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The Natural Environment

Natural Regions

For the most part Central America is a rugged, mountainous area, with 109 large volcanoes, some more than 4,000 m (13,000 ft) high; Tajumulco Volcano, in Guatemala, is the highest at 4,220 m (13,845 ft). Central America is one of the most active volcanic zones in the western hemisphere. The land surface slopes up rather abruptly from a narrow coastal plain along the Pacific Ocean to the mountain crests, and then descends more gradually to a broader plain along the Caribbean Sea. Two major interoceanic passes cut through the highlands of Central America, one in Nicaragua (from the mouth of the San Juan River to Lake Nicaragua) and the other in Panama (along the route of the Panama Canal). The Pacific coastline is about 2,830 km (about 1,760 mi) long, and the Caribbean coastline is approximately 2,740 km (approximately 1,700 mi) long. Several groups of small islands lie off the Caribbean coast, and some of them, such as the Bay Islands (Islas de la Bahia) in the Gulf of Honduras, are inhabited.

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