The world is full of interesting places. There are towering skyscrapers, deep caverns, trenches underwater, and dense rainforests teeming with life. Another staggering view: the highest elevations in the world.
If you have acrophobia, or a fear of heights, don’t look down! Let’s embark on climbing the mountains of the 12 countries with the highest average elevation in the world.
How to Determine Average Elevation
Determining a consistent average elevation is a bit difficult, as each list that researchers create takes into account a different way to measure. For the purpose of this list, average elevation describes the distance above sea level. That means if there are inhabitable places in the country below sea level, the list doesn’t count them. It only looks at the average elevation of all the heights in the country above sea level.
The Top 12 Countries With The Highest Elevation
Between the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and South America, there are some high-reaching countries that seem to touch the clouds at their highest peaks.
1. Bhutan (10,671 feet)
The Kingdom of Bhutan in the Eastern Himalayas has the highest average elevation of any country in the world at a staggering 10,500+ feet.
Located on the southern slopes of the eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is a landlocked country with most of its land being steep mountains cut through by rivers. The lowest elevation in the entire country is 660 feet, ranging to the highest of 23,000 feet in the southern foothills.
Highest point: The highest point in Bhutan is Gangkhar Puensum, which is not only the tallest mountain in the country but the highest unclimbed mountain in the world.
2. Nepal (10,712 feet)
Located near — but not sharing a border with Bhutan — is the landlocked country in South Asia that lies in the Himalayas and on the Indo-Gangetic Plain. Most of Nepal lies completely within the collision zone of plate tectonics, which gives the country both a region of mountains and one of sediment-filled gorges. Besides the highest peaks of the Himalayas, the mountains in Nepal vary from 2,600 feet to 13,100 feet in height.
Highest point: Nepal’s claim to fame, Mount Everest, is the country’s highest point and the world’s tallest peak. However, it’s followed closely by several other peaks: Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, Makalu, and Cho Oyu.
3. Tajikistan (10,453 feet)
Tajikistan, a landlocked country in Central Asia, has an average height of nearly 10,500 feet above sea level across its entire area. Though it’s a small country, Tajikistan has several different high points within its limits. As the Pamir Range covers most of the country, almost every resident lives 9,800 feet above sea level. Only the southern river valleys of Kofarnhion and Vakhsh offer lower inhabitable places.
Highest point: Located in the Akademii Nauk Range, the Imeni Ismail Samani Peak in northeastern Tajikistan is the highest point in the country and its mountain range.
4. Kyrgyzstan (9,806 feet)
Also near the Himalayas and the aforementioned central Asian country of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan is an overwhelmingly mountainous country, with 80% of its land covered by the Tien Shan. Some have even dubbed it the “Switzerland of Central Asia” thanks to the number of mountain ranges and peaks in the country. The last 20% of the country has rivers and basins, though all Kyrgyzstan rivers flow into a closed drainage system and not the sea.
Highest point: The highest point in Kyrgyzstan is Pobeda Peak, followed closely by Khan Tengri Peak. Both lie in the central part of the Tien Shan.
5. Lesotho (7,090 feet)
Heading over to Africa, the landlocked Kingdom of Lesotho is the only sovereign enclave in the world outside of the Italian peninsula. Situated in the Maloti Mountains, most of the residents of Lesotho reside thousands of feet above sea level, around 5,906 feet. In fact, the lowest point in the country — which measures 4,593 feet — is the highest low point in the world.
As one of only three independent city-states in the world, it dwarfs the other two (Vatican City and San Marino) in both size and height.
Highest point: Located in the Maloti Mountains, Thabana Ntlenyana (which is 11,424 feet tall) is both the tallest point in Lesotho and the highest mountain in southern Africa.
6. Andorra (6,549 feet)
Did you know Andorra is a microstate?
