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Adjusting to altitude: Is Ollantaytambo better than Cusco?

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Blaine, Minnesota
posts: 5
reviews: 7
Adjusting to altitude: Is Ollantaytambo better than Cusco?

Hi! I'm planning my first tour to Machu Picchu; I'm anticipating a range of ages from 30s-60s+. From Lima, I am planning to fly to Cusco and immediately head to Ollantaytambo. Is Ollantaytambo really any better for adjusting to the high altitude than Cusco? (I know Ollanta is about 9,100 ft, whereas Cusco is at over 11,100 ft., but how much difference does 2,000 ft make?) When we're done with the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, we'll spend a couple days in Cusco before flying home. After having been at Machu Picchu and Ollanta for 4+ days will I need a "down" day in Cusco to re-adjust to the newer higher altitude? Or will have being acclimated to Ollanta make our adjustment to Cusco's higher altitude easier to handle? I realize everyone will react differently to the altitude in both locations, but I want to allot a reasonable amount of time in the schedule for everyone to adjust. Just wondering where it's going to hit us hardest: when we first arrive (and stay in Ollantaytambo), when we're in Cusco (at the highest altitude), or both.

Thanks!

Cusco, Peru
posts: 17
11. Re: Adjusting to altitude: Is Ollantaytambo better than Cusco?

mlgb, you are right there is a very important ARQUEOLOGICAL COMPLEX in Ollantaytambo (which is included in the Sacred Valley tour). We understood this group was just planning to explore the village of Ollanta. Yes, we are a travel agent that sells Sacred Valley tours among other tours in Peru but our main purpose here is to give advise to those visiting our country and to learn what are the concerns people have before coming to Peru. However, thank you and vistet for your feedback, we will take note of it and we will be more precise with future recommendations.

Edited: 3:08 pm, March 26, 2013
Blaine, Minnesota
posts: 5
reviews: 7
12. Re: Adjusting to altitude: Is Ollantaytambo better than Cusco?

Casa - We'll be flying into Cusco from Lima. Since I'll have a large-ish group with me (5-7 women) plus all our luggage, I've decided to hire transportation from the hotel in Ollantaytambo. Trains are slower, and I'm unclear as to the train's luggage restrictions. (From what I can gather, you're only allowed a small backpack/carryon onto the trains.) I don't want to chance it, since I'm assuming each of us will have a regular suitcase with us in addition to a small daypack. If you're one person (or even two) taking the train might be fine. We'll be visiting Cusco later in our tour, so my goal is just to get us to Ollantaytambo as fast as possible that first day.

Umeå
Destination Expert
for Leh
posts: 2,191
reviews: 1
13. Re: Adjusting to altitude: Is Ollantaytambo better than Cusco?

1. The caffeine thing : bad idea. Caffeine ( in coffee , tea , Coke etc. permeats our lives today , and caffeine withdrawal is a recognised medical condition ( has an ICD code ) that can last up to a week. Symptoms can resemble early stages of altitude sickness. The diuretic effect is also a myth , that has been disproved in general from 1928 to a 2004 study at Everest Base Camp ( …springer.com/article/…page-1 ) . People who already are using caffeine can take up to 600 mg of caffeine ( literally buckets of coffe ) without changed fluid balance. You pee earlier , not more , over the day.

2 . "Who said anything about BINGING water?"

"Plenty of water" , not fluids ... I would call anything over an extra liter of plain water as the beginning of that slippery slope. Fluid losses are still mainly from urine output , and losses are consistently exaggerated . Can´t see any reason why tourists without a pack , at a lower altitude than for example trekkers in Nepal should go beyond the recommandation from the Himalyan Rescue Association : around three liters of fluids , not just plain water , per day.

http://korta.nu/myths - I wasn´t aware of at the time that Everest climbing doc Peter Hackett from CDC used the same expression :

"Myth #4 - Drinking extra water will protect you from altitude illness.

-- In reality you only need an additional liter to a liter and a half of water at altitude. Too much water is harmful and can dilute your body's sodium levels (hyponatremia) causing weakness, confusion, seizures, and coma."

3. "It is recommended.."

Not by experienced doctors in the field. For solid advice , both evidence based and with decades of boots on the ground experience , see the guide lines from CDC ( shortlinked at http://korta.nu/cdcalt ) , International Society for Mountain Medicine ( start at http://korta.nu/prev ) or Wilderness Medical Society ( http://korta.nu/wem ) Most of it cover a lot more extreme situations than discussed here , but the same priciples apply.

Blaine, Minnesota
posts: 5
reviews: 7
14. Re: Adjusting to altitude: Is Ollantaytambo better than Cusco?

PeruALC and Vistet- you've gotten completely off-topic here; I was only looking for opinions on whether Ollantaytambo is better/easier for adjusting to the altitude than Cusco. While I appreciate tips on avoiding/combating altitude sickness, that wasn't really part of my question, and your debate about liquids, water, and caffeine aren't helping here. Thank you to those who actually answered my question. MLGB- I fully intend to explore Ollantaytambo and their ruins thoroughly, which is why I chose to stay there rather than in the more touristy Aguas Calientes. =)

Glossop, United...
posts: 11
reviews: 8
15. Re: Adjusting to altitude: Is Ollantaytambo better than Cusco?

About 3 years ago and not far short of 70 years old, I flew in to Denver from LA. From Denver I was taken to Estes Park, which I think is at about 7,500 feet. A couple of days later we went on a hike up the hills, and then we drove up to well above the snow line and continued on foot as far as a small lake at an altitude of nearly 11,000 feet. Quite truthfully, I had totally overlooked the whole question of altitude sickness and I experienced no adverse sensations whatsoever.

16. Re: Adjusting to altitude: Is Ollantaytambo better than Cusco?

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california
Destination Expert
for Los Angeles, Palm Desert
posts: 11,327
reviews: 143
17. Re: Adjusting to altitude: Is Ollantaytambo better than Cusco?

Flying into 11,000 feet and stepping off the plane is quite a bit more of a shock to your system than flying into Denver, which is about half that.

Of course everyone reacts differently and there is no way to predict how you will feel. Fitness has nothing to do with it. One of the few benefits of being older is that apparently the elderly do better at altitude. One theory is that your brain shrinks as you age so there is a bit more room for brain swelling.

Edited: 1:36 pm, March 27, 2013
18. Re: Adjusting to altitude: Is Ollantaytambo better than Cusco?

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