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The 50 Highest Cities in the World

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The 50 Highest Cities in the World

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Where Are The World’s Highest Cities?

When comparing the world’s cities to one another, we often use defining characteristics—largest, greenest, most visited, highest-earning, the list goes on.

Yet elevation is often overlooked, despite the fact that thousands of cities across the globe are nestled in highlands, plateaus, and mountain ranges.

Today’s graphic looks at the top 50 highest cities worldwide, and compares their altitudes to well-known references (the differences are dizzying).

Cities in the Sky

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

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

The elevation data comes from the European Commission’s database of urban centers, using Thomas Brinkhoff’s City Population dataset for updated demographics.

RankUrban CenterCountryRegionAverage Elevation (m)
#1La PazBoliviaSouth America3,869
#2QuitoEcuadorSouth America2,784
#3TolucaMexicoCentral America2,648
#4CochabambaBoliviaSouth America2,621
#5BogotaColombiaSouth America2,601
#6Addis AbabaEthiopiaEastern Africa2,361
#7Mexico CityMexicoCentral America2,316
#8XiningChinaEastern Asia2,299
#9Sana'aYemenWestern Asia2,283
#10PueblaMexicoCentral America2,176
#11KunmingChinaEastern Asia1,924
#12San Luis PotosíMexicoCentral America1,873
#13LeónMexicoCentral America1,845
#14KabulAfghanistanSouth-Central Asia1,845
#15NairobiKenyaEastern Africa1,702
#16DenverUnited StatesNorthern America1,673
#17MedellínColombiaSouth America1,651
#18JohannesburgSouth AfricaSouthern Africa1,624
#19SrinagarIndiaSouth-Central Asia1,598
#20LanzhouChinaEastern Asia1,594
#21IsfahanIranSouth-Central Asia1,587
#22GuadalajaraMexicoCentral America1,583
#23ShirazIranSouth-Central Asia1,571
#24HarareZimbabweEastern Africa1,479
#25KigaliRwandaEastern Africa1,473
#26Guatemala CityGuatemalaCentral America1,463
#27TabrizIranSouth-Central Asia1,449
#28PretoriaSouth AfricaSouthern Africa1,365
#29KermanshahIranSouth-Central Asia1,359
#30KathmanduNepalSouth-Central Asia1,353
#31UlaanbaatarMongoliaEastern Asia1,326
#32AntananarivoMadagascarEastern Africa1,271
#33LusakaZambiaEastern Africa1,257
#34LubumbashiDemocratic Republic of the CongoMiddle Africa1,252
#35TehranIranSouth-Central Asia1,239
#36KampalaUgandaEastern Africa1,187
#37GuiyangChinaEastern Asia1,185
#38BrasiliaBrazilSouth America1,184
#39Ciudad JuárezMexicoCentral America1,164
#40BeniDemocratic Republic of the CongoMiddle Africa1,149
#41TorreonMexicoCentral America1,132
#42San JoséCosta RicaCentral America1,129
#43YinchuanChinaEastern Asia1,113
#44CalgaryCanadaNorthern America1,095
#45HohhotChinaEastern Asia1,069
#46BaotouChinaEastern Asia1,061
#47DatongChinaEastern Asia1,059
#48YerevanArmeniaWestern Asia1,058
#49CaracasVenezuelaSouth America1,018
#50MashhadIranSouth-Central Asia1,011

At the top of the pantheon 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.

The next four 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. For reference, that’s more than 100 meters higher than the world-famous Inca citadel Machu Picchu in Peru, which sits at a height of 2,430m.

It’s notable just how mountainous Latin America is. Of the 10 highest cities, three are in Mexico’s many mountainous regions and four of the top five are adjacent to the Andes Mountains.

Asia and the Americas Tower Above

Though it might be expected that countries would have their population centers close to sea level, many instead have followed in the footsteps of past civilizations by building in higher regions.

In addition to many capitals in South America, that list of major cities includes Mexico City, easily the largest on the list as 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.

The countries with the most high cities were China and Mexico, with eight each. China specifically had the most high metropolises in Asia, and many of the world’s highest settlements, though most of its major cities lie outside the Tibetan and Mongolian Plateaus.

Regional Breakdown of Top 50 Highest Cities
Central America10
Eastern Asia9
South-Central Asia9
South America7
Eastern Africa7
Middle Africa2
Southern Africa2
Western Asia2
Northern America2
Europe0
Oceania0

As the table above highlights, while wide mountainous regions are concentrated in much of Asia, Latin America, and Africa, the Western world is largely located close to the water.

The West Sits Below

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

Meanwhile, despite the European Alps stretching across eight countries and both Australia and New Zealand having many mountains tall enough to crack the list, both Europe and Oceania had no major city situated more than 1,000m above sea level.

