The Highest Places where People Live

While people may not yet live in the depths of our oceans, they do indeed live atop some of our highest mountains.  Yet, when coming up with a list of the highest places people live, one has to consider permanence.  Anyone with the right gear and training can pitch a tent for a week and claim, “I live here!”  What we’re looking for here are cities, towns, and villages that are active year round, even in the dead of winter.  They are a tribute to human fortitude as well as some of the most fascinating places on Earth.

Peru, La Rinconada, Puno

La Rinconada Peru

La Rinconada Peru

If you’re looking for height, this is it.  La Rinconada is the highest permanent city in the world.  It rests at a lofty elevation of just over 16,732 feet above see level.  La Rinconada is also a mining town, existing because of the gold mine found in its vicinity.  Before visiting this location, one may wish to consider this: the town features no sewage system or even running water.  The town also suffers from problems with mercury poisoning, since it is used for refining the ore.  A large portion of the miners work under the cachorreo system.  They mine without pay for thirty days, then they are allowed to take home as much ore as they can carry on the 31st.  Obviously there is no guarantee as to how much gold their ore will carry, if any.

China, Wenzhuan, Tibet

Lhachen (Nagen) La,pass 5132m
Creative Commons License photo credit: reurinkjan

This is claimed by many, including the Guinness Book of World Records, to be the highest city in the world, but as we’ve see there is one that can claim to be even higher.  Wenzhuan’s elevation is recorded at 16,730 feet above sea level.  The city was founded in 1955 and can be found on the Qinghai-Tibet road north of the Tangla mountain range.  Tibet, as a region, is considered the highest on Earth with an average elevation of 16,000 feet above sea level.  Small wonder then, why Tibet is sometimes referred to as, “The Roof of the World”.

Bolivia, Pedro Domingo Murillo Province, La Paz

Zona Norte de La Paz
Creative Commons License photo credit: Edwin Velasquez

At 11,942 feet above sea level, La Paz, the capital of Bolivia is the highest capital city in the world.  The city was founded in 1548 by Spanish conquistadors where the Native Americans had already established a settlement known as Laja.  The city was later moved to where it is today.  La Paz is also home to the world’s highest football (soccer) stadium, golf course, and a number of other institutions.

Ethiopia, Ras Dashen, Mizma


This out of the way Village is the highest in Africa.  At 11,483 feet above sea level, it is located in the vicinity of Ras Dashen mountain, which is home to the highest peak in the country.

United States, Colorado, Alma


This town in Park County Colorado is arguably the highest incorporated municipality in the United States.  We say “arguably”, because Winter Park, Colorado also believes it holds this claim.  The dispute began in 2006 when Winter Park annexed the Winter Park Ski Resort.  While the town itself is located at 9,000 feet above sea level, the ski resort’s highest peak is 12,060.  So why the dispute?  No one lives on that peak.  The highest permanent residents are below 10,000 feet, unlike Alma, Colorado which is comfortably situated at 10,578 feet.  Since this list is all about permanent residents, we’re giving the nod to Alma, Colorado.  It is a small town of only 179 people, but they’re still the highest.

Russia, Dagestan, Kurush


Rising 8,134 feet above sea level, this is the highest city in Russia.  It sports a healthy population of 7,807 people.  The region it is found in, Dagestan, literally translates to “country of mountains” and it is easy to see why.  The area is home to a wide array of ethnic groups, but they are all predominantly Muslim.  About 10% of the population is Christian with a presence of Jewish people residing up in the mountains themselves.

Switzerland, Graubunden, Juf


Located 6,973 feet above sea level, this is not only the highest village in Switzerland, it is also the highest in all of Europe.  The small village has a current population of only 24 inhabitants comprised of only 6 families.  The original inhabitants arrived in 1292 and are believed to have been Walser, a Germanic mountain people.

Australia, New South Wales, Cabramurra


Coming in at 4,839 feat above sea level, Cabramurra is the highest elevated town on the Australian continent.  The town has only 60 residents, which is understandable since it is a company town created to house employees of the Tumut 2 hydro-electric power station and switching yards, as well as the Tumut Pondage dam.  The town can be covered in snow for up to 3-4 months, which gives the town’s approximately fifty buildings a prevalent high pitched roofing design more frequently seen in Scandinavia.  The town was established in 1954 with prefabricated houses and is still going strong today.

United Kingdom, Scotland, Wanlockhead


Wanlockhead Village in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland is a mining town, and at 1,531 feet above see level, it is also the highest town in the entire United Kingdom.  Of course, being in the UK it’s most famous for being home to the highest pub, located at the Wanlockhead Inn.  Lead and other minerals found in the mines has been exploited since the time of the ancient Romans.  The village was officially founded in 1680 when the Duke of Buccleuch established a lead smelting plant at its location.  The gold for the Scottish crown was also mined from these hills.  Today the village is mostly a tourist destination.

Whether it be a village of only a few families, or a bustling nation’s capital, the highest places on Earth where people live are some of the most fascinating places one can go.  Some are obviously more hospitable than others, but adventure will definitely abound.

The Highest Places where People Live
August 5, 2009 • Posted in: Uncategorized
  • larry oldfield

    you forgot leadville colorado

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