La Rinconada in Peru is one of the highest towns accessible by car

La Rinconada is a small mining town at an elevation of 5.130m (16,830ft) above sea level, located in the Ananea District, San Antonio de Putina Province, in Puno region of Peru. It’s one of the highest towns accessible by car on Earth.

La Rinconada

Where is La Rinconada, the highest permanent settlement in America?

Set high in the Peruvian Andes barely 20 km (13 mi) west of the Bolivian border, at the foot of a rapidly retreating glacier, the town, known as "Devil's Paradise", is located near a gold mine.

How long is the road to La Rinconada in Peru?

The road to the town, rich in gold deposits, is totally unpaved. It’s called Acceso a La Rinconada. The road is 8.7 km (5.40 miles) long, starting at Road 110, to the east of Ananea. It’s one of the highest roads of the country.

How many people live in La Rinconada in Peru?

Thousands of people reside in the city surrounding the gold mines. Their employment follows a system known as Cachorreo. Under this arrangement, workers labor for a span of 30 days without receiving any wages. However, on the 31st day, they are granted the opportunity to collect as much ore from the mine as they can physically carry. The contents extracted from that ore become the rightful possessions of the miners. Between 2001 and 2009, the town experienced an unprecedented surge in growth, transforming from a modest gold prospect camp into a bustling community of 30,000 people. Presently, an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 people call this town their home. 

Is La Rinconada in Peru dangerous?

La Rinconada is widely regarded as one of the most inhospitable places on Earth. At this elevation it is said to be the highest permanent settlement in America. The economy is mainly based on the production of gold in the nearby mine. At this altitude, extreme hypoxemia can occur during labour, exercise, or even sleep due to the deficient levels of oxygen in the atmosphere (not to mention cerebral œdema and lung swelling). The views are magnificent, but the countryside is covered by garbage. Travelling along is not recommended due local mafias. Local miners, -forced to live among garbage, without electricity and sewage, among excruciating nauseating stinks-, refine the ore by grinding and treating it with mercury and pressing the mass through a cloth to filter it. The resulting amalgam is heated, to remove the mercury. The living conditions are terrifying: it lacks plumbing and sanitation systems and the only source of drinking water in the city comes from lakes contaminated by mercury.

Is La Rinconada the highest city in the world?

Distinguishing between a city, town, and a human settlement can be a challenging task, making it nearly impossible to ascertain the highest city on Earth due to the absence of a clear-cut definition for a city. According to Wikipedia, a city is described as a human settlement of significant size, but what exactly constitutes a "significant size" remains ambiguous. While some sources, including the Guinness Book of Records, designate La Rinconada as the highest city in the world, there are other towns or cities situated at even greater altitudes. Take, for instance, Najia, a mountainous town nestled at an elevation of 5,154m (16,909ft) above sea level in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. However, Najia primarily consists of lined houses, making it precarious to categorize it as a city.