La Paz, Bolivia

World's 10 Highest Cities

Cities across the world have always competed with each other for holding records. Lists have been created ranking cities based on sustainability, size, visitor numbers, cleanliness, pollution levels, etc. Here is one such list ranking the world's cities by elevation. However, this list includes only the major cities with a population of over one million. Check to see if any city in your country features in this list of sky-high cities:

1. La Paz, Bolivia – 3,869m

La Paz, Bolivia
The cityscape of La Paz, Bolivia.

Officially referred to as Nuestra Senora de La Paz, the city of La Paz - Bolivia's legislative and executive capital, situated at an elevation of 3,869m above sea level in west-central South America, is the highest city in the world. La Paz is placed in a canyon carved out by the Choqueyapu River, about 68km southeast of Lake Titicaca. The La Paz-El Alto metropolitan area, which houses over 2 million people, is considered Bolivia's most populous urban area. It is also to be noted that La Paz is placed at a higher elevation than Japan's Mount Fuji, which rises to a height of 3,776m.

2. Quito, Ecuador – 2,784m

Quito, Ecuador
Quito, Ecuador.

Formally referred to as San Francisco de Quito, the city of Quito – Ecuador’s capital and its most populous city, situated at an elevation of 2,784m above sea level in the northwestern portion of South America, is the second-highest city in the world. Quito is located in the Guayllabamba River Valley on the eastern flanks of the active stratovolcano Pichincha in Ecuador’s Northern Highlands. Quito is considered the world’s only capital city located closest to the Equator. Declared to be the headquarters of the Union of South American Nations, Quito also serves as Ecuador’s political and cultural epicenter.

3. Toluca, Mexico – 2,648m

Toluca, Mexico
The cityscape of Toluca.

Officially referred to as Toluca de Lerdo, the city of Toluca – Mexico’s fifth-most populous city, situated at an elevation of 2,648m above sea level in central Mexico, is the third-highest city in the world. Toluca is located in a valley at the bottom of the Nevado de Toluca volcano, approximately 63km southwest of Mexico City. Being at the heart of the Greater Toluca metropolitan area, Toluca’s rapid economic growth is attributed mainly due to its proximity to the country’s capital.

4. Cochabamba, Bolivia – 2,621m

Cochabamba in Bolivia
The cityscape of Cochabamba in Bolivia as viewed from one of the nearest peaks.

Cochabamba, situated at an elevation of 2,621m above sea level in central Bolivia, is the fourth-highest city in the world. Cochabamba is located in the Cochabamba valley of the Andes Mountains and is considered the biggest urban center placed between the cities of La Paz and Santa Cruz. The city is well-known for its gastronomic richness and currently serves as one of Bolivia's significant political, cultural, educational, and commercial centers.

5. Bogota, Colombia – 2,601m

Bogota, Colombia
Bogota's cable car.

Bogota – Colombia’s capital and largest city, situated at an elevation of 2,601m above sea level, is the fifth-highest city in the world. Bogota is located in central Colombia, on the Bogota savanna in the southwestern portion of Altiplano Cundiboyacense in Andes Mountain’s Eastern Cordillera. After the cities of La Paz and Quito, Bogota is South America’s third-highest capital city. Bogota also serves as the country’s political, administrative, cultural, commercial, and industrial center.

6. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – 2,361m

Aerial view of the Capital City of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa
Aerial view of the Capital City of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa.

Addis Ababa – Ethiopia’s capital and largest city, situated at an elevation of 2,361m above sea level, is the sixth-highest city in the world. Addis Ababa is located at the base of Mount Entoto in a grassland biome that forms a portion of the Awash River’s watershed. This highly developed city also serves as Ethiopia’s significant administrative, cultural and financial center. It also houses the headquarters of several major international and continental organizations.

7. Mexico City, Mexico – 2,316m

Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City, Mexico.

Mexico City – Mexico's capital and largest city, situated at an elevation of 2,316m, is the seventh-highest city in the world. Mexico City is placed in the Valley of Mexico in the high plateaus in the country's south-central portion. Mexico City serves as Mexico's administrative, educational, cultural, and economic center. It is also North America's most populous city and a significant financial center.

8. Xining, China – 2,299m

Xining city china
View of Xining city with Taoist Tulou Temple of Beishan Mountain in the forefront.

Xining, situated at an elevation of 2,299m in western China, is the eighth-highest city in the world. Xining is located in the Huangshui River Valley in the eastern portion of the Qinghai Province. Xining also serves as Qinghai Province's capital as well as its administrative, cultural, and economic center. Being the largest city of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and due to its cool summers, Xining is often referred to as China's "Summer Resort Capital."

9. Sana’a, Yemen – 2,283m

Sana'a yemen
Sana'a, the capital city of Yemen.

Sana'a – Yemen's capital and largest city, situated at an elevation of 2,283m, is the ninth-highest city in the world. Sana'a is located in the western portion of Yemen at the west base of Mount Nuqum in the Yemeni Highlands. Sana'a is also one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities. It serves as Yemen Highlands' significant political, economic, cultural, and religious center.

10. Puebla, Mexico – 2,176m

Puebla, Mexico
Looking out to Volcan Popocatapetl from a hill in the city of Puebla.

Puebla – Mexico's fourth-largest city, situated at an elevation of 2,176m, is the tenth-highest city in the world. Located in Central Mexico's southern portion in the Valley of Puebla, Puebla is strategically placed on the main route between the country's capital, Mexico City and Veracruz – its main Atlantic port. Puebla also serves as the capital of the Mexican state of Puebla and is well-known for colonial architecture, food varieties, and Talavera pottery.

As discussed in the above article, most of the world’s highest cities are in South America, followed by Central America, Eastern Africa, and Eastern and Western Asia. Of the aforementioned ten highest cities, 6 of these cities serve as national capitals. Many of these high cities are also placed on plateaus and valleys of the Andes Mountains. Although Asia has the largest continental population, only two of its major cities are located at an elevation of more than 2,000m.

The 30 Highest Cities In The World

Rank Name Of The City Country Average Elevation (m)
1 La Paz Bolivia 3,869
2 Quito Ecuador 2784
3 Toluca Mexico 2648
4 Cochabamba Bolivia 2621
5 Bogota Colombia 2601
6 Addis Ababa Ethiopia 2361
7 Mexico City Mexico 2316
8 Xining China 2299
9 Sana'a Yemen 2283
10 Puebla Mexico 2176
11 Kunming China 1923
12 San Luis Potosi Mexico 1873
13 Leon Mexico 1845
14 Kabul Afghanistan 1845
15 Nairobi Kenya 1702
16 Denver United States 1673
17 Medellin Colombia 1650
18 Johannesburg South Africa 1624
19 Srinagar India 1598
20 Lanzhou China 1593
21 Isfahan Iran 1587
22 Guadalajara Mexico 1583
23 Shiraz Iran 1571
24 Harare Zimbabwe 1479
25 Kigali Rwanda 1473
26 Guatemala City Guatemala 1463
27 Tabriz Iran 1449
28 Pretoria South Africa 1365
29 Kermanshah Iran 1359
30 Kathmandu Nepal 1353
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