Machu Picchu Elevation: Prevent Altitude Sickness

Machu Picchu with a text overlay and white background Elevation How to Prepare

Machu Picchu, one of the most awe-inspiring archaeological sites in the world, holds a significant place in history and attracts travelers from across the globe. But what sets it apart from most visited tourist attractions is not just its ancient ruins and stunning vistas, but also its unique location and elevation.

Machu Picchu is an ancient Inca citadel that dates back to the 15th century and is renowned for its remarkable architectural and engineering feats. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and is considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Located in the eastern part of the Andes Mountains in Peru, the imperial city of Machu Picchu sits at an impressive elevation above sea level. At its highest point, the site reaches approximately 2,430 meters (7,972 feet) above sea level. This high elevation adds to the allure and grandeur of the Machu Picchu site, attracting adventurers and history enthusiasts alike.

The elevation of Machu Picchu is significant for several reasons. It contributes to the breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, making it a photographer’s dream. The high altitude poses a challenge to visitors due to the decreased oxygen levels, which can affect the body in various ways.

High elevation can have effects on the body, such as altitude sickness, shortness of breath, fatigue, and headaches. Therefore, it is crucial to prepare adequately before visiting Machu Picchu to mitigate these potential issues.

To prepare for the high elevation of Machu Picchu, it is essential to follow a few guidelines. Gradual acclimatization by spending a few days in the city of Cusco or other high-altitude areas helps the body adjust to the decreased oxygen levels. Hydration, proper nutrition, and, in some cases, medication can also aid in acclimatization and alleviate symptoms.

By understanding the significance of the elevation at Machu Picchu and taking appropriate measures to adapt to the high altitude, visitors can fully appreciate the beauty and history of this ancient citadel city without being hindered by altitude-related issues.

Key takeaways:

  • Machu Picchu is a famous archaeological site located in Peru.

  • Machu Picchu is situated at a high elevation in the Andes mountains.

  • The elevation of Machu Picchu is approximately 2,430 meters (7,972 feet) above sea level.

  • The high elevation of Machu Picchu is significant because it affects the human body and can cause altitude sickness.

  • High elevation can result in symptoms such as shortness of breath, headache, and nausea.

  • To prepare for the high elevation of Machu Picchu, gradual acclimatization, proper hydration, a nutritious diet, and medication can be helpful.

  • Common symptoms of altitude sickness include dizziness, fatigue, and lack of appetite.

  • To prevent altitude sickness at Machu Picchu, it is recommended to acclimatize slowly, stay hydrated, and avoid alcohol and strenuous physical activity.

  • If experiencing altitude sickness at Machu Picchu, it is important to rest, hydrate, and descend to lower elevations if symptoms worsen.

Infographic with comparisons of Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain elevations in Cusco Peru

How High is Machu Picchu?

Machu Picchu has an altitude of 2,430 meters (7,972 feet) above sea level.

Located in the Andes‘ steep mountains, it offers breathtaking views and adds to the charm of the landmark.

High altitude can affect people differently, causing altitude sickness symptoms. To prevent discomfort, acclimatize properly before ascending and stay hydrated.

While exploring Machu Picchu, take care of your well-being.

Huayna Picchu Elevation

For comparison, we will look at the surrounding areas around Machu Picchu. Towering above the ruins of Machu Picchu at an elevation of 8,920 feet (2,720 meters) stands the iconic jagged peak of Huayna Picchu. To reach the top of this imposing stone mountain, visitors must hike the steep, narrow trail that winds up its slope, gaining over 1,600 feet (500 meters) in elevation along the way.

Machu Picchu Picchu Mountain Elevation

Adjacent to Machu Picchu ruins is the peak of Machu Picchu Mountain, reaching an elevation of 10,111 feet (3,082 meters). A steep stone staircase ascends the mountainside, allowing visitors to hike over 1,600 feet (500 meters) up to its summit. From this high vantage point, spectacular panoramic views open up over Machu Picchu citadel and the surrounding landscape.

Cusco Elevation

The ancient Inca capital of Cusco, located in the Peruvian Andes, sits at an elevation of 11,152 feet (3,399 meters). Ringed by mountain peaks, this historic city’s high altitude location in the Andean highlands gives it a cool, dry climate. Visitors flying into Cusco often need some time to acclimate to its lofty elevation before touring Machu Picchu and other iconic sites.

What is Machu Picchu?

Machu Picchu, an ancient Incan citadel situated in the Peruvian Andes, is known for its stone structures, terraces, and stunning views of the mountains. Built-in the 15th century, this archaeological site stands at an impressive elevation of approximately 7,970 feet above sea level. What makes the Machu Picchu mountain citadel truly remarkable is its history of being hidden for centuries until explorer Hiram Bingham rediscovered it in 1911.