But though most of humanity remains concentrated near sea level, it is impressive to remember that hundreds of millions of people live in cities higher than Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s highest tower.

In fact, studies have shown that living at higher altitudes has associated health benefits, including better cardiovascular health and lower incidence of stroke and cancer.

Regardless if future trends push more people thousands of meters into the sky, humanity has proven that it can prosper.

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Business

How Powerful is Your Passport in a Post-Pandemic World?

Ranking the the world’s most powerful passports based on access to visa-free destinations. Where does your country fall on the list?

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How Powerful is Your Passport in a Post-Pandemic World?

With COVID-19 cases falling in many parts of the world and vaccination programs ramping up at warp speed, international travel no longer seems like a distant dream.

The Henley Passport Index, which has been regularly monitoring the world’s most travel-friendly passports since 2006, has released its latest rankings and analysis.

The most recent data provides insight into what travel freedom will look like in a post-pandemic world as countries selectively begin to open their borders to international visitors.

Prominent Countries Still Holding Strong

The rankings are based on the visa-free score of a particular country. A visa-free score refers to the number of countries that a passport holder can visit without a visa, with a visa on arrival, or by obtaining an electronic travel authorization (ETA).

Without considering the constantly changing COVID-19 restrictions, Japan firmly holds its position as the country with the strongest passport for the 4th year in a row.

This positioning is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA)—with Japanese passport holders theoretically able to access a record 193 destinations from around the world visa-free.

The last time Japan didn’t hold the number one position was back in 2017, when it shared the 5th spot with countries like the United States, New Zealand, and Switzerland.

Rank (2021)CountryVisa-Free Score (2021)Rank (2011)Visa-Free Score (2011)
1🇯🇵 Japan1934170
2🇸🇬 Singapore1929164
3🇩🇪 Germany1912172
3🇰🇷 South Korea19110163
4🇫🇮 Finland1901173
4🇮🇹 Italy1903171
4🇱🇺 Luxembourg1903171
4🇪🇸 Spain1904170
5🇦🇹 Austria1896168
5🇩🇰 Denmark1891173

Singapore remains in 2nd place, with a visa-free score of 192, while Germany and South Korea again share joint-3rd place, each with access to 191 destinations.

Throughout the 16-year history of the Henley Index, EU countries have maintained a dominant position in the passport strength reports. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain all hold the 4th position while Austria and Denmark round up the top 5 with a visa-free score of 189.

CountryRank (2011)Rank (2021)Difference
🇺🇸 United States57-2
🇨🇦 Canada990
🇲🇽 Mexico29236
🇬🇧 United Kingdom37-4
🇧🇷 Brazil25178

The United States and the United Kingdom jointly share the 7th position with a visa-free score of 187 destinations. Canada, Mexico and Brazil hold the 9th, 23rd and 17th positions respectively, with Brazil experiencing a significant jump of eight places over the last 10 years.

Editor’s note: Visit the Henley Passport Index site for a full list and ranking of all countries around the world.

The Countries With The Least Travel Freedom

Afghanistan continues to be the country with the least amount of travel freedom, coming in last place (110th rank) with a visa-free score of 26 destinations. Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Yemen have access to slightly more visa-free travel, but still linger at the bottom of the overall ranking.

Rank (2021)CountryVisa-Free Score (2021)Rank (2011)Visa-Free Score (2011)
110🇦🇫 Afghanistan2610124
109🇮🇶 Iraq2810028
108🇸🇾 Syria299337
107🇵🇰 Pakistan329931
106🇾🇪 Yemen339139

The latest report indicates that the gap in travel freedom is now at its largest since the index began in 2006. Japanese passport holders can access 167 more destinations than citizens of Afghanistan, who can visit only 26.

The Biggest Gainers In a Decade

Over time, small annual moves in the Henley Passport Index can make a big impact—and in the last decade, countries like China and the UAE have been the biggest movers:

China has risen by 22 places in the ranking since 2011 by going from a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 40 destinations to now 77.

The most remarkable turnaround story on the index by far, however, is the UAE. In 2011, the UAE was ranked 65th with a visa-free score of 67 destinations. Today, thanks to the Emirates’ ongoing efforts to strengthen diplomatic ties with countries across the globe, it is now ranked 15th with a remarkable visa-free score of 174 destinations.

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Maps

A Map of the Online World in Incredible Detail

This unique map provides an in-depth snapshot of the state of the world wide web, highlighting the most popular websites on the internet.

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A Map of the Online World in Incredible Detail

The internet is intangible, and because you can’t see it, it can be hard to comprehend its sheer vastness. As well, it’s difficult to gauge the relative size of different web properties. However, this map of the internet by Halcyon Maps offers a unique solution to these problems.

