What is the Highest Place on Earth?

Whenever the question is asked, what is the highest point on planet Earth?, people naturally assume that the answer is Mt. Everest. In fact, so embedded is the notion that Mt. Everest is the highest point on the world that most people wouldn’t even think twice before answering. And even when we talk of other huge mountains in the Solar System (like Mars’ Olympus Mons), we invariably compare them to Mt. Everest.

But in truth, Everest does not hold the record for being the highest point on Earth. Due to the nature of our planet – which is not shaped like a perfect sphere but an oblate spheroid (i.e. a sphere that bulges at the center) – points that are located along the equator are farther away than those located at the poles. When you factor this in, Everest and the Himalayas find themselves falling a bit short!

Earth as a Sphere:

The understanding that Earth is spherical is believed to have emerged during the 6th century BCE in ancient Greece. While Pythagoras is generally credited with this theory, it is equally likely that it emerged on its own as a result of travel between Greek settlements – where sailors noticed changes in what stars were visible at night based on differences in latitudes.

Earth - Western Hemisphere
Planet Earth, as seen from space above the Western Hemisphere. Credit: Reuters

By the 3rd century BCE, the idea of a spherical Earth began to become articulated as a scientific matter. By measuring the angle cast by shadows in different geographical locations, Eratosthenes – a Greek astronomer from Hellenistic Libya (276–194 BCE) – was able to estimate Earth’s circumference within a 5% – 15% margin of error. With the rise of the Roman Empire and their adoption of Hellenistic astronomy, the view of a spherical Earth became widespread throughout the Mediterranean and Europe.

This knowledge was preserved thanks to the monastic tradition and Scholasticism during the Middle Ages. By the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution (mid 16th – late 18th centuries), the geological and heliocentric views of Earth became accepted as well. With the advent of modern astronomy, precise methods of measurement, and the ability to view Earth from space, our models of its true shape and dimensions have come to be refined considerably.

Modern Models of the Earth:

To clarify matters a little, the Earth is neither a perfect sphere, nor is it flat. Sorry Galileo, and sorry Flat-Earthers (not sorry!), but it’s true. As already noted, it is an oblate spheroid, which is a result of the rotation of the Earth. Basically, its spin results in a flattening at the poles and a bulging at its equatorial. This is true for many bodies in the Solar System (such as Jupiter and Saturn) and even rapidly-spinning stars like Altair.

Data from the Earth2014 global relief model, with distances in distance from the geocentre denoted by color. Credit: Geodesy2000
Data from the Earth2014 global relief model, with distances from the geocenter represented in color. Credit: Geodesy2000

Based on some of the latest measurements, it is estimated that Earth has a polar radius (i.e. from the middle of Earth to the poles) of 6,356.8 km, whereas its equatorial radius (from the center to the equator) is 6,378.1 km. In short, objects located along the equator are 22 km further away from the center of the Earth (geocenter) than objects located at the poles.

Naturally, there are some deviations in the local topography where objects located away from the equator are closer or father away from the center of the Earth than others in the same region. The most notable exceptions are the Mariana Trench – the deepest place on Earth, at 10,911 m (35,797 ft) below local sea level – and Mt. Everest, which is 8,848 meters (29,029 ft) above local sea level. However, these two geological features represent a very minor variation when compared to Earth’s overall shape – 0.17% and 0.14% respectively.

Highest Point on Earth:

To be fair, Mt. Everest is one of the highest points on Earth, with its peak ascending to an altitude of 8,848 meters (29,029 ft) above sea level. However, due to its location within the Himalayan Mountain Chain in Nepal, some 27° and 59 minutes north of the equator, it is actually lower than mountains located in Ecuador.

It is here, where the land is dominated by the Andes mountain chain, that the highest point on planet Earth is located. Known as Mt. Chiborazo, the peak of this mountain reaches an attitude of 6,263.47 meters (20,549.54 ft) above sea level. But because it is located just 1° and 28 minutes south of the equator (at the highest point of the planet’s bulge), it receives a natural boost of about 21 km.

