La Rinconada – The Highest Town in the World

Situated all the way up in the Peruvian Andes Mountains, you will find this quaint little town around miles in the air. In The New Yorker, there was a mention of there being a population of around 50,000 and is elevated 16,728 feet above sea level. That is just 3000 ft lesser than the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Hence, this makes it the highest town in the entire world.
Here, the weather is freezing throughout the year. Most of the times, the only route out of this town is through the icy roads which become rarely accessible via truck. Yet, for more than 45 years now, the allure of gold mines has pulled in inexpensive labor willing to work in these almost hellish weather conditions. It is situated merely 10 miles from the Bolivian border it does not receive much foot traffic, excluding the inhabitants. There is actually no set bus route to reach here from the nearby larger towns of Puno and Juliaca. Those who are travelling here need to prepare well prior to the climb. The visitors here are naturally prone to ailments like altitude sickness which comes with nausea, headaches & shortness of breath. Sometimes, altitude sickness can prove to be fatal.
Needless to say, this town is fairly remote and in the year-round harsh climate, it is sustaining without any basic infrastructure. It is working with no plumbing or sanitation. The situation gradually got tougher as the population here had a rise of 200% in 2009. For a lot of Peruvians, laboring in the mines of Andes is the last resort and the labor is actually exploited by the mine owners. This once used to be a temporary town, but it didn’t take long for it to become a permanent settlement for the laborers. From 2001-2009, the population grew by 230%, due to the rumors of the town sitting on a quite literal gold mine. In the early 2000s, the gold prices increases and this made the people rush towards La Rinconada to cash in. It was tough for the miners & their families to endure the tough weather.
The terrain here is quite sterile not a lot more than snow-capped mountains surrounding the town from every direction, but the trek here would undoubtedly an experience like no other. But the neighboring towns to La Rinconada are just as stunning if not more. A few other places to visit near here are the Sacred Valley, the floating Uros Islands, and then probably the most known ones – the Machu Picchu ruins.
Nevertheless, with a little prep, it’s possible to visit this town. It will be essential to plan well ahead before the trip & its organization. It is recommended to visitors to ascend slowly while on the way to destinations that are high above sea level. Spending a couple days in such places allows the body to get used to the climate. But keep in mind that in La Rinconada, you are not likely to come across basic amenities, owing to its isolated location. You will not find running water, roads, or even electricity here. So, think twice before entering the town.
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Concluding the article, La Rinconada is definitely the town for the more adventurous travelers who love taking up new challenges along with their travels. So for those, this little town tucked away behind snow-capped mountains is definitely worth the trip. This was little about La Rinconada, which is the highest town in the world. Not many people know about this, so I hope you found this article informative and fun. Do come back for more if you enjoy such content!
- Kinjal Dixit