Inspired by the look and design of historical maps, this graphic provides a snapshot of the current state of the World Wide Web, as of April 2021. Let’s take a closer look!

But First, Methodology

Before diving into an analysis, it’s worth touching on the methodology behind this graphic’s design.

This map highlights thousands of the world’s most popular websites by visualizing them as “countries.” These “countries” are organized into clusters that are grouped by their content type (whether it’s a news website, search engine, e-commerce platform, etc).

Visual Capitalist on the mapEditor’s fun fact: Can you spot Visual Capitalist? We’re right in between TechCrunch and The Guardian above.

The colored borders represent a website’s logo or user interface. In terms of scale, each website’s territory size is based on its average Alexa web traffic ranking. The data is a yearly average, measured from January 2020 to January 2021.

Along the borders of the map, you can find additional information, from ranked lists of social media consumption to a mini-map of average download speeds across the globe.

According to the designer Martin Vargic, this map took about a year to complete.

Top 50 Most Popular Websites

Google and YouTube take up a lot of space, which is unsurprising—they’re the two highest-ranked websites on the list:

RankWebsiteCountry
1Google.com🇺🇲 U.S.
2Youtube.com🇺🇲 U.S.
3Tmall.com🇨🇳 China
4Baidu.com🇨🇳 China
5QQ.com🇨🇳 China
6Sohu.com🇨🇳 China
7Facebook.com🇺🇲 U.S.
8Taobao.com🇨🇳 China
9Amazon.com🇺🇲 U.S.
10360.cn🇨🇳 China
11Yahoo.com🇺🇲 U.S.
12Jd.com🇨🇳 China
13Zoom.us🇺🇲 U.S.
14Wikipedia.com🇺🇲 U.S.
15Weibo.com🇨🇳 China
16Sina.com.cn🇨🇳 China
17Live.com🇺🇲 U.S.
18Xinhuanet.com🇨🇳 China
19Microsoft.com🇺🇲 U.S.
20Reddit.com🇺🇲 U.S.
21Office.com🇺🇲 U.S.
22Netflix.com🇺🇲 U.S.
23Microsoftonline.com🇺🇲 U.S.
24Panda.tv🇨🇳 China
25Zhanqi.tv🇨🇳 China
26Instagram.com🇺🇲 U.S.
27Force.com🇺🇲 U.S.
28Google.com.hk🇭🇰 Hong Kong
29VK.com🇷🇺 Russia
30Alipay.com🇨🇳 China
31Csdn.net🇨🇳 China
32Myshopify.com🇨🇦 Canada
33Okezone.com🇮🇩 Indonesia
34Bing.com🇺🇲 U.S.
35Yahoo.co.jp🇯🇵 Japan
36Naver.com🇰🇷 South Korea
37Adobe.com🇺🇲 U.S.
38Salesforce.com🇺🇲 U.S.
39Ebay.com🇺🇲 U.S.
40Twitch.tv🇺🇲 U.S.
41Bongacams.com🇳🇱 Netherlands
42Twitter.com🇺🇲 U.S.
43Apple.com🇺🇲 U.S.
44Amazon.in🇮🇳 India
45Amazon.co.jp🇯🇵 Japan
46Aliexpress.com🇨🇳 China
47Aparat.com🇮🇷 Iran
48Linkedin.com🇺🇲 U.S.
49Huanqiu.com🇨🇳 China
50YY.com🇨🇳 China

Google has held the title as the internet’s most popular website since 2010. While Google’s popularity is well understood, the company’s dominance might be even more widespread than you’d think—across all Google-owned platforms (including YouTube) the company accounts for 90% of all internet searches.

The third highest ranked website is Tmall. For those who don’t know, Tmall is a Chinese e-commerce platform, owned by Alibaba Group. It focuses on Business-to-Consumer (B2C) transactions, and has established itself as the most popular e-commerce website in China—in Q1 2021, Tmall accounted for more than 50% of China’s B2C online transactions.

A High Level Look

When it comes to the top 50 websites overall, a majority are either social networking platforms, search engines, or online marketplaces—while this may not come as a surprise, it’s still powerful to see visualized. For instance, even a huge, well-known website like the New York Times is just a tiny country on this map.

And of course, a map of the internet isn’t complete without mention of the dark web.

While it’s challenging to determine its true size, research indicates that the dark web accounts for a large portion of the internet’s true size. And apparently, it’s growing steadily, with the help of anonymous cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

For the most part, it’s believed that the dark web is used for unsavory reasons—however, it’s not all bad. Because of its anonymous nature, it can be used as a safe space for whistleblowing or activism.

Overall, this map, and the internet as a whole, has many places for us to explore. When you dive in, what “countries” catch your eye?

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