Mount Everest from Kalapatthar. Photo: Pavel Novak
Mount Everest, imaged from Kalapatthar. Credit: Pavel Novak

In terms of how far they are from the geocenter, Everest lies at a distance of 6,382.3 kilometers (3,965.8 miles) from the center of the Earth while Chimborazo reaches to a distance of 6,384.4 kilometers (3,967.1 miles). That’s a difference of about 2.1 km (1.3 miles), which may not seem like much. But if we’re talking about rankings and titles, it pays to be specific.

Naturally, there are those who would stress that Mt. Everest is still the tallest mountain, measured from base to peak. Unfortunately, here too, they would be incorrect. That prize goes to Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano located on the island of Hawaii. Measuring 10,206 meters (33,484 ft) from base to summit, it is the highest mountain in the world. However, since its base is several thousand meters below seat level, we only see the top 4,207 m (13,802 ft) of it.

But if one were to say that Everest was tallest mountain based on its altitude, they would be correct. In terms of its summit’s elevation above sea level, Everest is ranked as being as the tallest mountain in the world. And when it comes to the sheer difficulty of ascending it, Everest will always be ranked no. 1, both in the records books and in the hearts of climbers everywhere!

We have written many interesting articles about the Earth and mountains here at Universe Today. Here’s Planet Earth, What is the Earth’s Diameter?, The Rotation of the Earth, and Mountains: How Are They Formed?

For more information, be sure to check out NASA’s Visible Earth, and “Highest Mountain in the World” at Geology.com.

Astronomy Cast also has a great episode on the subject – Episode 51: Earth.

113 Replies to “What is the Highest Place on Earth?”

  1. I’ve read, in the past, that Mt. Kilimanjaro was the farthest point from the center of the Earth. How does it compare to Mt. Chiborazo?

    1. Let’s see… it’s elevation is 5,895 m (19,341 ft), and it too is very close to the equator. While I can’t say what it’s distance is from geocenter, it’s a safe bet it is higher than Everest.

    2. Summated Kilimanjaro and it is the largest free standing mountain in the world.

      1. Actually, it’s not. That would be the big Island of Hawaii (Mauna Kea) as measured from the sea-floor, but Kilimanjaro is the largest free-standing mountain entirely not submerged in the ocean. (I.e., Kilimanjaro doesn’t have have seawater lapping its sides roughly 60% of the way up.) Of course nobody has summited MK from its actual base. The equipment required to survive the entire ascent while actually climbing is still in the realm of science fiction.

      2. Once you’re out of the water, you don’t need the diving suit anymore so you could just leave it on the beach and go on climbing without it.

    1. I would not think so, since the elevation – the distance above sea level – is not as high as that of Everest.

      1. Uh, the question was about air density at the top of Everest vs Chimborazo. Your response didn’t really answer anything.

      2. He did answer the question, you just did understand the relevance. Because of the rotation of the Earth, sea level is also higher at the equator than poles, and air pressure at sea level is much the same over the whole planet. So altitude above sea level is the biggest factor when it comes to how thin the air is.

      3. The idea that the air pressure at ‘sea level’ is the same anywhere on the planet, thus implying the air pressure at the equator is the same as the poles may be*nearly true* with the small variation of radius of the Earth.

        However; Imagine the oblateness of the Earth at such an extreme that its more like a discus such as thrown at a track meet. In this extreme, the equator of the Earth might be protruding out of the atmosphere and thus having no air pressure at all.

        Stated simply, a case can be made that the air pressure at the top of those mountains most distant from the center of the Earth, due to oblateness, will be less than, say, the air pressure at the top of Mt. Everest.

        It’s likely the barometric pressure data exists already. Anybody want to look it up?

    2. No. Altitude relative to sea-level is still altitude relative to sea-level. And that is what is going to determine atmospheric density/pressure.