In 2018, I had the incredible opportunity to go to Machu Picchu. As I stood on the terraces, taking in the breathtaking sight of the city and the surrounding mountains, I couldn’t help but be awestruck by the ingenious craftsmanship of the Inca empire.

Witnessing the perfect harmony between nature and human creation was truly humbling. The serenity and sheer beauty of the site left an everlasting impression on me, and I developed a profound admiration for the rich history and cultural significance that the Inca city of Machu Picchu embodies. It was an experience unlike any other, one that I will forever cherish.

Where is Machu Picchu Located?

Machu Picchu is located in Peru, specifically in the Cusco region. Situated at an elevation of approximately 2,430 meters (7,972 feet) above sea level, this ancient Inca city can be found in the Andes Mountains. Surrounded by lush vegetation and boasting breathtaking views of the valleys and mountain peaks, Machu Picchu is truly a sight to behold.

To reach this magnificent destination, visitors to Cusco have the option of taking a train to Machu Picchu from the city of Cusco to Aguas Calientes. From there, they can either embark on a tour or a mountain trail hike or opt for a bus ride to access the entrance of the site.

To fully enjoy your visit to the Machu Picchu Citadel, it is crucial to acclimate to the high altitude beforehand to avoid any potential altitude sickness. This can be achieved by staying properly hydrated and allowing your body to adjust gradually to the altitude.

It’s highly recommended to secure your Machu Picchu tickets in advance, as entry to Machu Picchu is limited and tends to sell out quickly during peak tourist seasons. By familiarizing yourself with the location and ensuring you are well-prepared, you will be able to enhance your overall experience as you explore the remarkable ancient ruins.

Why is the Elevation of Machu Picchu Significant?

The elevation of Machu Picchu is significant for several reasons. It offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

It contributes to its mystical and remote atmosphere. It provides a cooler climate compared to lower-lying areas.

It helps to protect the architectural structures from flooding or erosion. The elevated location attracts tourists looking for a unique sense of wonder and adventure.

What are the Effects of High Elevation on the Body?

High elevation can have significant effects on the body. When exposed to high altitudes, the body undergoes physiological changes to adapt to lower oxygen levels. These changes include increased heart and breathing rates and an increase in the production of red blood cells to enhance oxygen-carrying capacity.

At high altitudes, air pressure is lower, resulting in decreased oxygen availability. This can lead to symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, and fatigue. In severe cases, it can even cause altitude sickness, which includes symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and difficulty sleeping.

The effects of high elevation on the body can vary depending on factors such as ascent rate, individual susceptibility, and duration spent at high altitudes. It is essential to acclimatize slowly to allow the body to adjust gradually to changes in oxygen levels.

It is also crucial to stay well-hydrated and maintain a balanced diet to support the body’s adaptation to high elevation. Drinking plenty of water and consuming carbohydrate, vitamin, and mineral-rich foods can help maintain energy levels and overall well-being. Regular physical activity can boost cardiovascular fitness and enhance the body’s ability to cope with altitude.

Understanding the effects of high elevation on the body is crucial for individuals planning to travel or engage in activities at high altitudes. By being aware of these effects and taking necessary precautions, one can ensure a safe and enjoyable experience in high-altitude environments.

Girl with sunglasses on sitting on a stone with blurry Machu Picchu background

How to Prepare for the High Elevation of Machu Picchu?

Planning a breathtaking trip to Machu Picchu? Don’t let the high elevation dampen your adventure!

In this section, we’ll equip you with the essential knowledge to conquer the challenges posed by Machu Picchu’s altitude. From gradual acclimatization techniques to staying hydrated and nourished, we’ve got you covered. Let’s dive into how you can prepare yourself for the awe-inspiring heights of Machu Picchu and ensure a memorable and comfortable journey.

Gradual Acclimatization

To ensure a gradual acclimatization process, it is recommended to start acclimatizing 1-2 days before visiting Machu Picchu. This can be achieved by spending the first day in the city of Cusco or another high-altitude location.

During this time, it is important to avoid strenuous activity and instead allow the body to adapt gradually. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water is essential. Carbohydrate-rich foods should also be consumed to provide energy during acclimatization.

To further support the acclimatization process, it is best to avoid alcohol and caffeine as they can dehydrate the body and hinder adaptation. Taking breaks during hikes or walks to rest and adjust to the higher altitude, is recommended, and it is crucial to pace oneself and avoid overexertion to prevent altitude sickness.

Paying attention to any symptoms of altitude sickness is important, and if these symptoms worsen or become severe, it is vital to descend to a lower altitude immediately. If possible, spending a few nights at intermediate altitudes before reaching Machu Picchu can also aid in acclimatization.

Nevertheless, it is advisable to consult with a medical professional regarding the use of acetazolamide medication for acclimatization.


