Highest Capital Cities in the World

The world is filled with diverse capital cities, each possessing its own unique characteristics and cultural features. Some of these capitals have the distinction of being among the highest in altitude, nestled in the heights of mountain ranges or perched on elevated plateaus.

These cities offer breathtaking views and distinctive climates, attracting visitors and contributing to the development and vibrancy of the nations they represent.

As we explore the highest capital cities globally, we not only delve into their altitudes but also uncover the fascinating histories and the rich cultures that have shaped their growth overtime.

As altitude can have a significant impact on the way of life, architecture, and infrastructure, these elevated capitals present a distinctive experience for both locals and visitors alike.

Top Five Highest Capital Cities

1. La Paz, Bolivia

Aerial view of La Paz, Bolivia© Jon Chica/Shutterstock
La Paz, Bolivia, the highest capital in the world!

La Paz, the administrative capital of Bolivia, is the highest capital city in the world. Located at an astonishing altitude of 3,650 meters (11,975 feet) above sea level, it offers stunning views of the surrounding Andean mountain ranges. The city is famous for its vibrant culture, colorful markets, and rich history, making it a must-visit destination for travelers.

2. Quito, Ecuador

Aerial view of the basilica of the Basilica of the National Vow (Spanish: Basílica del Voto Nacional)© Jon Chica/Shutterstock
Basilica of the National Vow (span. Basílica del Voto Nacional) in Quito, Ecudador.

Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is the second-highest capital city in the world. Situated at an altitude of 2,850 meters (9,350 feet) above sea level, it boasts a stunning backdrop of the Pichincha Volcano and the Andes Mountains. Quito is known for its well-preserved historic center, featuring colonial churches, monasteries, and plazas, earning it a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

3. Bogota, Colombia

Cityscapes of bogota city colombia© Gitano Americano/Shutterstock
Cityscapes of Bogota City, Colombia, the third highest city in the world.

Bogota, the capital of Colombia, ranks as the third-highest capital city in the world. Perched at an altitude of 2,640 meters (8,660 feet) above sea level, the city offers a pleasant climate and incredible views of the surrounding mountain ranges.

Bogota is a dynamic hub of business, culture, and education, attracting visitors with its vibrant street art, world-class museums, and delicious cuisine.

4. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Aerial view of the Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia.© Dereje/Shutterstock
Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia.

Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, holds the title of the fourth-highest capital city in the world. Positioned at an elevation of 2,355 meters (7,726 feet) above sea level, the city serves as the political and economic center of Ethiopia.

Addis Ababa is celebrated for its cultural diversity, being home to numerous embassies and international organizations, as well as its bustling markets and historic landmarks.

5. Thimphu, Bhutan

Aerial view of Beautiful Thimphu city in Bhutan.© Inside_bhutan/Shutterstock
Thimphu city, the capital of Bhutan, is the 5th highest capital city.

Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, rounds out the top five highest capital cities in the world. Situated at an altitude of 2,334 meters (7,657 feet) above sea level, Thimphu is nestled in a beautiful valley surrounded by the Eastern Himalayas.

Thimphu has a unique blend of ancient traditions and modern development, featuring vibrant festivals, stunning monasteries, and rapidly growing urban areas. Visitors to Thimphu can experience Bhutan’s rich spiritual and cultural heritage while enjoying breathtaking views of the majestic Himalayas.

Regional Distribution of Highest Capitals

High Capitals in Asia

Afghanistan kabul© lebedev/Shutterstock
Kabul in Afghanistan at 1,790 meters is the second highest capital in Asia after Bhutan.

In Asia, several capital cities are situated at high altitudes due to their proximity to mountain ranges and plateaus.

  • Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, is one such example, sitting at an elevation of 1,790 meters above sea level.
  • Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, stands at 1,310 meters above sea level.

These capitals are characterized by their unique climate and terrain, making them different from other major cities in their respective countries.

High Capitals in the Middle East

  • Sana’a, the capital of Yemen
    • Altitude: Approximately 2,250 meters (7,382 feet)
      Sana’a stands as the highest-altitude capital in the Middle East. Known for its UNESCO-listed old city and unique tower houses built of rammed earth.
  • Tehran, the capital of Iran
    • Altitude: Approximately 1,200 meters (3,937 feet)
      Tehran is notable for its mix of modernity and tradition, set against the backdrop of the Alborz Mountains.
  • Amman, the capital of Jordan
    • Altitude: Average around 1,000 meters (3,280 feet)
      Amman is characterized by its ancient ruins and modern urban areas.
  • Jerusalem, the capital of Israel
    • Altitude: Approximately 800 meters (2,625 feet)
      Jerusalem is renowned for its historical and religious significance.
  • Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia
    • Altitude: Approximately 600 meters (1,970 feet)
      Riyadh serves as a modern hub in the Arabian Peninsula.

High Capitals in Africa

Africa also features several high-altitude capital cities.

Notably, Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, is one of the highest capitals in the world, resting at an impressive altitude of 2,355 meters above sea level. Not far behind in the ranking of the highest capital cities in Africa is Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, located at 2,325 meter above sea level.

Nairobi cityscape - capital city of Kenya, East Africa.© Sopotnicki/Shutterstock
Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, East Africa.

Other high capital cities in Africa include Nairobi in Kenya, which is situated at an elevation of 1,795 meters above sea level.

Following Nairobi, Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, lies at an altitude of approximately 1,700 meters (around 5,600 feet) above sea level and is located in the Khomas Region.

