Guatemala is mountainous, except for the south coastal area and the vast northern lowlands of Petén department. The country is located in Central America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Honduras and Belize and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between El Salvador and Mexico. 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 limestone plateau of 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.
Central America is located on the southern tip of North America, or is sometimes defined as a subcontinent of the Americas, bordered by Mexico to the north, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south. Central America consists of seven countries: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. The combined population of Central America has been estimated to be 41,739,000 and 42,688,190.
The Caribbean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean in the tropics of the Western Hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico and Central America to the west and south west, to the north by the Greater Antilles starting with Cuba, to the east by the Lesser Antilles, and to the south by the north coast of South America.
Honduras, officially the Republic of Honduras, is a country in Central America. In the past, it was sometimes referred to as "Spanish Honduras" to differentiate it from British Honduras, which later became modern-day Belize. The republic of Honduras is bordered to the west by Guatemala, to the southwest by El Salvador, to the southeast by Nicaragua, to the south by the Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of Fonseca, and to the north by the Gulf of Honduras, a large inlet of the Caribbean Sea.
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 Guatemalan Highlands is an upland region in southern Guatemala, lying between the Sierra Madre de Chiapas to the south and the Petén lowlands to the north. The highlands are made up of a series of high valleys enclosed by mountains. The local name for the region is Altos, meaning "highlands", which includes the northern declivity of the Sierra Madre. The mean elevation is greatest in the west and least in the east. A few of the streams of the Pacific slope actually rise in the highlands, and force a way through the Sierra Madre at the bottom of deep ravines. One large river, the Chixoy or Salinas River, escapes northwards towards the Gulf of Mexico. The relief of the mountainous country which lies north of the Highlands and drains into the Atlantic is varied by innumerable terraces, ridges and underfalls; but its general configuration is compared by E. Reclus with the appearance of "a stormy sea breaking into parallel billows". The parallel ranges extend east and west with a slight southerly curve towards their centres. A range called the Sierra de Chamá, which, however, changes its name frequently from place to place, strikes eastward towards Belize, and is connected by low hills with the Cockscomb Mountains; another similar range, the Sierra de Santa Cruz, continues east to Cape Cocoli between the Polochic and the Sarstoon; and a third, the Sierra de las Minas or, in its eastern portion, Sierra del Mico, stretches between the Polochic and the Motagua rivers. Between Honduras and Guatemala, the frontier is formed by the Sierra de Merendón.
The Sierra Madre de Chiapas is a major mountain range in Central America. The Sierra Madre de Chiapas is part of the American Cordillera, a chain of mountain ranges that consists of an almost continuous sequence of mountain ranges that form the western "backbone" of North America, Central America, and South America.
El Salvador, officially the Republic of El Salvador, is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. It is bordered on the northeast by Honduras, on the northwest by Guatemala, and on the south by the Pacific Ocean. El Salvador's capital and largest city is San Salvador. As of 2016, the country had a population of approximately 6.34 million.
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.
The Sierra de Chuacús is situated in the central highlands of Guatemala, and runs southeast from El Quiché to Baja Verapaz. Its northwestern border is marked by the Chixoy River basin in Uspantán, which separates it from the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes. Its eastern border is marked by the Salamá River which separates it from the Sierra de las Minas. Its southeastern border is defined by the Motagua River valley.
The Sierra de Santa Cruz is a small mountain range in eastern Guatemala. It is situated north of Lake Izabal, in the department of Izabal. The mountain range has a south-west to north-east orientation, and is approximately 55 km long and 13 km wide. Its highest peaks have an altitude of approximately 1100 m.
Sierra de las Minas is a mountain range in eastern Guatemala, extending 130 km west of the Lake Izabal. It is 15–30 km wide and bordered by the valleys of the rivers Polochic in the north and the Motagua in the south. Its western border is marked by the Salamá River valley which separates it from the Chuacús mountain range. The highest peak is Cerro Raxón at 3,015 m. The Sierra's rich deposits of jade and marble have been mined throughout the past centuries. These small scale mining activities also explain the name of the mountain range.
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.
The Polochic River is a 194-kilometre (121 mi) long river in eastern Guatemala. It flows eastwards through a deep valley and flows into Lake Izabal at. The river is navigable for 30 kilometres (19 mi) to Panzós. It was used many years ago to transport coffee and timber, but most commercial transport in the river valley is now carried out by truck.
Lake Izabal, also known as the Golfo Dulce, is the largest lake in Guatemala with a surface area of 589.6 km² and a maximum depth is 18 m (59 ft). The Polochic River is the largest river that drains into the lake. The lake, which is only a metre above sea level, drains into the Gulf of Honduras of the Caribbean Sea through the smaller Golfete Dulce, which is at sea level, and the navigable Rio Dulce.