Proper hydration is crucial at Machu Picchu due to the high elevation. Here are some important points to consider:

  • Drink plenty of water: maintaining optimal hydration is essential at high altitudes to avoid altitude sickness symptoms.
  • Aim for 2-3 liters of water per day: being at a higher elevation can lead to increased fluid loss through respiration and sweating.
  • Avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol: these substances have a dehydrating effect on the body and can worsen the impact of high altitude. Avoid pisco sours when you first arrive.
  • Consider electrolyte drinks: replenishing electrolytes helps maintain hydration levels and prevents muscle cramps.
  • Carry a water bottle: having easy access to water will serve as a reminder to drink regularly.
  • Begin hydrating before arrival: gradually increase your fluid intake a few days before your trip to prepare your body for the effects of altitude.
  • Pay attention to signs of dehydration: symptoms such as dizziness, dry mouth, dark urine, and fatigue indicate the need for increased water consumption.
  • Drink at regular intervals: sipping water throughout the day is more effective than consuming large quantities all at once.

By prioritizing hydration at Machu Picchu, you can ensure a more enjoyable and comfortable experience at high altitudes.

Proper Nutrition

To adequately prepare for Machu Picchu’s high elevation, it is crucial to prioritize proper nutrition. Here are some key factors to consider to achieve this:

  • Hydration: Ensuring you drink plenty of water is essential to stay well-hydrated. Experts recommend consuming a minimum of 2-3 liters of water per day.
  • Carbohydrates: Including complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in your diet is vital. These types of carbohydrates provide sustained energy levels and assist with acclimatization.
  • Protein: Consuming lean proteins like poultry, fish, beans, and nuts is important for supporting muscle repair and growth.
  • Fats: Opt for healthy fats like avocados, nuts, and olive oil. These fats not only provide essential nutrients but also help maintain energy levels.
  • Vitamins and minerals: A balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables is necessary to obtain the required vitamins and minerals. Particularly, focus on consuming foods that are high in vitamin C, iron, and potassium.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine intake as these can contribute to dehydration and worsen altitude symptoms.
  • It is advisable to consult a healthcare professional or nutritionist for personalized advice based on your specific dietary needs and any pre-existing health conditions.

Proper nutrition plays a significant role in preparing your body for the high altitude conditions at Machu Picchu. By following a well-balanced diet and ensuring you stay nourished, you can enhance your overall well-being and increase your chances of having a successful and enjoyable visit to this historic site.

Protip: Medicate before you ascend, because altitude sickness doesn’t care how much you paid for your Machu Picchu selfie.


Medication can help alleviate or prevent altitude sickness at high elevations like Machu Picchu. Consider the following medications:

  • Acetazolamide: Reduces fluid buildup in the body to prevent symptoms such as headache, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
  • Ibuprofen: Relieves symptoms of altitude sickness like headache and body aches, while also reducing swelling.
  • Dexamethasone: A corticosteroid used in severe cases of altitude sickness to reduce inflammation and swelling.
  • Anti-nausea medication: Ondansetron or dimenhydrinate can help alleviate nausea and vomiting, common symptoms of altitude sickness.
  • Prescription medication: Consult with your doctor before traveling to Machu Picchu to adjust your medication regimen or obtain additional medication for managing altitude sickness.

Remember that medication alone is not sufficient preparation for high elevations. Gradual acclimatization, hydration, and proper nutrition are also crucial. Monitor your symptoms and seek medical attention if they worsen or become severe.

What are the Common Symptoms of Altitude Sickness?

Altitude sickness, also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), can occur when you rapidly ascend to high elevations. Common symptoms of altitude sickness include headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and shortness of breath. These symptoms are caused by reduced oxygen levels in the thin air at higher altitudes, which decreases the amount of oxygen available to the body.

It is important to note that the severity of altitude sickness symptoms can vary. Some individuals may experience mild symptoms, such as headache and fatigue, while others may have more severe effects such as nausea and dizziness. In severe cases, altitude sickness can progress to high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) or high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), both of which can be life-threatening.

To prevent altitude sickness, it is recommended to gradually acclimatize to higher altitudes by ascending slowly and allowing your body to adjust. Hydration is also crucial for coping with the effects of altitude. It is advised to avoid alcohol and strenuous exercise during the initial days at high altitudes, as these can increase the risk of developing altitude sickness.

If you experience severe or worsening symptoms of altitude sickness, it is important to descend to a lower altitude and seek medical attention. It is crucial not to take altitude sickness lightly, as it can have serious consequences on your health and well-being.

Girl with arm above head standing in a stone doorway in Ollantaytambo Sacred Valley

How to Prevent Altitude Sickness at Machu Picchu?