Pretoria in South Africa lies at an altitude of 1,339 meters above sea level.

Additionally, Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, is located at an altitude of 1,280 meters above sea level, making it another high-altitude capital city in Africa.

High Capitals in Americas

In the Americas, some capital cities stand out for their high-altitude locations, particularly in South America.

In the Andes Mountains, La Paz in Bolivia is the highest capital city in the world, reaching an incredible altitude of 3,650 meters above sea level.

Meanwhile, Quito in Ecuador sits at an elevation of 2,850 meters above sea level, and Bogotá in Colombia is located at 2,640 meters above sea level.

In North America, the highest county capital city is Santa Fe in the United States, which stands at an elevation of 2,194 meters above sea level. It is the capital city of New Mexico, USA.

Santa fe new mexico usa downtown skyline at dusk© Sean Pavone/Shutterstock
While Santa Fe in New Mexico, USA is not a national capital, it is the highest county capital in the US.

While Ottawa, the capital of Canada, has an altitude of only 70 meters above sea level, San José in Costa Rica sits at an elevation of 1,172 meters above sea level.

High Capitals in Europe

Europe also has several high-altitude capital cities, each with its unique cultural and historical significance, located in diverse terrains, from mountainous regions to highland areas.

Andorra la Vella, the capital of Andorra, tops the list as the highest capital city in Europe. Nestled in the eastern Pyrenees mountains and bordered by France and Spain, it sits at an impressive altitude of 1,023 meters above sea level.

Madrid, the capital of Spain, is the second highest capital in Europe, located at an altitude of 667 meters above sea level. Its elevated location contributes to its unique climate, characterized by hot summers and relatively cool winters.

Bern, the capital of Switzerland, located in the Swiss Plateau amidst the Alps, is the third highest capital city in Europe. It stands at an elevation of 540 meters above sea level.

In addition to these, several other capitals in Europe are located at relatively high altitudes. These include Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, at an altitude of 518 meters, and Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, which is situated at an elevation of 500 meters above sea level.

Elevation and Impact on Population

Effects of Elevation on Capital Cities

Elevation plays a significant role in determining the climate, infrastructure, and overall living conditions in capital cities. Higher elevations are often associated with cooler temperatures, lower oxygen levels, and in some cases, an increased risk of developing health issues such as altitude sickness.

In the highest city in the world, La Rinconada, which resides at an elevation of 5,100 meters in Peru, residents have been found to struggle with a maladaptive syndrome called chronic mountain sickness.

Higher elevations also affect the infrastructure and architectural styles of capital cities. In cities like Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, which sits at an elevation of 3,650 meters, traditional buildings feature flat roofs to accommodate the heavy snowfall associated with high altitudes.

Additionally, transportation in mountainous capitals can be challenging due to steep inclines and winding roads, with many areas requiring specialized vehicles to navigate the terrain.

On a positive note, capital cities situated at higher elevations can also provide unique tourist attractions, panoramic views, and rich cultural experiences. For example, Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is located 2,850 meters above sea level, and it attracts millions of tourists per year due to its breathtaking landscapes and well-preserved historical sites.

Population Density in High Capitals

Population density in high-altitude capital cities can vary greatly depending on available resources and infrastructure.

La paz bolivia 1st november 2022: panoramic view of la© Jon Chica/Shutterstock
La Paz in Bolivia, the highest city in the world has a population of around 800,000.

Generally, higher altitude cities experience lower population densities than lower altitude cities due to land constraints and the potential for the aforementioned health challenges.

Land consumption patterns in the major capital cities of Himalayan regions have increased due to growing populations, resulting in increasing urban sprawl and a shift in resource management necessary for these cities.

It is important to note that other factors, such as political stability, economic opportunities, and cultural factors, might influence population density in capital cities more than elevation.

Nonetheless, understanding the impact of elevation on population can be essential for city planners and policy makers to manage urban growth and the well-being of the populations in high-altitude capital cities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which city has the highest elevation?

La Paz, Bolivia, is the capital city with the highest elevation, situated at an impressive 3,650 meters (11,975 feet) above sea level. This remarkable altitude distinguishes La Paz as one of the most unique capital cities worldwide.

What are the 3 highest capitals?

The three highest capital cities in the world are La Paz, Bolivia, at 3,650 meters (11,975 feet) above sea level; Quito, Ecuador, at 2,850 meters (9,350 feet); and Thimphu, Bhutan, at 2,648 meters (8,688 feet). These cities display diverse natural landscapes with striking environments.

Highest European capital city?

Andorra la Vella, the capital of the small European country Andorra, holds the title of the highest European capital city. It is located at an elevation of 1,023 meters (3,356 feet) above sea level, nestled within the eastern Pyrenees mountains.

Top South American high capitals?

South America boasts two of the highest capital cities globally: La Paz, Bolivia, and Quito, Ecuador. As mentioned earlier, La Paz is situated at the highest elevation, 3,650 meters (11,975 feet), while Quito stands at 2,850 meters (9,350 feet) above sea level.

Second highest capital worldwide?

Ranking as the second highest capital city in the world is Quito, Ecuador. It lies at an elevation of 2,850 meters (9,350 feet) above sea level, nestled between the high peaks of the Andes mountain range.

Highest US capital elevation?

Santa Fe, New Mexico, is the highest capital city in the United States, sitting at an elevation of 2,194 meters (7,199 feet) above sea level. The city is known for its distinct Southwestern culture, art scene, and historical significance.