Which Capital City in South America Is at the Highest Elevation?

When this is about elevations, there are many cities in South America that are true champions, some with more than 5000 meters of elevations. Several national capitals in South America are at the highest elevations.

La Paz, the capital of Bolivia is at an elevation of 3690 m (11975 ft) and this is the highest national capital in the world. But if you check on Wikipedia, you will realize that there are 13 cities in South America that are higher.

The second highest national capital in South America is Quito 2850 (9350 ft) in Equador. The capital of Colombia Bogota is on the third place with an elevation of 2640 m (8661 ft).

La Paz location and basic information

As mentioned, there are more cities that are much higher, and 7 of them are above 4000 meters of elevations. One of these is higher than 5000 meters. In Bolivia alone there are 5 cities that are higher than the capital La Paz.

But La Paz is a capital, it is the highest in South America and in the world as well, and this is why it is described here. This is a huge city with over 3 million people.

The interactive map below is zoomable so you can see the larger area and also zoom in to see the details. As you realize, La Paz is relatively close to the highest lake in the world Titicaca which is at an even higher elevation of 3812 m (12507 ft).

These are incredible numbers and no doubt many people who go there need a period of acclimatization to function properly.


What’s the meaning of La Paz?

The name was given by Spanish conquistadors who founded the city in 1548. The name was Nuestra Señora de La Paz (Our Lady of Peace).

But this was not about piece with local people. This was to commemorate the peace between Gonzalo Pizarro and fellow conquistadors against Blasco Núñez Vela who was the first viceroy of Peru.

Does it rain a lot in La Paz?

The rainy season is half a year, from July to December 29, with most of rain in September with an average rainfall of 2.5 inches. Annual average is around 23 inches. So I would not describe it as a city with lots of rain.

To understand the numbers better, New York has an average precipitation of 40 inches per year, and Buenos Aires in Argentina 44 inches.

What language is spoken in La Paz?

The main language is Spanish, but also spoken are Aymara, Quechua and Guaraní.

What is the coldest month in La Paz Bolivia?

The coldest month is July with 41 °F (5 C) average, and the hottest is December with 49 °F (9 C) average. So as you realize this is very cold, but this is normal for such an elevation. You might want to compare these temperatures with the coldest capital city in the world.

Please see more in this video:


A few more tips you can see in this video:

Why do most Latin American capitals are located in high altitude areas?

This is a question I have seen people ask, so the answer is that this is not really so. In fact only 7 of them are above 1000 meters of elevation (apart from the mentioned three, this is Brasilia), plus three in the central America.

For example, Santiago de Chile is at 521 m (1709 ft) and Lima in Peru at 154 m (506 ft). See also Asunción in Paraguay with 54 m (177 ft), Montevideo in Uruguay 43 m (141 ft), and Buenos Aires in Argentina 10 m (33 ft) elevation.

But there may be some reasons behind the fact that so many cities in South America and Central America are at such high elevations.

From what I have read, these are zones where mosquitoes cannot live, and this reduces chances for several tropical diseases. Also, cities at such elevations and so deep inland are easier to defend and it is far more difficult for foreigners to get so deep and high in the country.

To summarize, La Paz in Bolivia is not only the highest capital in South America but also in the world. You can compare its 3690 m elevation with Santa Fe, which is the highest capital in US with 2100 meters, and with Andorra la Vella the highest capital in Europe with its 1023 meters.

Thank you for reading. Let me know if you have questions, there is a comment box below. This site is all about capitals, and I add texts here on a regular basis, so bookmark it and keep as a reference.  

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