  2. Everest is not the most difficult mountain to climb. I believe that K2 is considered a much more difficult climb.

    1. I remember reading about some very remote and very high peaks in National Geographic. I think these were either in south east China near the border with Vietnam and Cambodia, from the description, because of the remoteness of the area and the unexplored territory these are some very difficult peaks to climb.

      1. Are you sure about that? China has no boundary with Cambodia. And the highest peak in Vietnam is Farsipan, with an altitude of approximately 3100m. I can think of many mountains in the Himalayas, Andes, Alps, Rockies, much more difficult than any in that area.

    2. Its depends on what you use to rate the most difficult. If its the ratio of deaths to attempts then Annapurna is the hardest. 38% of those climbing have died. The ratio for K2 is 27% and Everest is 6.7%.
      1 in 3 is not my kind of odds.

      1. Hello David, your interpretation of the statistic is not correct. The “death rate” of a mountain is normally given as the ratio of deaths to successful summits, so the Annapurna ratio of 61 deaths to 191 summits means that roughly for every 3 climbers that reach the summit, another dies. But there are also many more climbers who attempt the summit but cannot complete the climb. The one who dies may of may have not reached the summit, so the percentage of dead climbers among the total climbers is actually lower.
        Said that I agree that technically mount Everest is not really that difficult, specially when the ascension is done by the South route. K2 is much more difficult.

  3. Note to author: It’s not Chiborazo; it’s Chimborazo.

    The author messed up the spelling when he revealed the name.

    This article is far too long winded, btw. I explain this point about Chimborazo on occasion, myself, and it takes about four short sentences.

    1. …which would make a very gaunt article. Different forms of storytelling, no?

  4. Oh great, rewrite all we were taught & learned growing up. Next thing you’re going to tell us is there are only 8 planets in our solar system not 9!

    1. That depends on what you mean by planet. If you are talking all of the planets in our solar system then there are 8 primary planets and about 50 dwarf planets.

  5. Since sea level is purportedly rising and is higher at the equator than elsewhere, then the mountains are actually shrinking to this reference and they are shrinking more at the equator.

    1. Everest actually gains between 1 1/2 and 3 inches a year because the African plate is pushing under the Eurasian plate and rising it between 3 and 4 inches a year with environment wearing away Everest 1 or more inches a year.

      1. Really? I thought it was the Indian subcontinent’s northward drift that was causing the Himalayas, including Everest, to continue to rise.

  6. This is only true if you believe the earth is a real earth and not an illusion that is formed in your mind. I don’t have to believe in a real earth now because I know the Truth of our existence.

  7. This is all nonsense. The earth is flat. Everyone knows that. Just look outside. Do you see a flat landscape or a sphere?

  8. Matt, this is a lame click-bait article. The norm is measuring from sea level, so your distance-from-the-center-of-the-earth, lIke the attention-seekers that talk about Hawaii being higher above the sea-bed than Everest is above local terrain, is nothing but sad.

    1. Ya, Matt how DARE you offer a perspective shift by using different metrics with which to conceive of our environment?!?! One mind, one thought!! (lmao)

  9. Since the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Colorado, the highest place on earth is Denver.

    1. Nope = Denver + Colorado exports more pot to other states than could be smoked by every citizen (and visitor) in Denver 24/7/365(6).

  10. You mention that Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain from base to summit. While it’s relatively easy to determine the base of a shield volcano, how are you determining the base of Mt. Everest?

  11. However, since its base is several thousand meters below seat level, we only see the top 4,207 m (13,802 ft) of it. —–What is SEAT level?

  12. However, since its base is several thousand meters below seat level, we only see the top 4,207 m (13,802 ft) of it. ————–What is SEAT level?

  13. At 19,000 ft. Cayambe is right on the equator. Has anyone ever thought about this giant?

  14. Of the various ways of defining “highest,” I don’t think much stock should be placed in base-to-peak, simply because assigning the base from which to measure, isn’t always well-defined.

    But there is another take on this, that wasn’t mentioned here — farthest from Earth’s rotation axis.

