What is the Roof of the World?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The Roof of the World is an area of very high overall elevation in Central Asia. It is sometimes referred to as "High Asia," and it is generally regarded as the highest area in the world, not least because it hosts Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain. This region has become famous as a cultural site, and some very unique cultures and peoples have emerged from the area.

Mount Everest.
Mount Everest.

This region consists of very high mountains and plateaus that have been created by India's slow collision with the tectonic plate which houses the rest of Asia. As India presses into Asia, it causes buckling and folding, leading to an area of high elevation where the two plates meet. The elevation gives the Roof of the World a very unique climate and perspective, and visitors to the region often express awe when they are taken to see its peaks.

Pakistan is part of the "Roof of the World," a high elevation area in central Asia.
Pakistan is part of the "Roof of the World," a high elevation area in central Asia.

Several countries are included within the region, including Tibet, India, China, Pakistan, and Tajikistan. The high elevation has provided some very distinctive challenges to native peoples, who must eke out a living from land that is often barren and difficult to work. Residents rely heavily on pack animals like yaks, along with durable farm animals such as goats, and despite the hardship of life in High Asia, they have developed rich, colorful cultures with distinctive artistic traditions.

Historically, the Roof of the World was viewed as very intimidating by people who were not familiar with the area. Even in the summer months, the mountain passes can be difficult to navigate, especially for historic traders trying to get goods across Asia on pack animals. Bandits were a notorious problem in the area, and freak storms, generally bad weather, and grim conditions made travel in the area extremely unpleasant, albeit ruggedly beautiful.

The hostile environment of this mountainous region in Asia also made it largely uninteresting to the residents of neighboring areas, who saw no reason to attempt to colonize or subdue the area as long as they had access to fertile lowland plains. In the 20th century, however, parts of the Roof of the World began to be seen as potentially valuable sites from a tactical perspective by nations like Russia and China, and numerous, often unsuccessful, incursions were made into the area in an attempt to gain a foothold.

India is considered part of the Roof of the World.
India is considered part of the Roof of the World.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


Good details. The roof of the world is very rich in culture and natural wealth.


The roof of the earth was also home to a lot of blue eyed and blonde haired peoples who resembled westerners. They also spoke a language of the European language family which resembled the languages of Western Europe (Centum languages). This people group were the Tocharians, and once had a great deal of influence in the Taklamakan desert and in the Tien Shan Mountains.


This area was home to a large religious influence. The monks here are still being persecuted, but are revered in India. Transmission of Hindu and Buddhist ideals came from this area and brought great light to the philosophy of China. Today, China seems to be neglecting this source of their past.



The author never claimed to be exhaustively listing all countries in the roof of the earth. We could also list Bhutan, Kyrgyzstan, and some others. In fact, most of Nepal is on the edge of the roof of the world, although it does include Everest.


Hey, how can you not include Nepal? after all Mt. Everest is in Nepal. I am a little disappointed here wisegeek!

Post your comments
Forgot password?