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Machu Picchu Elevation – How High Is Machu Picchu?

Alison Macallister

Every year, millions of travelers fall in love with Peru. The country is a diverse landscape of vibrant culture, delicious foods, and epic hikes. Topping the list of attractions is the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu.

Before visiting this incredible location, you first need to know a few things about Machu Picchu's altitude.

Peru is a mountainous place and your body needs time to adjust to the increased elevation. But don’t let a little fear of heights put you off. Visiting Peru’s mountainous region should rank high on your bucket list.

The rewards of visiting Machu Picchu far outweigh a few altitude issues. With the right information, you can prevent any unwanted surprises on your trip.

Read on for everything you need to know about Machu Picchu Elevation.

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Machu Picchu Elevation

How High Is Machu Picchu?

The average Machu Picchu elevation is 7,874 ft (2,430m). The main citadel is located at 7,972 ft (2,430m) above sea level. This UNESCO world heritage site is actually lower than many of its surroundings.

Peru’s average altitudes are only slightly lower than Machu Picchu at around 5,105 feet (1,556 metres). This is the second highest average elevation across all of Latin America. Chile gets bragging rights to the highest average of 6,138 ft (1,870m).

Even though this site is lower than the neighbouring areas, you might feel like you are in the clouds. The steep surrounding slopes give the impression that you are much higher up than you actually are.

It’s not just the views that take your breath away. Hundreds of stairs and the thin air at this altitude make walking the site feel a lot like mountain climbing. You will definitely appreciate the views from the top!

Also see our recommended packing list for Machu Picchu.

machu picchu elevation

How Does Machu Picchu's Elevation Compare To Other Places?

The famous Incan Ruins are low-lying compared to other landforms. Mount Kilimanjaro, for example, is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. This summit on the African continent rises 19,341ft (5,895m) above sea level. This is more than double the height of Machu Picchu.

Within Peru, there are many other sites with a much higher altitude than Machu Picchu. Huascarán is the highest peak in the country at 22,132 feet (6,746 m) above sea level.

Most travellers use Cusco as an adventure base to explore the area. From here, you can embark on the popular Machu Picchu trekking routes. Cusco is around 11,152 feet (3,400m) above sea level. This is more than 3000 feet (914 metres) above Machu Picchu.

machu picchu elevation comparison

If you are traveling to Peru, the Sacred Valley is likely on your agenda too. Altitudes in the Sacred Valley range between 6,700 and 9,800 feet (2050- 3000m ) above sea level. On average, attractions in the valley are 1,500 feet (457 metres) higher than Machu Picchu elevation.

Machu Picchu is in the shadow of much larger mountains on either side. Huayna Picchu in the north rises 8,835 ft / 2,692m. You can’t miss this mountain as it makes for a stunning backdrop to the Machu Picchu site. Cerro Machu Picchu (south) is even higher at 10,111 ft / 3,082m.

Is Machu Picchu's Altitude Dangerous?

If you plan to visit Machu Picchu, you need to be aware of a little thing called altitude sickness. Although not considered life-threatening, altitude sickness is uncomfortable (to say the least) with Machu Picchu elevation.

For most people, symptoms appear in the form of:

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue

This may only last a few hours or put you out of action for several days. Not cool if you are travelling on a fixed schedule as it can mess up your whole itinerary.

The threshold for experiencing altitude sickness is generally around 8,000ft (2,438m). Most of the ruins of Machu Picchu are located around 7,900ft (2,408m) above sea level. This means that the site is just high enough for you to take a few precautions to counter potential altitude sickness.

Fast Fact: You may be surprised to know that Cusco’s elevation is more than 3,000 feet (914 metres) higher than Machu Picchu. The best way to prepare for the elevation of Machu Picchu is simply to spend a few days in Cusco before your tour. That should give your body enough time to acclimate to the higher elevation.

Another danger at Machu Picchu’s altitude is that it is easier to get sunburn. Winter days may feel cool, but the sun is deceptively strong at these heights. I recommend that you wear a hat and apply plenty of sun-protective lotion.

See: when to visit Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu Height FAQs

What is the elevation of Machu Picchu in feet?

Machu Picchu’s elevation is 7,874 feet / 2,400 metres.

Is Machu Picchu the tallest mountain in Peru?

No, Machu Picchu is not the tallest mountain in Peru. Huascarán is the highest mountain in Peru with tall peaks at 22,132 feet / 6,746 metres.

Where to stay? Here are 5 of my favourite accommodation options in Cusco: 

See more Cusco accommodation options.

Is Cusco at a higher altitude than Machu Picchu?

Yes, Cusco is at a higher altitude than Machu Picchu. It has an average altitude of 11,152 feet (3,399 metres) above sea level and is higher than Machu Picchu elevation, which has an average altitude of 7,874 feet (2,400 metres).

At what height can I get Altitude sickness on Machu Picchu?

Generally, you are only at risk for altitude sickness at 8,000ft (2,438m). Machu Picchu is slightly lower, but Cusco and the Sacred Valley are above this threshold, which puts travellers at more risk of getting altitude sickness before or during their trip to Machu Picchu.

Alison Macallister

With a degree in Nature Conservation and experience working with wildlife including the Big 5, Alison works as a guide for a 5-star reserve. She enjoys sharing her passion for all things nature-related. She enjoys hiking, horseriding, 4x4 driving and kayaking.

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