    By that criterion, the honor goes to Mt. Kenya in Africa. It’s really quite remarkable that, although its extremely low latitude (only 9 arc minutes south of the Equator!) isn’t enough to put it farther from Earth’s center than Chimborazo, it IS enough to put it farther from Earth’s axis!

    1. Which works well at the equator, but a 30,000′ mountain 5 or 10 degrees south of the North Pole (or north of the South Pole) would be taller than Everest, but not far from the axis, so by your definition, that 30,000′ mountain would be a very short mountain.

  15. To me the highest point is where there is the lowest pressure.So check which one is the highest.

    1. That’ll be the height above sea level. The atmosphere is a fluid and like the ocean will distribute itself into a similar shape with its pressure determined by the height above sea level.

  16. Mauna Kea is not, as you stated, “the highest mountain in the world. You identified the fact that both Mt. Chiborazo and Mt. Everest are higher. “Highest” & “tallest” are 2 different things. If I stand on a ladder next to Shaquille O’Neal I am not “taller” than him. I am higher than him. Secondly, regarding your statement that “when it comes to the sheer difficulty of ascending it, Everest will always be ranked no. 1, both in the records books and in the hearts of climbers everywhere!” This is completely untrue. K2 holds this distinction, without exception.
    Now, I’ll stop being a nitpicking little baby and tell you that the article is great and just the type of stuff that people really should know. Very interesting, thanks.

  17. Unfortunately the author is incorrect. The highest mountain on the Earth from the sea floor to the land is Maui’s extant volcano, Haleakla. Everest is several thousand feet shorter in total height.

  18. your method in having us read this article really sucks.. Shame on you..

  19. This doesn’t look like a serious scientific paper. Quote “… Due to the nature of our planet – which is not shaped like a perfect sphere but an oblate spheroid (i.e. a sphere that bulges at the center) – points that are located along the equator are farther away than those located at the poles.”
    Great: “farther away”….FROM WHAT?! IT seems to be the “obvious” answer is the Earth’s center, yet why would anyone on this planet consider that as comparison for higher or lower? Anyway, one can define “height” in several ways, yet the usual way leaves no doubt: Mt. Everest is the tallest of them all.

  20. While I have not climbed Everest, I have climbed Chimborazo, Cotopaxi and Cayambay in Ecuador… and Aconcagua in Argentina. All using this theory should be higher than Everest.

  21. stange writing, and whenever numbers come up the writer fails…telling things like 21 km is 22 km and 2 km is 3 km
    get your maths right imbecile!

  22. 1. If the earth is not perfect sphere, then what is the diameter from pole to pole? does NASA know this number?
    2. Everest is not the “tallest” but highest measured from sea level. Mauna Kea is the tallest based on measurements taken sub-surface.
    3. the toughest mountain to climb is the on your on.
    4. The “Highest” mountain people in the Washington would argue it is there and not in Colorado.

  23. It should be mentioned that there are mountains rising from the ocean floor that rival Mt. Everest and any other mountains on Earth.

  24. “And when it comes to the sheer difficulty of ascending it, Everest will always be ranked no. 1”. BS, Mt Everest is fairly easy to climb, even a disabled person has been on top. Any mountaineer will tell you that K2 and Nanga Parbat are incomparably more difficult.

  25. if you, are going to switch horses in the middle of the stream. why not use the sun’s or galaxy’s axis to determine the highest point on earth?

    or just simply stick, with the same old sea level reference. since the length of any vector, is dependent upon your reference point.

    manipulating data, for bragging points is useless vanity. and i, prefer not to look like an intellectual imbecile.

    and if you want to nit-pick the earth is more pear shaped. so the greatest distance from the center, is about 20* south of the equator.

    mountain climbers, only care about how far up and difficult the climb is. and they, don’t normally start in deep sea gear.