To prevent altitude sickness at Machu Picchu, it is important to follow these steps on how to prevent altitude sickness at Machu Picchu:

  • Acclimate: Give yourself enough time to adjust to the high mountain altitude before visiting Machu Picchu. It is recommended for travelers to start in Cusco or other high-altitude destinations.

  • Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water is essential to combat dehydration, as it worsens the symptoms of altitude sickness.

  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine: Both alcohol and caffeine contribute to dehydration and can worsen the symptoms of altitude sickness.

  • Eat light meals: Choosing smaller and more frequent meals will aid digestion and prevent stomach discomfort while at high altitudes.

  • Take it easy: It is important to avoid strenuous activities and allow yourself enough time to rest and adjust to the much higher altitude.

  • Consider medication: Consulting with a healthcare professional about altitude sickness medication, such as acetazolamide, is highly recommended. It can help prevent and alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness.

  • Coca Tea: The locals recommend drinking this to prevent altitude sickness.

Remember, prevention is crucial when it comes to altitude sickness. By acclimating properly, staying hydrated, and taking care of your body, you can enjoy your visit to Machu Picchu without being affected by altitude sickness.

What should I do if I Experience Altitude Sickness at Machu Picchu?

If you experience altitude sickness at Machu Picchu, there are things you can do to alleviate symptoms and ensure a safer visit. Recognize symptoms such as headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and difficulty breathing. Take immediate action if you experience any of these symptoms.

Rest and acclimate to the high altitude before engaging in strenuous activities. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol and caffeinated beverages. Chewing on coca leaves, a traditional remedy, can provide some relief.

If symptoms persist or worsen, descend to a lower altitude and seek medical attention if necessary. Many tour operators and hotels in the area can assist with altitude sickness.

Prevention is key when visiting high-altitude destinations like Machu Picchu. Gradual ascent, staying hydrated, and listening to your body are essential for a safe and enjoyable experience at this remarkable site.


Some Facts About Machu Picchu Elevation:

  • ✅ Machu Picchu is located at an altitude of 7,972 feet above sea level.
  • ✅ The peaks near Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu, and Cerro Machu Picchu, have summits reaching 8,835 and 10,111 feet respectively.
  • ✅ Altitude sickness is usually expressed at altitudes above 8,000 feet.
  • ✅ The town of Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo, is at an altitude of around 6,700 feet.
  • ✅ Machu Picchu is not affected by high winds, with average wind speeds under 6 miles per hour year-round.

Before You Go…

Since you’re already wondering about everything Machu Picchu, make sure to check out our blog posts on the Machu Picchu weather and the 50 Machu Picchu Facts you don’t know about.

Machu Picchu Elevation FAQs

What is the elevation of Machu Picchu?

Machu Picchu is a mountain located at an altitude of 7,972 feet above sea level, making the trek to it a high-altitude destination.

What are the nearby peaks near Machu Picchu and their elevations?

The two highest mountain peaks near Machu Picchu mountain are Huayna Picchu mountain, reaching an elevation of 8,835 feet, and Cerro Machu Picchu mountain, reaching an elevation of 10,111 feet.

What precautions should I take for the high altitude at Machu Picchu?

Altitude sickness is usually expressed at altitudes above 8,000 feet. It is recommended to acclimatize and take precautions to avoid altitude sickness, such as drinking plenty of water, resting, and avoiding strenuous activities.

Are there hotels available at Machu Picchu?

There is one hotel, the Belmond Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, located on top of the eastern side of the mountain at around 7,700 feet above sea level. The town of Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo, has other recommended hotels and is located in South America, at an altitude of around 6,700 feet.

What weather conditions should I expect at Machu Picchu?

Machu Picchu is not affected by high winds, with average wind speeds under 6 miles per hour year-round. Sun protection is important due to the moderate UV index at the altitude, which can cause sunburns more quickly. It is recommended to wear long sleeves, and long pants, and use insect repellent to avoid insect bites.

When is the best time to visit Machu Picchu Mountain?

Each month and season at Machu Picchu has its pros and cons, the best time to visit Machu Picchu depends on your desires.

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  1. Albert

    Hi, Nice article.

    Note that Aguas Calientes is not in Cusco. It is beside Machu Picchu.

    I would suggest to stay first 2- 3 days in the Urubamba Valley which is lower than Cusco to acclimate. Then go to Machu Picchu and then back to Cusco at a higher altitude.

    • Kevin Groh

      Thanks, Albert! I think that’s a great plan for acclimation! Are you planning on going back anytime soon?

    • Elizabeth Smiley

      So you we would still need to fly into Cusco, correct? The drive from Lima would take too long I’m thinking.

      • Kevin Groh

        Hey Elizabeth.

        You would still need to fly to Cusco. You can definitely drive but the drive is very very long compared to the approximately 1 hour flight from Lima.


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