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Doing the Inca Trail can be complicated for people who are not acclimatized. For this reason, it is always recommended that you take tours or activities in Cusco where you do not necessarily have to do exercise or physical strength. This is especially true for people who come from coastal areas or near the sea. It may also be recommended for those who decided to spend their vacation in Cusco and when they arrive, they feel some discomfort. Therefore, we want to share information that can serve more than one type of people and at the same time know more options to do in Cusco or nearby places.

What is altitude sickness like?

Altitude sickness is a normal response of the body to a lack of oxygen. This lack is minimal, so the discomfort may take a while to appear or arise at a time when the body begins to be agitated by physical activity. The presence of oxygen is lower in higher altitude areas, this being the main factor causing this discomfort. When a body is used to receiving high levels of oxygen, as is common in coastal regions, it may experience discomfort when ascending to high altitudes. This is a natural response of the body to low oxygen levels, which can lead to impaired functioning.

In Cusco (3,399 meters above sea level) there were no cases recorded in which lives were put at risk due to an evolution of altitude sickness. Furthermore, being a city, it has many clinics and hospitals that can help those who need it. However, going to these extremes is rare. The symptoms to recognize and act on immediately, if you suffer from altitude sickness, are very similar to those of a hangover. In this sense we can detail them like this:

  • Headache.
  • Nausea.
  • Feeling of fainting.
  • Loss of appetite and irritability.
  • Vomiting.
  • Tiredness and lack of appetite.

If you feel any of these symptoms upon arriving in Cusco, it is recommended that you rest. But, preferably not lie down or sleep, but rather rest your body in an armchair or chair. When resting, try to drink water and calm down. Remember that this discomfort is normal and can be felt by anyone. If you arrive and don’t feel anything, don’t trust it either, it may appear after hours or during the night. Normally the plane trip from Lima to Cusco usually causes some discomfort due to the drastic change in altitude. To do this, it is necessary to have and stay calm. Avoiding exasperation is best because this discomfort can happen to anyone.

Another recommendation is that, upon arriving in Cusco, consume the famous coca tea. Normally, hotels usually offer these drinks or infusions because they know the benefits they have to avoid altitude sickness. The coca leaf is considered sacred for all the benefits it has. To be consumed, it is previously dried and can even be consumed directly, by chewing it. The coca leaf was and is quite important to Andean culture and is consumed by many people. It has different beneficial and stimulating properties.

Finally, don’t eat heavy things like excess carbohydrates or saturated fats. These foods are difficult to digest and will require a greater amount of oxygen to do so. In this sense, you may experience indigestion or similar. It is also recommended that at least for the first few days, you do not consume excessive alcoholic beverages and avoid smoking. Since, as we mentioned, you can confuse altitude sickness with a hangover and not act effectively if the condition or the discomfort typical of altitude sickness worsens.

Activities you can do in Cusco

During the City Tour you can enter the facilities of the place

City tour Cusco

  • El City Tour Cusco cuenta con dos horarios. Es posible realizarlo en la mañana y en la tarde. It is an excellent option to acclimatize because it allows you to visit different places near Cusco. In addition, the agencies offer a professional guide and transportation to all destinations. During the Cusco City Tour, you visit the Coricancha and take a brief tour of the Cusco Cathedral. After that, the trip is made to Sacsayhuamán, Qenqo, Pucapucara, and Tambomachay. Visiting these places allows the body to acclimatize because short walks are taken on the tours of all these attractions.

Museum tour

  • In Cusco and near the historic center there are several museums that you can visit. Among these, the Inca Museum will stand out, which shows ceramics, textiles, and other artistic productions typical of the Incas.Another museum that stands out for its excellent tour and history is the Convento de la Merced in Cusco, which was formerly an Acllahuasi or house of women chosen by the sun. However, if you are interested in art or art tours, you can visit the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art. These are just a few options for museums, as it is possible to visit many more.

