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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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Mapped: Which Countries Have the Worst Air Pollution?

This population-weighted cartogram shows the countries with the worst air pollution, based on fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentration.

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Mapped: Which Countries Have the Worst Air Pollution?

View the high-resolution of the infographic by clicking here.

In many parts of the world, blue skies are a rarity. Instead, accumulated levels of air pollution from industrial processes and motor vehicle traffic cloak cities in smog year-round.

But to what extent does air pollution impact the human population around the world?

To answer this question, data scientist Matt Dzugan has created a cartogram that shades each country based on levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution experienced by the population living there.

Carto-What?

First off, let’s talk about the visualization style itself.

Not your everyday map, this unconventional cartogram resizes the borders of countries based on their total populations. In this style, a single square represents 500,000 people. According to Matt Dzugan, the cartogram view is meant to provide a bird’s eye perspective of the impact of air pollution and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) on human lives.

A clear correlation emerges: some of the most inhabited places in the world also experience the most pollution. Highly populated China and India show up the most prominently, while other countries like Australia and Canada seem to disappear off the map entirely.

To put this into perspective, 800 dark brown squares on this cartogram (a PM2.5 concentration of 50 μg/m³) represent 400 million people in India that are exposed to polluted air at levels five times past thresholds set by the World Health Organization.

Top 20 Countries with Cleanest Air

So how do countries on each end of the PM2.5 spectrum shake out? Pulling supplemental data from the WHO, here’s how the top 20 countries with the cleanest air rank.

Countries with the Cleanest Air Supplemental

New Zealand tops the above list. And as you can see, air quality tends to be highest in advanced coastal economies with low population densities—and being an island or bordering less habitable Arctic tundra also helps as well.

That said, there are temporary bouts when air quality can dip in even the best of countries. For example, recent wildfires on the West Coast of the United States and Australia resulted in reddish-orange skies and hazardous levels of air quality for weeks at a time.

The 20 Countries with the Most Air Pollution

On the other hand, it may be surprising that Nepal lands all the way at the bottom of the air quality list. Why is this landlocked country—home to less than 30 million—suffering from hazardous air pollution reaching 100μg/m³?

In short, the emissions from fossil-fuel driven traffic and manufacturing operations are trapped within the Kathmandu valley, which causes air quality issues for people living in the region.

Countries with the Most Air Pollution Supplemental

The regions with lower air quality tend to be more landlocked with developing economies, such as some countries in central Africa and Asia, as well as in the Middle East.

Finally, while China is lower on this overall list, it’s worth noting that it is one of the most prominent on the cartogram due to its sheer population size.

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Mapped: The Top 30 Most Valuable Real Estate Cities in the U.S.

U.S. real estate value is concentrated in a handful of urban centers. Here’s a look at the top 30 most valuable cities.

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The Most Valuable Real Estate Cities in America

According to real estate tycoon Harold Samuel, there are three things that matter when it comes to real estate value—location, location, and location.

America’s property market is no exception to this rule. Depending on the city and its—you guessed it—location, there are vast discrepancies in real estate value across the country.

Usingthe latest data from LendingTree, this graphic ranks the top 30 most valuable real estate cities in America. We’ll also evaluate the top cities based on median value of homes, and how COVID-19 has impacted the market.

The Most Valuable Real Estate Cities

Out of the $32.6 trillion of total real estate value included in LendingTree’s database, the top 30 cities account for almost 57%:

RankCityStateTotal Value
(in billions)
1New YorkNew York$2,838
2Los AngelesCalifornia$2,289
3San FranciscoCalifornia$1,320
4ChicagoIllinois$906
5Washington, D.C.--$826
6BostonMassachusetts$815
7MiamiFlorida$774
8SeattleWashington$700
9DallasTexas$628
10PhiladelphiaPennsylvania$577
11San Jose, Calif.California$568
12San DiegoCalifornia$564
13HoustonTexas$535
14AtlantaGeorgia$531
15Riverside, Calif.California$485
16PhoenixArizona$484
17DenverColorado$439
18MinneapolisMinnesota$383
19DetroitMichigan$348
20Portland, Ore.Oregon$319
21Sacramento, Calif.California$318
22BaltimoreMaryland$301
23Tampa, Fla.Florida$286
24Austin, TexasTexas$248
25Charlotte, N.CNorth Carolina$248
26Orlando, Fla.Florida$233
27HonoluluHawaii$219
28Nashville, Tenn.Tennessee$209
29St. LouisMissouri$202
30Las VegasNevada$191

New York has the highest real estate value in the country at $2.8 trillion—that’s around the size of the UK’s GDP in 2019. Close behind is Los Angeles at $2.3 trillion, while San Francisco ranks third at $1.3 trillion.

This may not come as a surprise, considering the popularity of these areas. New York and Los Angeles have the two highest city populations in the U.S., and San Francisco is the second most densely populated city in America (after New York). Historically, these areas have been notorious for their red-hot real estate markets, limited housing supply, and high costs of living.

However, while these cities take the top three spots when it comes to total real estate value, the ranking looks a bit different when comparing the median value of each city.

Most Valuable Cities, by Median Home Value

When it comes to median home value, San Jose claims the top spot at $1.1 million, while San Francisco places second at $959K:

RankCityStateMedian Value of a Home
1San JoseCalifornia$1,100,000
2San FranciscoCalifornia$959,000
3HonoluluHawaii$705,000
4Los AngelesCalifornia$668,000
5San DiegoCalifornia$594,000
6OxnardCalifornia$586,000
7New YorkNew York$501,000
8BostonMassachusetts$498,000
9SeattleWashington$498,000
10Washington, D.C.--$455,000
11DenverColorado$430,000
12SacramentoCalifornia$410,000
13BridgeportConnecticut$410,000
14PortlandOregon$401,000
15RiversideCalifornia$365,000
16NaplesFlorida$329,000
17AustinTexas$323,000
18Salt Lake CityUtah$312,000
19ProvidenceRhode Island$300,000
20MiamiFlorida$297,000
21MinneapolisMinnesota$294,000
22BaltimoreMaryland$284,000
23Las VegasNevada$278,000
24PhoenixArizona$276,000
25RaleighNorth Carolina$271,000
26NashvilleTennessee$265,000
27PhiladelphiaPennsylvania$246,000
28ChicagoIllinois$245,000
29OrlandoFlorida$245,000
30North PortFlorida$244,000

The Bay Area leads the pack in terms of median value, but San Francisco and San Jose aren’t the only Californian cities to make the list. In fact, half of the top 10 cities are in the Golden State.

Suburban Shuffle

It’s important to note that these numbers are from January 2020, before the global pandemic triggered numerous societal and economic changes, including an accelerated migration to the suburbs from key urban centers like New York and San Francisco.

This mass exodus has negatively impacted sales activity. In fall 2020, or example, home sales in New York dropped by 50% compared to last year.

In contrast, places like Honolulu have seen significant growth in home sales—in September 2020, single-family home sales rose by 12.7% compared to last year. Some experts believe COVID has been a key factor driving this growth, as more people are able to work from anywhere, thanks to remote work.

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