Cities in the Sky: Top 50 Highest Metropolises in the World


Thousands of cities around the world are situated in highlands, plateaus or mountain ranges. An interesting infographic by the Visual Capitalist shows the top 50 highest cities worldwide, comparing their altitudes to well-known references.

When ranking the highest cities in the world, they specifically looked at major urban centers with a population of one million or more inhabitants, with an elevation “floor” of 1,000m.

Although one might expect less important cities to make the rankings, 22 out of the 50 highest cities are actually national capitals.

The infographic clearly demonstrates just how mountainous Latin America is. Of the 10 highest cities, three are in Mexico’s numerous mountainous regions, while four of the top five are adjacent to the Andes Mountains.

At the top of the list is Bolivia’s El Alto-La Paz metropolitan area, which houses more than two million people at an average elevation of 3,869m above sea level.

That’s a city of two million people situated more than 100 meters higher than Mount Fuji in Japan.

Image credit: szeke

The next four cities are more than 1,000m lower than El Alto-La Paz, with Ecuador’s capital Quito coming in at second place at 2,784m and Colombia’s capital Bogotá rounding out the top five at 2,601m.

Quito, Ecuador. Image credit: El Freddy

For comparison, that’s more than 100 meters higher than the world-famous Inca city of Machu Picchu in Peru, which is situated at a height of 2,430m.

Bogota, Colombia. Image credit: Hdhdhdybooty

Also to be noted are the world’s 8th largest metropolis, Addis Ababa, the capital and largest city in Ethiopia, Tehran, the capital of Iran and most populous city in Western Asia, and Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa.

Image credit: andryn2006

The U.S. and Canada each only has one city on the top 50 list: the Rocky Mountain-adjacent cities of Denver and Calgary.

Denver, USA. Image credit: MKoneeye

Meanwhile, despite the European Alps stretching across eight countries and both Australia and New Zealand having many high mountains, neither Europe nor Oceania has any major city situated more than 1,000m above sea level.

Studies have shown that living at higher altitudes has associated health benefits, including better cardiovascular health and lower incidence of stroke and cancer. And, of course, you don’t have to worry about rising sea levels either.

Regardless whether future trends push more people thousands of meters into the sky, humanity has definitely proven that it can prosper, even at high altitudes.

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