The Highest Mountains in the World – Continent by Continent

Mount Aconcagua

In this post, we’re going to look at the highest mountains in the world. The world’s highest peaks all lie in Asia and most people know that Mount Everest is the tallest. However the highest mountains in some of the other continents are actually relatively little known and we’ll first run through the highest mountain in every continent from Oceania to the Americas.

The Highest Mountain in Every Continent

Highest Mountain in Asia – Everest (8849 metres)

Mount Everest
Mount Everest via Robert Brands, CC BY-ND 2.0

Located in the world’s grandest mountain range, Mount Everest towers above everything else in the Himalayas with its peak recently measured at 8,848.86 metres (29,031.7 feet). It’s the highest point on Earth and reaching it is a lifetime goal for passionate climbers and mountaineers. 

Hundreds have died trying to get there and tragically many bodies remain on its slopes, frozen in time and very real reminders of the perils of climbing the famous mountain for those on the way to the top. Like many mountains in South and Central Asia, it lies on the border between two countries with Everest separating Nepal and China and it can be ascended from either side.

Highest Mountain in Oceania – Puncak Jaya (4884 metres)

The highest island peak on Earth, Puncak Jaya is a quite spectacular sight, rising up from a thick rainforest to form a nearly 5 km high mountain with glaciers. It is located in West Papua, Indonesia but the island is viewed as part of Oceania rather than Asia.

While lower than the highest peaks in all the other continents, Puncak Jaya is still a very challenging climb and special permits are required for anyone looking to attempt it. It’s also the site of the world’s largest gold mine – with the Grasberg gold and copper mine located just 4 km to the west of the mountain.

Highest Mountain in Africa – Kilimanjaro (5895 metres)

Perhaps the second most famous mountain in the world after Everest, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in Africa and the highest single free-standing mountain in the world, making it a bit easier to appreciate its enormity when looking from afar.

Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano, located in Northern Tanzania, just a few kilometres south of the Kenyan border. It’s a popular climbing destination and generally regarded as less technically challenging than comparable peaks in Asia or in the Andes. Its shrinking glaciers and ice fields have been studied comprehensively and are viewed as clear evidence of the impacts of climate change.

Highest Mountain in Europe – Elbrus (5642 metres)

Mount Elbrus
Mount Elbrus via AKSIMA, CC BY-ND 2.0

While Mont Blanc (4809 metres above sea level) is the highest peak in the Alps, Europe’s highest mountain is actually Russia’s Mount Elbrus. It is located in the western part of the Caucasus Mountain Range which separates Russia from Georgia.

Elbrus actually has two summits, with the smaller eastern one reaching 5621 metres above sea level, only 21 metres lower down than the western peak. It is actually a stratovolcano and is considered dormant having not erupted for nearly 2000 years, although there is clear evidence of lava flows and the western summit has a well-preserved volcanic crater stretching around 250 metres in diameter.

Highest Mountain in North America – Denali (6190 metres)

Over to North America next and all the way north to Alaska, one of the coldest places on Earth, to find the Denali National Park, home to the continent’s highest peak. Its name comes from the native Koyukon people who have inhabited the region around the mountain for many centuries. 

Reaching its summit is challenging due to the extremely cold conditions. Extreme lows of below −70°C have been recording on the mountain but mountaineers frequently attempt to climb it and it is one of the so-called seven summits and typically takes between two and four weeks to fully ascend.

Highest Mountain in South America – Aconcagua (6961 metres)

Mount Aconcagua
Aconcagua, CC BY-ND 2.0

The highest peak outside of Asia, Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the Andes. It is located in Argentina’s Mendoza province, approximately 200 km west of the city of Mendoza and a similar distance from the Chilean capital Santiago.

It was a sacred mountain for the Incan people and the site of many rituals including human sacrifices. Its ominous nickname as the “Mountain of Death” comes from more recent times though as it is widely regarded as one of the most difficult mountains in South America to climb with many deaths reported.

Top 10 Highest Mountains in the World

Mountain Country Height (in metres)
1 Everest Nepal/China 8849m
2 K2 Pakistan/China 8611m
3 Kangchenjunga Nepal/India 8586m
4 Lhotse Nepal/China 8516m
5 Makalu Nepal/China 8485m
6 Cho Oyu Nepal/China 8188m
7 Dhaulagiri I Nepal 8167m
8 Manaslu Nepal 8163m
9 Nanga Parbat Pakistan 8126m
10 Annapurna I Nepal 8091m

The world’s ten highest mountains are all in the same region with the Himalayas spanning a large area in South Asia. Many lie on national borders or in disputed territories which is why more than one country is listed in many cases. 

While Mount Everest is by far the most famous, it’s one of 14 mountains which are over 8000 metres above sea level. There are well over 100 peaks that are above 7000 metres, all of which lie in Asia, mostly in the Himalaya and Karakoram mountain ranges.

This post on the highest mountains in the world was published in May 2021.

The Highest Mountains in the World – Continent by Continent

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