In addition to being a recognized independent county, Andorra’s exceedingly small size and population classify it as a microstate as well. Andorra is located in the Iberian Peninsula. Most of the residents of the country live in the eastern Pyrenees mountain range. Of the 181 square miles of the country, most of the land remains covered by mountains. Only three valleys cut through; the Gran Valira River travels through the valley into Spain at the country’s lowest point of 2,756 feet.
Highest point: The highest mountain in Andorra is the Coma Pedrosa. The highest peak of the mountain range, while unnamed, reaches a height of 9,652 feet.
7. Afghanistan (6,181 feet)
Straddled between Central and South Asia, Afghanistan is known as the Heart of Asia and is a landlocked country. Most of the terrain in the country is mountainous and rugged, with mountain ridges, plateaus, and a few low-reaching river basins. The mountain ranges included in Afghanistan are the Hindu Kush, the Himalayas, the Pamir Mountains, and the Karakoram Mountains. Even the country’s lowest point along the Amu River bank reaches 846 feet above sea level.
Highest point: Afghanistan is home to the second-highest peak of the Hindu Kush Range, Noshaq. Noshaq reaches 24,580 feet above sea level.
8. Chile (6,138 feet)
As part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, Chile has a variety of seismic and volcanic zones which add to the country’s overall high elevation.
In the center of the country sits a central depression. It’s flagged by two mountain ranges that take up over 80% of the land — the Andes Mountains and the Coastal Range. Both reach incredibly lofty heights, with the Andes in Chile reaching nearly 7,000 meters above sea level and the Coastal Range reaching just over 3,000 meters. High plateaus surround the mountain ranges.
Highest point: The highest point in Chile is Ojos del Salado, which is a dormant volcano that reaches 22,615 feet high. Not only is Ojos del Salado the highest summit in Chile; it’s the highest volcano in the world.
9. China (6,037 feet)
With so much land encompassed in its limits, China has a diverse landscape. The mountain ranges (including the Himalayas, Karakoram, Pamir, and Tian Shan) in China separate it from the rest of South and Central Asia. In addition, the Tibetan Plateau stretches across a significant portion of the country. Mount Everest lies close to China on the Sino-Nepalese border.
Highest point: China’s highest point is Mount Gongga, a large peak that stretches over 24,700 feet high. The snow line on peaks like Mount Gongga is between 15,000 and 18,000 feet.
10. Armenia (5,879 feet)
The landlocked country of Armenia has a mountainous terrain with rivers and a few forests. About 85% of the country is covered in mountains, which ranks it above Nepal and Switzerland for mountain area. For the most part, the land in Armenia rises 1,280 feet above sea level. While Mount Ararat, the highest mountain range in the region, is now located in Turkey, many Armenians regard it as a symbol of their land.
Highest point: Mount Aragats’ summit is the highest point in Armenia at 13,420 feet high.
11. Greenland (5,879 feet)
As the only island on the list, Greenland has a unique geography that makes it stand out among the list of countries with the highest average elevation. Because of the country’s size, the massively tall and wide Watkins Range increases the average elevation of the country. Most of Greenland outside of the range, where many residents live, is less than 4,900 feet in elevation.
Highest point: Gunnbjørn Fjeld is the highest point in Greenland, with a height of 12,100 feet.
12. Rwanda (5,243 feet)
Located in the Graft Rift Valley, Rwanda’s colloquial nickname is the “land of a thousand hills” thanks to the many different elevated parts of its geography. The mountain ranges in Rwanada’s area include the Albertine Rift Mountains and the East African Rift. Because mountains dominate the central and western parts of the country, many residents live on rolling hills. The other parts of the country have savannas, plains, and swaps.
Highest point: The highest point in Rwanda is 14,787 feet high. It’s named Mount Karisimbi, which is the highest peak in the Virunga volcano chain located in the northwest part of the country.
Up, Up, and Away!
If you’re looking for somewhere you can climb through clouds, consider visiting one of the many mountain ranges on this list. The highest elevations in the world reach dizzying heights that are hard to imagine unless you get to experience them for yourself.
Summary of the 12 Countries With The Highest Elevations
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Skazzjy
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