Why La Rinconada is Considered Dangerous: Exploring the Challenges of the Highest Human Settlement

Nestled high in the Peruvian Andes, La Rinconada stands as the world's highest human habitation, perched at a staggering altitude of over 5,000 meters (16,700 feet) above sea level. Despite its breathtaking mountainous beauty, this unique town is synonymous with danger and hardship. Let’s delve into the reasons why La Rinconada is considered dangerous.

1. Extreme Altitude and Harsh Climate

La Rinconada's extreme elevation poses significant health risks to its inhabitants and visitors alike. At such heights, the air is thin, oxygen levels are low, and temperatures can plummet to freezing levels. Altitude sickness, a potentially life-threatening condition, is a constant threat for those unaccustomed to such heights. The lack of proper oxygenation can lead to serious health complications, including pulmonary edema and cardiac issues.

2. Unregulated Gold Mining

The town's economy revolves around informal and unregulated gold mining, drawing thousands of miners seeking their fortune. This activity, while economically vital, contributes greatly to the dangerous reputation of La Rinconada. The methods used are often hazardous, with miners working in precarious conditions using rudimentary tools. The use of toxic substances like mercury in the extraction process poses severe health and environmental risks.

3. Lawlessness and Crime

The isolated nature of La Rinconada and the influx of gold have given rise to a culture of lawlessness. Crime rates are high, with reports of theft, violence, and illicit activities prevalent. The lack of effective law enforcement and governance further exacerbates these issues, making La Rinconada a perilous place for both residents and visitors.

4. Lack of Basic Infrastructure

Basic infrastructure such as sanitation, healthcare, and education is severely lacking in La Rinconada. The town's rapid growth has outstripped its capacity to provide essential services, leading to unsanitary living conditions and limited access to medical care and education, particularly for children.

5. Environmental Degradation

The unregulated mining practices in La Rinconada have taken a significant toll on the environment. Deforestation, soil erosion, and pollution of water sources are common problems, further compounding the challenges faced by the community.


La Rinconada's reputation as a dangerous place is a result of a complex interplay of factors, from its extreme altitude and harsh climate to the socioeconomic conditions driven by informal gold mining. While the town holds allure for those seeking fortunes in gold, the reality is one of immense hardship and danger for its residents. Addressing these challenges requires concerted efforts in governance, environmental management, and sustainable development to ensure a safer and more sustainable future for La Rinconada and its inhabitants.