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“beware of high altitude!”

Ranked #22 of 103 things to do in Arequipa
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Reviewed January 9, 2014

We rented a car in Arequipa to drive to Cabanaconde and the Colca Canyon. (Great trip! But the road from Chivay to Cabanaconde was rough, to say the least.) This reserve was just along the route and we stopped several times to take photos of vicunas. When we stopped for views of volcanos, the altitude was 4910 meters, or 16,100 feet....something we weren't prepared for! My son and I got massive headaches from the sudden increase in altitude. Although we got to lower altitudes in Chivay and Cabanaconde, around 11,000 feet, it's still enough to make you light headed and head-achey. Be prepared!

3  Thank Laura O
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviews (135)
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25 - 29 of 135 reviews

Reviewed December 28, 2013

Very wonderful place were you can see vicunas, lamas and alpacas. You can go there with a tour, you will do few stops to take pictures. If you drive, Be careful when alpacas across the street !

1  Thank Papyrus26
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 13, 2013

This national reserve is part of your route if you go from Arequipa to Colca Canyon, so all you need to do is look out your window. You'll see vicuñas, alpacas and llamas; birds are also abundant in the wet areas.
The "cameloids" graze close to the road, so there are plenty of photo opportunities. The backdrop of volcanoes is breathtaking and you never get tired of looking around you.

The only negative thing is the pollution of plastics and other trash that apparently was thrown out the windows. It will take decades or centuries to decompose. According to our guide, the pollution is getting less because of education, but I fear some of the animals will ingest plastic and get sick or die...No veterinary care, paid for by the reserve, will solve this problem.

4  Thank Evi55
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 1, 2013

I was part of a group trip and this was one location on the agenda. I was nervous for this day because I knew we would be traveling to a height up to 16,100 feet above sea level. I had never been to high altitude and truly didn't know how my body would respond. Our bus stopped just outside of Arequipa for coca leaves before receiving instruction on the proper way to consume them. Coca leaves are sacred to the Quechua people and the consumption process definitely deserves respect. After driving for a few hours we came to a crossroads where we purchased coca tea and continued on our journey. The drive was definitely one that I will remember forever. The mountains are absolutely breathtaking and seeing the vicunas was a great treat. You're reminded how beautiful nature truly is when there's nothing around you.

I have a few pointers for first time high altitude-rs like me: #1 If you have the opportunity to purchase coca leaves, I would definitely tell you to take advantage of it. Don't let the fact that it's manufactured into an illegal substance discourage you. It tastes exactly like green leaves and does NOT give you a high or make your mouth tingle. It's not exactly delicious but I found that chewing the leaves helped with the altitude. #2 If you have the opportunity to purchase coca tea, I would tell you to drink it. The tea served at the tourist spot along the route was very delicious and didn't taste any different than most bush teas served primarily in the Caribbean. Most of the people in my group had coca tea and we never suffered stomach issues from drinking the water. The tea helped with the altitude as well. #3 Take it SLOOOOOW whenever you get out of your vehicle. For me at least, I definitely noticed the thin air. I felt extremely out of breath and no matter how much I panted and took deep breaths, I never felt as though it helped. #4 Any doctor will tell you to drink lots of water when you're heading into high altitude. That's mostly because your body evaporates water the higher you rise, even though you won't sweat or even realize that it's happening. Also, don't be surprised to notice that you're making quick trips to the restroom a little more frequently. That's another byproduct of being in high altitude. Drinking water helped my symptoms be not as severe. #5 Another common side effect of dealing with high altitude is headaches. I certainly noticed a throbbing headache at the back of my neck the higher we rose. The best way to describe it was similar to a tension headache when you need a good neck rub to feel better. Some people in my group took aspirin and said they felt better. #6 As we got closer to the peak I definitely felt the need to request oxygen. If you're traveling in a group or with a bona fide travel company, they should have a tank of oxygen available exactly for those moments. With my group we were allowed five minutes of oxygen free. Maybe I could have used ten minutes, but I definitely felt better after five. #7 At the rest stop where you purchase coca tea there are restrooms for you to use. Be prepared to pay S/1 for use of the toilet (approximately US$0.40). You are told that the payment is to help them maintain the facilities, but don't be alarmed that not all of the toilets actually flush. There is low water pressure at the faucet and not much in the way of soap for you to wash your hands, although there are portioned pieces of toilet paper for you to grab. #8 The ultimate takeaway is that you shouldn't be shocked at the toilets, and while it wouldn't hurt to carry your own roll of toilet paper with you (just remember you are NOT allowed to throw it in the toilet, but in the garbage instead), you DEFINITELY need to carry hand sanitizer with you at all times.

15  Thank appetite4trvl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 12, 2012

Catch a glimpse of the wild vicuña. There are lots of opportunities. Amazing scenery with lots of wild birds considering the high altitude. Only short grasses and cacti can be seen here, but there are amazingly beautiful.

Thank azen11
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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