The Sierra Madre in Guatemala, showing the Atitlán and San Pedro volcanoes
There is extensive topographic variation in Mesoamerica, ranging from the high peaks circumscribing the Valleyof Mexico and within the central Sierra Madre mountains to the low flatlands of the northern Yucatán Peninsula. The tallest mountain in Mesoamerica is Pico de Orizaba, a dormant volcano located onthe border of Puebla and Veracruz. Its peak elevation is 5,636 m (18,490 ft).
The Sierra Madre mountains, which consist of a number of smaller ranges, run from northern Mesoamerican south through CostaRica. The chain is historically volcanic. In central and southern Mexico, a portion of the Sierra Madre chain is known as the Eje Volcánico Transversal, or the Trans-Mexican volcanic belt. There are83 inactive and active volcanoes within the Sierra Madre range, including 11 in Mexico, 37 in Guatemala, 7 in El Salvador, 25 in Nicaragua, and 3 in northwestern Costa Rica. According to the MichiganTechnological University , 16 of these are still active. The tallest active volcano is Popocatépetl at 5,452 m (17,883 ft). This volcano, which retains its Nahuatl name, is located 70 km southeastof Mexico City. Other volcanoes of note include Tacana on the Mexico-Guatemala border, Tajumulco and Santamaría in Guatemala, Izalco in El Salvador, Momotombo in Nicaragua, and Arenal in Costa Rica.Landscape of the Mesoamerican highlands
One important topographic feature is the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, a low plateau that breaks up the Sierra Madre chain between the Sierra Madre del Sur to thenorth and the Sierra Madre de Chiapas to the south. At its highest point, the Isthmus is 224 meters (735 ft) above mean sea level. This area also represents the shortest distance between the Gulf ofMexico and the Pacific Ocean in Mexico. The distance between the two coasts is roughly 200 kilometers (120 miles). Although the northern side of the Isthmus is swampy and covered with dense jungle,...