What is altitude sickness?
Altitude sickness symptoms may include headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, malaise, insomnia and loss of appetite. Severe cases may be complicated by fluid in the lungs (high-altitude pulmonary edema) or swelling of the brain (high-altitude cerebral edema). If symptoms are more than mild or persist for more than 24 hours (less time at high altitudes), descend immediately by at least 500 meters and see a doctor.
The first cause of altitude sickness is going too high too fast. Given time, your body can adapt to the decrease in oxygen at specific altitudes. This is known as acclimatization and generally takes 1 to 3 days at a given altitude. The biggest mistake you can make is to fly directly to Cusco (located at 3,400 m/11,154 ft) and expect to hike the next day. Give yourself a few days to adjust to the altitude first.
How can altitude sickness be prevented?
Prevention of altitude sickness falls into two categories, proper acclimatization and preventive medications.
Stay properly hydrated.
Take it easy; don’t over-exert yourself when you first get up to altitude.
Avoid tobacco, alcohol and other depressant drugs including, barbiturates, tranquilizers, and sleeping pills.
If you begin to show symptoms of moderate altitude sickness, don’t go higher until symptoms decrease. If symptoms increase, go down, down, down! Keep in mind that different people will acclimatize at different rates.
Preventive medications (requiring prescriptions):
Diamox (Acetazolamide) changes acid balance, which improves oxygen uptake – the same mechanism as in normal acclimatization.
Dexamethasone (a steroid) decreases brain and other swelling, helping to reverse altitude sickness effects.
Why do we need acclimatization days?
Trails are often steep and physically taxing, and hiking often entails a great deal of altitude gain and loss. Even the base of the great mountains of the Salkantay can be very high. Most treks are between 1000m and 5200m. On high treks, it is wise to schedule acclimatization time to allow your body to adapt to higher altitudes. All our treks are designed to allow adequate rest and acclimatization days and we always recommend you provide adequate time for your body to adjust.
Will I need any vaccinations?
This is only a general guide. Your own GP will understand your overall fitness levels and any health issues you may have, and will be able to give you much more specific advice about what vaccinations or other medications you need, and which you should not have. When in doubt, ask your doctor!
That having been said, the following is a list of common vaccinations that are useful to many travellers in Peru and the surrounding countries.
What travel insurance will I need for peru?
Juve Travel Peru requires all of our clients to carry adequate insurance to cover any medical or accident-related expenses that may arise.
Make sure your insurer knows of your travel plans, and verify that your policy fully covers your trek and any other activities you will participate in. Specifically, treks on the Inca Trail require insurance coverage up to 3600m/11,811ft, Lares and Salkantay trails up to 4600m/15091ft, and the Ausangate Trek up to 5200m/17060ft.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are fully and adequately insured for the duration of your trip. Please ensure that all activities, excursions, and destinations in your itinerary are included in your travel insurance policy, in addition to your regular coverage for cancellation and medical expenses.
We ask that you keep a copy of your policy summary (containing policy number and the emergency contact number for your insurer) in your day sack at all times, so that we can access this information should we need to contact the insurer on your behalf.
Do I need to be fit to do one of your treks?
Most of our treks are moderately difficult, long, and mountainous. We highly recommend that you are relatively fit and acclimatized a minimum of two days at altitude before starting any of the treks around Cusco. Before your trip, you should do regular, moderate exercise.
If you are booked on our Classic Inca Trails, the biggest challenge you will find are the Inca steps throughout the trail. These put a lot of strain on the joints and really work the leg muscles, so building up stamina in your legs is key.
As we say to all our Juve Travel Peru clients, the best training you can do to prepare for any type of trek is hiking in your own country. You need to get your hiking boots on and spend a few hours every week hiking in the hills or countryside. You should also spend a couple of weekends in the months immediately before your Machu Picchu trek hiking for 3-5 hours a day to strengthen the muscles and joints.
In addition to hiking, we recommend you have an aerobic workout routine for at least three months before departing for Peru.
When is the best time of year to visit Machu Picchu?
The best time to trek to Machu Picchu is from May to September, when the weather is driest. Like most sub-tropical areas, the yearly weather cycle can be separated simply into two seasons – wet and dry.
The dry season is between April and October, with the clearest days usually occurring between June and September. However, the driest point of the season coincides with the Northern Hemisphere holiday period and, inevitably, this is the busiest period at Machu Picchu. It is also the busiest period on the Inca Trail, and if you’re planning on hiking to Machu Picchu, you will have to book your Inca trail permits far in advance. To avoid disappointment, we recommend booking permits at least five months before your intended departure date.
