When you travel to mountainous Peru you may feel a bit nervous getting about altitude sickness. After all the country's average elevation is more than 5,000 feet (1,555 meters). Fear not though, this article will tell you how high you'll be going when you visit various sites and common travel destinations in Peru including major cities like Lima and popular tourist attractions such as Machu Picchu.
How Altitudes Are Measured
City altitudes tend to be taken from the city center. Lima, for example, is about 505 feet (154 meters) above sea level at the Plaza de Armas (the main plaza), while Cerro San Cristóbal (the highest point in Lima) rises up to 1,312 feet (400 meters). That means that while certain cities may have low elevations listed, expect to change elevations as you travel. The table also includes altitudes for some of Peru’s most popular tourist attractions which are measured from the center of the attraction.
Preparing for Altitude Sickness
In terms of altitude sickness, the starting height for most cases of altitude sickness is 8,000 feet (2,500 meters) above sea level. However people who are more susceptible to altitude sickness can experience symptoms at elevations of 5,000 feet (1,500 meters). If you are traveling to an area at this height or above, you’ll need to take some precautions and acclimate carefully.
Altitude sickness symptoms include:
- Feeling Dizzy
- Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of appetite
How to Prevent Altitude Sickness
Certainly being aware of the altitude at which you, personally, start to feel the effects is a good start. If you live at a high altitude, you will have a head start in acclimating to the elevations in Peru. However, if you are sensitive to high altitudes or live close to sea level, you'll benefit from spending several days getting used to the altitude or starting your trip in a town at a lower altitude before gradually heading up to your high-altitude destination.
It's recommended to keep hydrated. Drink 3 to 4 quarts of water daily and eat a diet rich in carbohydrates. Avoid using tobacco and alcohol while acclimating and keep in mind that the effects of alcohol are stronger at higher altitudes. Check with your doctor regarding other medications you take which might affect you differently at a high altitude. People with respiratory issues should also check with their doctor to ensure that there won't be any problems walking or hiking at a high altitude.
If, despite your preparations, you experience altitude sickness, the symptoms (which start soon after reaching a high altitude) should dissipate in one to three days. However if the symptoms persist or worsen, seek immediate medical attention and move to a lower elevation once able.
Altitudes of Poplar Peruvian Destinations
The table below is divided into locations above and below the 8,000 foot mark. For a quick visual impression of altitudes across the country, see this physical map of Peru.
|City or Attraction||Height Above Sea Level (in feet/in meters)|
|Nevado Huascarán (highest mountain in Peru)||22,132 feet / 6,746 meters|
|Cerro de Pasco||14,200 feet / 4,330 meters|
|Inca Trail (highest point; Warmiwañusqa pass)||13,780 feet / 4,200 meters|
|Puno||12,556 feet / 3,827 meters|
|Juliaca||12,546 feet / 3,824 meters|
|Lake Titicaca||12,507 feet / 3,812 meters|
|Huancavelica||12,008 feet / 3,660 meters|
|Colca Valley (at Chivay)||12,000 feet / 3,658 meters|
|Cusco||11,152 feet / 3,399 meters|
|Huancayo||10,692 feet / 3,259 meters|
|Huaraz||10,013 feet / 3,052 meters|
|Kuelap||9,843 feet / 3,000 meters|
|Ollantaytambo||9,160 feet / 2,792 meters|
|Ayacucho||9,058 feet / 2,761 meters|
|Cajamarca||8,924 feet / 2,720 meters|
|Machu Picchu||7,972 feet / 2,430 meters|
|Abancay||7,802 feet / 2,378 meters|
|Colca Canyon, bottom (at San Juan de Chuccho)||7,710 feet / 2,350 meters|
|Chachapoyas||7,661 feet / 2,335 meters|
|Arequipa||7,661 feet / 2,335 meters|
|Huánuco||6,214 feet / 1,894 meters|
|Tingo Maria||2,119 feet / 646 meters|
|Tacna||1,844 feet / 562 meters|
|Ica||1,332 feet / 406 meters|
|Tarapoto||1,168 feet / 356 meters|
|Puerto Maldonado||610 feet / 186 meters|
|Pucallpa||505 feet / 154 meters|
|Lima||505 feet / 154 meters|
|Iquitos||348 feet / 106 meters|
|Piura||302 feet / 92 meters|
|Trujillo||112 feet / 34 meters|
|Chiclayo||95 feet / 29 meters|
|Chimbote||16 feet / 5 meters|