Inside the Highest Town in the World

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Tucked away in the remote Peruvian Andes, you'll find this town nearly three miles above sea level. 

Nestled high up in the remote Peruvian Andes, you'll find this tiny town about three miles up in the air. 

According to The New Yorker, La Rinconada, in southern Peru, is home to 50,000 people and sits at an elevation of 16,728 feet above sea level—that's just 3,000 feet shy of the peak of Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro. At this height, it's the highest town in the world.


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Located about 40 miles north of Lake Titicaca and just 10 miles from the Bolivian border, La Rinconada is a secluded enclave that doesn't see much foot traffic, excluding those that live there. It's incredibly difficult to get to the town—there are no scheduled bus routes between La Rinconada and the larger, nearby towns of Puno and Juliaca—and travelers have to prepare before making their ascent. 

At this elevation, visitors are susceptible to the crippling ailments of altitude sickness, including headaches, nausea or shortness of breath. In extreme cases, altitude sickness can even lead to death, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.


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However, with a little preparation, it's possible to visit La Rinconada. Just make sure to properly plan ahead when organizing your trip. Visitors are encouraged to slowly ascend when heading to destinations that are high about sea level. Spending a night or two in areas with increasing sea levels allows your body to acclimate to the change. And keep in mind that once you arrive, the town lacks basic amenities due to its isolated location. There's no running water, no paved roads, and for the most part, no electricity. 

The town, once only a temporary settlement, has quickly grown in recent years. From 2001 to 2009, the town's population grew by an astonishing 230%, according to National Geographic Magazine. Why? Because word got out that the town sat on top of a literal goldmine.  When the price of gold increased in the early 2000s, miners flocked to the town to cash in. But the search for wealth wasn't so easy as miners and their families have to endure extreme conditions on a daily basis. 


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The environment is barren with little more than snow-capped mountain peaks surrounding the town, but the trek to the top is an unforgettable experience. Navigating winding roads that cling to the side of cliffs is enough for any thrill seeker. For those that do decide to venture to this remote town, they should know that this locale isn't the only experience worth pursuing.

There are a handful of other attractions that are all within a day's trip from La Rinconada and nearby Juliaca. Visitors can also explore the Maras Salt Flats, the Sacred Valley, the floating Uros Islands, and the most famous, the ruins at Machu Picchu. So, for those that consider themselves adventurous travelers, it's worth the excursion to explore this hideaway town.