The wet season begins in November and gets into full swing between December and February, easing off slightly in March. Although weather temperatures are fairly constant throughout the year, surprisingly, the hottest period is during the wet season, which is Peru’s summer. The wet season is marked by heavy humidity. This being said, it is also the quietest period in Machu Picchu. Please note that the Inca Trail is closed all of February each year.
What is the typical group size?
On the majority of our treks and tours, we have a maximum group size of 12 clients. For groups over eight, we always have two guides.
For tailor-made programs, we’ll discuss group size according to your needs and provide the appropriate support crew during your trip. We can even organise treks for just one person if that’s what you want. About half of our clients travel alone, while others are groups of friends, families, couples, or schools, with a balance between male and female travellers as well as a good mix of ages and fitness levels.
What will the food be like on our trek?
It is important that our clients stay well-fed and hydrated on the treks as you will be expending lots of energy each day and will need to refuel regularly.
Our typical meals:
Breakfast is always hearty, and usually includes porridge, pancakes, omelets, fresh fruits, and toast with jam or marmalade. You’ll have a choice of tea, coca leaf tea (which is very affective against altitude sickness), coffee, or hot chocolate.
Lunch and dinner are always cooked meals. We usually start with a soup, and then a main course that includes popular Peruvian dishes (with fish or another meat), fresh vegetables, and plenty of rice, pasta or potatoes, followed by a delicious dessert.
After a day’s trek, we usually serve afternoon tea with snacks like popcorn and biscuits.
Can I have vegetarian, vegan or special meals?
We offer standard meals as well as a vegetarian meal option. Just let us know if you want vegetarian meals while you are booking one of our treks. We can also cater for lactose-intolerant and gluten free diets.
Most of our main meals on the treks are served as a buffet service so you can take what you like. If there is a particular food that you don’t like or can’t eat, we will ask our cook to do his best.
What do we do for dinking water along the trails?
Bottled mineral water can be taken from Cusco or bought at the start of the trek and at several places between the campsites. Bottled water there is more expensive than in Cusco. Our cook will normally be able to provide you with boiled water at breakfast, lunch, and dinner from the second evening on. Most clients are fine with drinking just bottled and boiled water. We have had several instances of trekkers becoming sick by insufficiently purifying river water, so we advise drinking only bottled water and boiled & filtered water provided by our cooks whenever possible.
What do I need to carry on the trek?
You will carry only what you need during the day, like a daypack with your camera, water bottle, sweater, sunglasses, and anything you think you might need while trekking. Your main baggage is carried by porters on the Classic Inca Trails and mules or horses on the alternative treks.
Are there toilets on the Inca Trails?
Toilets have improved a lot recently, and all of the larger campsites have toilet blocks with flush toilets and running water. This has helped improve sanitary conditions on the Classic Inca Trail. We recommend that you bring hand sanitizer to use after visiting the toilets. There is a S/1 charge to use the toilets on the Salkantay trek, as these toilets have been built on land owned by the community. These toilets are usually much better maintained than the government ones.
What is the acommodation like on the trek?
On our treks you will be camping. There will be two people per high quality four-person tent, which leaves plenty of room for personal equipment.
If I am traveling alone, can I have may own tent?
If you are travelling alone, you will share a tent with a member of the same sex. If, however, you would like your own tent, there is no additional cost. Just let us know while booking.
What gear will I need for the trek?
The Andes is challenging terrain in terms of choosing the right gear.
We recommend you have a good selection of thin layers that will dry quickly, so you won’t get anywhere near as sweaty as you would in a ‘proper’ rain jacket.
What time do we leave Aguas Caliente and what time do we get back to cusco?
The train departs Aguas Calientes at 14:55 and arrives in Ollantaytambo around 16:30. We then take our private transportation to bring you back to your hotel in Cusco, arriving between 18:30 and 19:00. If tickets are not available at this time, we may have to purchase tickets for 18:20, arriving in Ollantaytambo at 19:10. We then take our private transportation and arrive at the hotel in Cusco between 20:30 and 21:00. All train services are subject to availability.
If any of these schedules do not suit you, there are several upgrade options. For more information, let us know while booking.
What tips are recommended?
Our crew are well paid, but tipping is a normal practice in Peru. We recommend S/50 soles per day for the guide, S/30 soles per day for the cook, and S/20 soles per day for each porter.