  26. Unfortunately Mt Everest has too many DEAD bodies on it clean that SH## up meaning get all the dead bodies and ballone them down or throw down off that mountain for real. It’s morbid to have all those frozen carcasses just sitting around or laying around up there? Imagine trying to sleep up there thinking some ZOMBIE half rotting carcass will come and attack you or wanna eat you while freezing your live A$$ up there? Take this for real 100s of dead zombie bodies are up there ready for attack …?

  27. lafayette ga is the highest place i ever been,every one here is smoking weed,i mean everybody…..but not me , i dont smoke…

  28. Highest point on earth is in springfield IL where we keep our governers after retirement, impeachment etc.

  29. So an airplane flying at 20,000 feet over London is really underwater. This article just sounds like global warmists looking for work. If reality doesn’t work, change the definition. For all of history altitude and elevation is measured from MSL not COTE.

  30. Well your wrong. The question was what is the highest point on earth. Not the point most farthest from the center. Highest would measure from the surface or sea level. (ask any airplane pilot) . . .
    I don’t question your science skills, but your english skills.

  31. Wrong about the boost in altitude. If the diameter is ±22 Km then the “boost” at the bulge would be 11 Km. In addition, just because Everest isn’t at the equator does not mean it doesn’t get a “boost”. Where it is, it should have a “boost” of about 7Km or maybe a little less. Positions at a lattitude of, say, NYC or along the Canadian border are probably around a neutral area and, of course, the poles would be a negative.

  32. The tallest peak, when measured from base to summit is Hawaii, as recall, the majority of the Island is under water. When measured from its oceanic base, Mauna Kea is over 10,000 m (33,000 ft) tall.

  33. There are some mountain peaks that would dwarf Everest, yet, there is still one mile from their peak to the ocean’s surface & the deepest & longest canyon is also found under water.

  34. Most climbers would agree that K2 is more difficult to summit than Everest.

  35. The highest place on earth is a tossup between the streets and parks of Denver CO. and San Francisco!

  36. “However, since its base is several thousand meters below seat level, we only see the top 4,207 m (13,802 ft) of it.” Do you mean sea level, or is there really such a thing as seat level?

  37. Highly interesting, as are many of the comments, if some lack in civility (unfortunately normal for the net). When learning that the earth is “round”, we non-scientists think of the process as something like running a rope around it. It can be “round” without being a “sphere,” which seems to be the case. Hence, Everest remains what it was if you measure mountains from sea level. But if you measure from the mid-point of the earth, then others, among which Mt. Chimborazo in the Andes, take the palm. Whatever. Both are very high. One often hears also that Everest is the most dangerous place on earth. According to comments, Annapurna seems to be much more dangerous. Fortunately, I live in the Netherlands, where this is all quite academic.

  38. A lot of valuable time of the readers wasted. When the reference point is sea level, Mt. Everest is the highest. Being distant from the center does not make Mt. Chiborazo the highest point. It is the reference point that matters. Nothing is absolute in this world everything is relative.

  39. “And when it comes to the sheer difficulty of ascending it, Everest will always be ranked no. 1, both in the records books and in the hearts of climbers everywhere!”

    This statement is about as false as it gets. There are many mountains in the world harder to ascend than Everest. K2 is much more difficult to climb and has a much lower summit rate and lower overall climb rate. Everest doesn’t actually have a ton of technical climbing on the most common route.

  40. The article seems to ignore the fact that “highest place on Earth” can be taken several different ways. Mt. Everest’s peak is generally given as the highest point relative to sea level, and that’s the way most people interpret “highest place on Earth”. If one wishes, though, one can interpret “highest place on Earth” to mean the highest point relative to distance from the sun or distance from the center of the planet or some star. Most of us, though, (definitely myself) would chuckle and dismiss it as the hairsplitting of a pedant looking for a way to puff up his or her ego. On the other hand, since ego trips seem essential to mental health, have at it, guys and dolls.


    1. Actually, it says in the article that based on how one defines it, there are several answers – which include Everest and Mauna Kea as well.

