South America's 11 Highest Cities Will Take Your Breath Away

La Paz, Bolivia
La Paz, Bolivia | © Gatol fotografia / Flickr
Stephen Woodman

Home to some of the most impressive and geographically diverse landscapes on the planet, South America should be on any traveler’s bucket list. Some of the most dramatic sights on the continent are the communities perched high in the mountains. These settlements can take hours to reach, but often reward visitors with spectacular mountain views. With that in mind, here’s our guide to the 11 highest towns and cities in South America.

La Rinconada, Peru

With an average height of 16,830 feet (5,130 meters) La Rinconada is the highest human settlement in the world and is at least 200 feet (61 meters) higher than the village of Tuiwa in Tibet, which is the second highest. The town has a total population of around 50,000 and average temperatures that are below freezing between June and August.

La Rinconada, Peru

Parinacota, Chile

The Chilean village of Parinacota is situated at an elevation of 14,400 feet (4,400 meters). With a population of less than 50, Parinacota consists only of a tiny church and a small huddle of houses.

Cerro de Pasco, Peru

The Central Peruvian town of Cerro de Pasco is one of the world’s highest human settlements, and has a population of more than 50,000 inhabitants. Silver was discovered in the area in 1630, and since that date the city has been an active mining center.

Cerro de Pasco, Peru

El Alto, Bolivia

Situated at an average elevation of 13,615 feet (4,150 meters), El Alto is the second-largest city in Bolivia and the highest metropolis in the world. With a population of nearly 1 million, the city is situated alongside La Paz and has a majority Amerindian population.

Potosí, Bolivia

The city of Potosí has a population of nearly 200,000 and an average elevation of 13,420 feet (4,090 meters). Founded as a mining center in 1545, the city is dominated by the Cerro Rico (“rich mountain”), which produced more than half of the world’s silver during the second half of the 16th century.

Potosí, Bolivia

Puno, Peru

Nestling the shores of Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America, the extraordinary city of Puno is set at an average elevation of 12,556 feet (3,830 meters). While there are smaller bodies of water at a higher elevation, Lake Titicaca is often described as the highest navigable lake in the world, as it has a large enough surface area to allow navigation by ships.

Juliaca, Peru

With a population of around 225,000 inhabitants, Juliaca is one of the largest cities in southern Peru. Like Chicago, the city is nicknamed “the Windy City,” because of its elevated location on the windswept Collao Plateau. The White Christ statue is one of the Juliaca’s major attractions and offers spectacular views of the city.

Juliaca, Peru

La Oroya, Peru

The Andean settlement of La Oroya dates back more than 12,000 years. The Spanish established a mining operation in the region in 1533 but its isolation from the rest of the country hindered progress, until a railway to the capital was completed 360 years later. Today, the town is one of the most polluted places on the planet, owing to the emission of toxic metals from its smelting operation.

Oruro, Bolivia

Located around 12,169 feet (3,709 meters) above sea level, Oruro is Bolivia’s fifth largest city. Founded in 1606, the city went on to be developed as a major silver mining hub and is now a popular tourist destination.

Oruro, Bolivia

La Paz, Bolivia

At an elevation of roughly 3,650 meters (11,975 feet) above sea level, La Paz is the highest capital city in the world. Founded in 1548, La Paz is the seat of the Bolivian government and produces around a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product.

Apartaderos, Venezuela

Located at an elevation of 11,499 feet (3,505 meters), Apartaderos is the highest town in Venezuela. Lying at the intersection of three river valleys, Apartaderos is ringed by sweeping plains. The surrounding vegetation undergoes a daily freeze-and-thaw cycle, with summer temperatures in the day and cold temperatures at night.

Apartaderos, Venezuela

Find out which South American country to visit, based on your personality.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.