be behind the rock o 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.


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/spray 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 find 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) have been found to be 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 personal healthcare provider before making the decision to travel to any high altitude destination and before choosing any course of treatment.


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