Andean Baroque Tour

  • This is one of the most interesting circuits you can find in Cusco. Especially if you have a fascination with Art History. In this tour, you can see all the changes and syncretisms that art went through during the first years of the Spanish colony. This European influence on native art can be seen in different works.
  • The Andean Baroque represents all these changes that to this day continue to fascinate the world because they are considered one of the first artistic movements in Latin America. The places visited are mostly temples and churches such as the Temple of the Company of Jesus, San Pedro Apóstol Church of Andahuaylillas, continuing with the Temple of San Juan Bautista de Huaro, and then visiting the Chapel of the Purified Virgin from Canincunca.
  • This circuit can be done independently, you will only need the ticket to visit these places, which can be purchased at the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús or in Andahuaylillas. A recommendation for doing this tour is that you can access the rental service of private transportation or a vehicle.

Religious circuit in Cusco

  • It is a tour or circuit that allows you to delve into and learn in detail about the different temples and churches that were built in the city of Cusco. Most of these constructions were built on the Inca temples that abounded in the capital of Tawantinsuyo. The tour is through the central area and allows you to see a large part of the entire Cathedral of Cusco, then it allows you to visit the Church of San Blas, the Archbishop’s Palace, and the Church of San Cristóbal.
  • Just to give a small example of what we mentioned, the San Cristóbal Church is built on the shrine dedicated to Manco Cápac, the first Inca ruler. To visit these places, you can choose to get the comprehensive ticket that includes all destinations or buy the access ticket independently when entering each of these churches.
The water channels of Tipon located south of Cusco

South Valley

  • One of the longest trips you can take, but at the same time ideal for acclimatizing, is to do the South Valley Tour. To carry out this tour it is recommended to hire a travel agency. They will provide transportation that will be necessary to travel to all of these destinations. The trip will be made on the road, but upon arrival, the tour will be done on foot and the walk will not be very demanding.The trip offers beautiful landscapes and getting to know Tipón, Pikillaqta, next to the Andahuaylillas church. Sometimes the tour will take you to the Huasao Wetlands, a natural destination. To visit this place independently, you will need the Cusco Tourist Ticket.

Sacred Valley

  • Visiting this place will be almost obligatory for those who want to reach Machu Picchu or do the Inca Trail. In the Sacred Valley is the train station that allows all tourists to reach kilometer 84 from where the 4-day walk will begin. In this sense, we recommend that one day before starting the tour, you take a tour of Pisac, Ollantaytambo, you can also visit Chinchero and even Maras and Moray. Some tours allow you to visit these places in just one day. If you want to do it on your own it will also be possible, but try to find out where to get the respective transportation. You also have to keep in mind that the Cusco Tourist Ticket will be needed.
View of the San Cristóbal Church at the top

Other recommendations

One of the main difficulties in getting to or doing the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is not finding availability. Availability to do this hiking route is limited. Furthermore, during February, the entire route goes into maintenance so no one can access it. Therefore, if you read this before purchasing your tickets, try to make your reservation as far in advance as possible. This will allow you to better organize your travel dates, schedule other activities you have, and also prepare yourself physically.

Many guides recommend doing physical training a few months before starting the tour. These workouts don’t have to be intense or require great preparation. It will be enough to get the body used to daily walks and alternate them with days of greater intensity such as going for a run or doing weight exercises. We thought it would be good to start running, at least twice a week.

Physical activity is recommended because it will allow you to strengthen your legs and joints. During the 4-day walk, you will have to do ascending routes and also climb stairs. This, although it may seem minor, can cause some difficulties for tourists in the long run. Especially those who do not do physical activity or have an excessively sedentary lifestyle. Finally, it will be necessary to start living a healthier life to enjoy this journey more.

The perfect preamble to the 4-day Inca Trail

One way to enjoy the Inca Trail tour to Machu Picchu more is by taking a previous tour of other Inca constructions. The most representative ones are found in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. These enclosures allow travelers to learn more about Inca architecture and identify the characteristics they possess.

Thus, when you arrive at the archaeological sites that are on the Inca Trail, you will be able to identify and rate them according to their characteristics. Also, as we already mentioned, it will help you acclimatize so that altitude sickness does not affect you too much during the walk. In Cusco you can visit different destinations and most of them are Inca constructions. Whatever activities you do or simply decide to take a walk through Cusco, it will help you a lot to do activities normally. The same streets of the historic center will show you the greatness of this route. In this sense, Cusco is the perfect preamble to doing the Inca Trail, not for nothing was it considered the navel of the world.


By Inca Trail Machu Picchu - Last updated, 23-11-2023

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