Geography of Guatemala

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Map of Guatemala
Continent North America
Subregion Central America
Geographic coordinates 15°30′N 90°15′W / 15.500°N 90.250°W / 15.500; -90.250
 - Total
 - Water
Ranked 106th
108,890 km²
approx. 950 km²[1]
Coastline 400 km
Land boundaries 1,687 km
Countries bordered Mexico, 962 km
Belize, 266 km
El Salvador, 203 km
Honduras, 256 km
Maritime claims 200 nmi (370.4 km; 230.2 mi)
Highest point Tajumulco volcano, 4,220 m
Lowest point Pacific Ocean, 0 m
Longest river Motagua River, 486 km
Largest inland body of water Lake Izabal 589.6 km²
Land Use
 - Arable land
 - Permanent
 - Permanent
 - Forests and
 - Other

12 %

5 %

24 %

54 %
5 % (1993 est.)
Climate: Tropical to temperate
Terrain: plains, mountains
Natural resources petroleum, nickel, rare woods, fish, wildlife, hydropower
Natural hazards earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floodings, landslides
Environmental issues deforestation, air and water pollution
Extent of Guatemala's western EEZ in the Pacific

Guatemala is mountainous, except for the south coastal area and the vast northern lowlands of Petén department. Two mountain chains enter Guatemala from west to east, dividing the country into three major regions: the highlands, where the mountains are located; the Pacific coast, south of the mountains; and the Petén region, north of the mountains. These areas vary in climate, elevation, and landscape, providing dramatic contrasts between hot and humid tropical lowlands and highland peaks and valleys.


The southern edge of the western highlands is marked by the Sierra Madre, which stretches from the Mexican border south and east, and continues at lower elevations toward El Salvador. The mountain chain is characterized by steep volcanic cones, including Tajumulco Volcano (4,220 m or 13,845 ft, the highest point in the country and Central America. All of Guatemala’s 37 volcanoes (3 of them active: Pacaya, Santiaguito and Fuego), are in this mountain chain, and are abundant in the highlands.

The northern chain of mountains begins near the Mexican border with the Cuchumatanes range, then stretches east through the Chuacús and Chamá sierras, down to the Santa Cruz and Minas sierras, near the Caribbean Sea. The northern and southern mountains are separated by the Motagua valley, where the Motagua river and its tributaries drains from the highlands into the Caribbean being navigable in its lower end, where it forms the boundary with Honduras.

Its climate is hot and humid in the Pacific and Petén Lowlands – more temperate in the highlands, to freezing cold at the high of the Cuchumatanes range, and hot/drier in the easternmost departments.

The rivers are short and shallow in the Pacific vertient, larger and deeper, such as the Polochic which drains in Lake Izabal, Río Dulce, Motagua and Sarstún that forms the boundary with Belize in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico vertient (Usumacinta, which forms the boundary between Chiapas, Mexico and Petén and its tributaries such as La Pasión and San Pedro.

Most of the major cities are located in the Highlands. Major cities are the capital Guatemala City, elevation 1,500 m (Central Highlands), Antigua Guatemala, elevation 1,530 m (Central Highlands), Quetzaltenango elevation 2,350 m (Western Highlands) and Puerto Barrios on the Caribbean coast. The largest lake Lago de Izabal (589.6 km²), is close to the Caribbean coast. Volcán Tajumulco, 4,220 m, the highest point in Central America, is located in the western department of San Marcos.

Guatemala's location on the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean makes it a target for hurricanes, including Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and Hurricane Stan in October 2005, which killed more than 1,500 people. (The damage was not wind related, but caused by flooding and landslides). The last major earthquake was on February 4, 1976, killing more than 23,000 in the Central Highlands (see also: Earthquakes in Guatemala).


Tropical; hot, humid in lowlands; cooler in highlands

Geographic data[edit]

Topography of Guatemala
Central America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Honduras and Belize and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between El Salvador and Mexico
Geographic coordinates
15°30′N 90°15′W / 15.500°N 90.250°W / 15.500; -90.250
Map references
Central America and the Caribbean
  • Total: 108,890 km²
  • Land: 107,940 km²
Land boundaries
  • Total: 1,687 km
  • Border countries: Belize 266 km, El Salvador 203 km, Honduras 256 km, Mexico 962 km
400 km
Maritime claims
  • Continental shelf: 200 m depth or to the depth of exploitation
  • Exclusive economic zone: 200 nmi (370 km)
  • Territorial sea: 12 nmi (22 km)
Mostly mountains with narrow coastal plains and rolling limestone plateau (Peten)
Elevation extremes
Natural resources
Petroleum, nickel, rare woods, fish, chicle, hydropower
Land use
  • Arable land: 12%
  • Permanent crops: 5%
  • Permanent pastures: 24%
  • Forests and woodland: 54%
  • Other: 5% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land
1,250 km² (1993 est.)
Natural hazards
Several active volcanoes, occasional violent earthquakes; Caribbean coast subject to hurricanes and other tropical storms, causing flooding, mudflows and landslides
Environment—current issues
Deforestation; soil erosion; water pollution
Environment—international agreements
No natural harbors on west coast

See also[edit]


  1. ^ INSIVUMEH. "Indice de lagos". Retrieved 2008.