Last updated on: Apr 27, 2020
A trip to the Andean region of South America is definitely adventurous and full of epic beauty. When taking scenic road trips, hiking picturesque mountains, or climbing ancient ruins in South America, there are some precautions you should take as you prepare for high altitude.
Altitude sickness is common for travelers to the Andean region of South America. It is caused by a drop in barometric pressure, which results in less oxygen in the air, often causing headaches, vomiting, and dizziness.
If you’re coming from a low-altitude country, you should start your trip in an area that has less altitude first and gradually gain altitude. This depends on how high you plan to go.
For example, I began a recent trip to South America in Santiago, Chile, which sits at 500 meters (1,600 feet) above sea level. The next location was San Pedro de Atacama, which sits at 2,400 meters (7,900 feet) above sea level.
After crossing from San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni, Bolivia, I reached heights of 3,650 meters (12,000 feet) above sea level, and when I proceeded via road to similar elevations in Puno and Cusco, Peru, I was already acclimatized.
The gradual approach to gaining in elevation was helpful to avoiding altitude sickness.
Throughout my trip, I ate and drank foods with coca leaves in them. Coca tea or mate de coca, is a tea made from using raw or dried leaves of the coca plant. It’s the same plant that was originally used in Coca-Cola and is a strong stimulant that fights hunger and fatigue.
Although it contains the same alkaloid that is heavily refined to manufacture cocaine, the coca alkaloid in coca tea is negligible and can be removed in the same manner as removing caffeine from coffee.
Coca tea became my drink of choice every day, and I also loved the coca candies, which are made with coca extract and have a toffee texture and taste.
While these can cause dryness, it’s good to have ibuprofen or a prescription medication for altitude sickness, just in case, as well as allergy or antihistamine medication. I brought prescription medication with me on my recent trip to South America. However, I only took one pill on my last night in Santiago.
While I didn’t have issues with altitude sickness, I had major issues with dryness!
So, be mindful of your skin, and be sure to bring along these items:
Have you had to prepare for high altitude trips? What are your tips?