  41. Much has been said about the farthest point on the Earth’s solid surface from its geocenter. But nobody seems to be talking about the CLOSEST point. I’m guessing that that would have to be somewhere on the abyssal plain of the Arctic Ocean. (Deepest seabed close to a pole.)

  42. Everyone did well with the comments and replies about which is the highest point in earth, but, no one say anything about how to save the planet in which everyone lives.

  43. That’s why we measure land features based on HAE (Height Above Ellipsoid) and not in reference to the earth’s center.

  44. I think Colorado and Washington State are ties for the highest places on earth!

  45. Or, the highest place on earth is Boulder, Colorado…at least since January 2014.

  46. “The understanding that Earth is spherical is believed to have emerged during the 6th century BCE in ancient Greece. ”

    Actually, ancient Indians were well aware of earth being a sphere millennia before any european even thought about it.

  47. You need to be updated before putting any statistics..and also consider all the factors that will affect the altitude..So, if you have proof and facts than why don’t you go ahead and make the world convinced about it..Don’t just make an interesting story, if you have facts/statistics, experiments and proofs, come forward otherwise don’t fool the people

  48. So would gravitational pull be less at these higher points along the equator? I know it would be negligible to humans, but am curious if that is the theory.

  49. You will definitely be awarded if you can challenge the world and change the fact

  50. Nobody thinks Mount Everest is the most difficult mountain to climb. K2 is far more difficult.

  51. I found this aspect very informative, but it still is just a matter of semantics. The baseline for highest has always been sea level so if you insert a new aspect to the equation one should specify. Taller refers to an object from bottom to top. Highest has always referred to altitude from sea level. If your going to change the “From” half of the question then of course it should be specified from the center of the earth up front. So if one wishes to get technical one could say that until the standards are changed Mauna Kea is still the tallest, Everest is still the highest and (apparently) Chiborazo can be the farthest from COA.

  52. I assume the “author” meant to write Mt. Chimborazo. Seriously, it’s the whole point of the article and he misspells it.

  53. If the earth is 20,000 meters (20km) farther from the geo-center at the equator. Why does sea level follow the shape of the earth instead of being an equi-distance from the geo-center? I guess gravity does not change much with distance from the geo-center. Just a thought.

  54. Since one does not travel from the centre of the earth to the “Top” of the world, this measurement idea is irrelevant!

  55. This all wrong, you forget Mt Lam Lam in Guam is 1,332 ft above sea level but the the island is sitting on the edge of the Mariana’s Thrench so add another 35,797ft to the bottom of the trench plus it is sitting near the equator 13 degrees north so add that part of the bulge into the equation and I bet you we have a new tallest mountain from the geocentric center of the earth.

  56. We all know the higher a place is, the thinner the air. I wonder how many climbers will die of high attitude sickness on top of Mt. Chiborazo without oxygen mask?

  57. I quote from the article
    “It is here, where the land is dominated by the Andes mountain chain, that the highest point on planet Earth is located. Known as Mt. Chiborazo, the peak of this mountain reaches an attitude of 6,263.47 meters (20,549.54 ft) above sea level. But because it is located just 1° and 28 minutes south of the equator (at the highest point of the planet’s bulge), it receives a natural boost of about 21 km.”
    No math or science editors? 21 Km is equal to 21000 meters, that added to an altitude of 6293.47 meters makes this mountain 26293 meters or 86263.123 feet. Without the tallest mountain or the greatest editorial failure of Universe to date.

    1. It’s not a matter of simply adding 21,000 meters to their elevation above sea level. It’s a matter of measuring their peaks from the very center of the Earth. The measurements are accurate and based on the latest geological data.

  58. The highest point on Earth is Mount Everest. We measure height as in above sea level. The altitude of Mount Everest is the highest on the planet, even at high tide.

  59. Technically the highest place on earth is the sky. Since the ozone layer is part of earth

  60. I’m curious if the atmosphere or even gravity (your weight) is different at these higher locales or is there no difference being at a larger part of the earth

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