The Sarstoon River is a river in the Toledo District of Belize. It forms the country's southern boundary with Guatemala.
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 City, locally known as Guatemala or Guate, officially Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, is the capital and largest city of Guatemala, and the most populous city in Central America. The city is located in the south-central part of the country, nestled in a mountain valley called Valle de la Ermita. It is estimated that its population is about 1 million. Guatemala City is also the capital of the Municipality of Guatemala and of the Guatemala Department.
Antigua Guatemala, commonly referred to as just Antigua or la Antigua, is a city in the central highlands of Guatemala famous for its well-preserved Spanish Baroque-influenced architecture as well as a number of ruins of colonial churches. It served as the capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Quetzaltenango (Spanish pronunciation: [ketsalteˈnaŋgo], also known by its Maya name, Xelajú[ʃelaˈχu] or Xela, is the second largest city of Guatemala. It is both the capital of Quetzaltenango Department and the municipal seat of Quetzaltenango municipality.
The last major earthquake was on February 4, 1976, killing more than 23,000 in the Central Highlands.
The 1976 Guatemala earthquake struck on February 4 at 03:01:43 local time with a moment magnitude of 7.5. The shock was centered on the Motagua Fault, about 160 km northeast of Guatemala City at a depth of 5 kilometers (3.1 mi) near the town of Los Amates in the department of Izabal.
Climate is hot and humid in the Pacific and Petén Lowlands. It is more temperate in the highlands, to freezing cold at the high of the Cuchumatanes range, and hot/drier in the easternmost departments.
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.
A report by the Guatemalan System of Climate Change Sciences in 2019 indicated that rainy season is starting later as a result of climate change, putting subsistence farmers and indigenous people in poor communities at risk of food shortages resulting from poor harvests.
Guatemala has joined the V20, a group of 48 developing economies working together with development banks towards climate resilience and 100% renewable energy.
El Salvador borders the North Pacific Ocean to the south and southwest, with Guatemala to the north-northwest and Honduras to the north-northeast. In the southeast, the Golfo de Fonseca separates it from Nicaragua. El Salvador is the smallest Central American country and is the only one without a coastline on the Caribbean sea. El Salvador is about the size of Israel and the states of New Jersey and Vermont, but has the population size of Lybia and Lebanon.
Honduras is a country in Central America. Honduras borders the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. Guatemala lies to the west, Nicaragua south east and El Salvador to the south west. Honduras is the second largest Central American republic, with a total area of 112,890 square kilometres (43,590 sq mi).
Nicaragua is a country in Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Costa Rica and Honduras. Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America.
Belize is a small Central American nation, located at 17°15' north of the equator and 88°45' west of the Prime Meridian on the Yucatán Peninsula. It borders the Caribbean Sea to the east, with 386 km of coastline. It has a total of 542 km of land borders—Mexico to the north-northwest (272 km) and Guatemala to the south-southwest (266 km). Belize's total size is 22,966 km², of which 22,806 km² is land and 160 km² is water.
Izabal is one of the 22 departments of Guatemala. Its coastal areas form part of the homeland of the Garifuna people.
San Marcos is a department in northwestern Guatemala, on the Pacific Ocean and along the western Guatemala-Mexico border.
Hurricane Francelia brought significant flooding to Central America, especially Belize and Guatemala. The sixth named storm and fourth hurricane of the 1969 Atlantic hurricane season, Francelia developed from a tropical wave in the southeastern Caribbean Sea on August 29. It moved west-northwestward and strengthened into a tropical storm on the following day. On September 1, Francelia reached hurricane status, shortly before re-curving west-southwest. While approaching Central America, the storm intensified and peaked as a 115 mph (185 km/h) Category 3 hurricane on September 2. Francelia weakened slightly before making landfall near Punta Gorda, Belize late on September 3. The storm quickly weakened inland and dissipated by the following day.
This is a list of the extreme points of Central America, the points that are farther north, south, east, or west than any other location on the region. The list also included highest and lowest points and identifies the most extensive lake.
The geography of Mesoamerica describes the geographic features of Mesoamerica, a culture area in the Americas inhabited by complex indigenous pre-Columbian cultures exhibiting a suite of shared and common cultural characteristics. Several well-known Mesoamerican cultures include the Olmec, Teotihuacan, the Maya, the Aztec and the Purépecha. Mesoamerica is often subdivided in a number of ways. One common method, albeit a broad and general classification, is to distinguish between the highlands and lowlands. Another way is to subdivide the region into sub-areas that generally correlate to either culture areas or specific physiographic regions.
The Petén-Veracruz moist forests ecoregion, of the Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forest Biome, is found in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico.
The Central America bioregion is a biogeographic region comprising southern Mexico and Central America.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Guatemala:
This is an Index of Central America-related articles. This index defines Central America as the seven nations of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama.