In Guatemala the following geographical regions can be distinguished: 1. the Petén; 2. central Guatemala; 3. the area of the highlands, straddling the Atlantic and Pacific sides; 4. the volcanic series; 5. the coastal zone of the Pacific. Well-defined environmental characteristics correspond to each of these regions.
According to Ezinesports.com, the Petén (el Petén) appears as an essentially flat area, closed to the east by the mountains of British Honduras (Cockscomb), to the south by the Alta Verapaz reliefs, to the west by the elevated areas of Chiapas. The general appearance of the Petéu is that of a karst landscape, with frequent flat-bottomed sinkholes, with abundant underground hydrography. Most of the region, still little known and very sparsely populated, is covered by luxuriant vegetation, which in the central areas, with a less humid climate, gives way to the savannah.
Deeply different aspects both from the altimetric point of view and from the geological one presents central Guatemala. The north-west section is the most mountainous: separated to the south by the valleys where the ríos flowCuilco, Saleguá, Negro or Chixoy (basins of the Chiapas and Usumacinta rivers), there rise the Altos de Cuchumatanes, an imposing amphitheater of mountains, composed of sandstones and conglomerates posterior to the Carbonico, with peaks higher than 3800 m., With grassy plateaus above 3000 m.; the most populated areas are the western and southern ones, where the demographically richest band is that between 1500 and 2500 m. After crossing the Río Negro or Chixoy valley, you enter the mountainous area of Alta Verapaz: the systems composed of very ancient rocks become more complex and overall less elevated. Between the valley of the Polochic to the north and that of the Motagua to the south, an important chain runs, somewhat arched in the sense of the parallels, the highest central section of which (exceeding 3000 m.) Takes the name of Sierra de las Minas. The western part, less elevated, is dissected by the right tributaries of the Chixoy, which form numerous basins, such as those of Cubulco, Rabinal, Salamá: the latter allows communications between the region of Alta Verapaz and southern Guatemala. The eastern section of the range is called the Sierra del Mico. The chain is made up of crystalline rocks, bound to the south by a long strip of serpentine soils, with which the Motagua valley, the largest Guatemalan river, is connected. This is closed to the south by a series of mountain systems directed from west to east (Cordillera del Merendón, Sierra del Espirito Santo, Montañas de Omoa), composed largely of crystalline rocks. The valley widens considerably in the Zacapa basin, rich in Quaternary floods, which reappear after Amates and accompany the river to its mouth. Guatemala overlooks the Atlantic Ocean only in the narrow coastal strip overlooking the Golfo de Amatique: here the Río Dulce flows, which collects the waters of Lake Izabal (or Golfo Dulce). On the southern shore of the lake, Izabal (or Yzabal) has sprung up, joined by road, through the Sierra del Mico, with the lower valley of Motagua. In the southern section of the Golfo de Amatique is Puerto Barrios, linked by rail to the capital, the main port of the state; to the south-east opens the vast delta of Motagua. On the southern shore of the lake, Izabal (or Yzabal) has sprung up, joined by road, through the Sierra del Mico, with the lower valley of Motagua. In the southern section of the Golfo de Amatique is Puerto Barrios, linked by rail to the capital, the main port of the state; to the south-east opens the vast delta of Motagua. On the southern shore of the lake, Izabal (or Yzabal) has sprung up, joined by road, through the Sierra del Mico, with the lower valley of Motagua. In the southern section of the Golfo de Amatique is Puerto Barrios, linked by rail to the capital, the main port of the state; to the south-east opens the vast delta of Motagua.
Towards the Pacific lies the region of the highlands, the most densely populated, closed to the south-west by the volcanic series. The north-west section is the highest, exceeding almost everywhere the 2000 m.: there are regions of high economic value, such as that of Quezaltenango (2380 m), the second city of the state. Further south-east the heights are decreasing : we are in an area between 600 and 1800 m., Rich in vegetation and crops; in the central section there are the two capitals of Guatemala: Antigua and Guatemala la Nueva. The southern part of Guatemala, rich in volcanic systems, presents an even more varied aspect.
The series of these begins with the Tacaná volcano (4064 m), located on the border with Mexico. Taiumulco, the highest mountain in Central America, follows further south-east: it has two peaks, the eastern at 4110 m., The western at 4210. In the upper basin of the Río Naranjo there is the volcano S Antonio (d. 2450); 17 km. south of this rises in Lacandón (m. 2748); on the edge of the Altos of Guatemala rises the Chicaval (2830 m). The series of coupled volcanoes begins with Cerro Quemado or Quezaltenango volcano. This is m high. 3179 and has a very complicated structure and monology; it has numerous craters and several active fumaroles and sulphates. To the southwest of the Quezaltenango volcano rises the volcano Santa María (3768 m), which before eruption of 1902 presented a magnificent conical profile, rising boldly from the coastal plain. Prior to that year there was no notion of any activity from this volcano, with the exception of a spring of mineral water (CO2) at the foot of the cone. But in October 1902 a terrifying eruption turned the surrounding regions upside down, already sufficiently tested by the violent earthquakes of January and April of the same year, which had almost entirely destroyed the city of Quezaltenango and neighboring villages. Following this essentially explosive eruption, an elliptical crater was formed, 1 km wide. at the top, 500-600 m. below and depth 200-250 m.; in 1903 a small lake had already formed in the bottom. In 1922 the volcano underwent a new phase of activity which resumed in recent years: in 1929 a new eruption, of which the first very violent symptoms occurred on 2 and 3 November, turned the surrounding fertile regions upside down; on 4th November lava currents descended at great speed along the flanks of the volcano, forcing the citizens of Quezaltenango to abandon their homes: numerous victims and considerable damage to the plantations (especially coffee).
To the south of Lake Atitlán there are numerous imposing volcanic cones: the volcano S. Pedro della Laguna, 3024 m. High, and further south-east the volcanoes of Atitlan, which are rightly considered by K. Sapper as the fundamental cause of homonymous lake formation. There are three: Gran Volcán de Atitlán al Sur (m. 3525); Volcán medio de Atitlán (m. 3153), which presents in the western stratum at m. 3030 sm a very remarkable fumarole; volcán septentrional de Atitlán or Tolimán, at m. 3130.
In the upper basin of the Río Guacalate rise the most active and most famous volcanoes of Guatemala: on the right bank, first of all, the volcano Fuego (3835 m), imposing in terms of height and structure, with two craters; it has numerous fumaroles; we remember numerous eruptions of which 5 in the century. XVI, 7 in the century. XVII; 7 in the following, as many in the nineteenth. To the north, after a saddle of about 3000 m. high, rises the Acatenango volcano, which has two main peaks: the Pico Chico (Tres Hermanos) in the north (m. 3890, with a badly preserved crater) and the Pico Mayor (or Acateuango; m. 3960) equipped with five craters. There is no historical information about possible eruptions, but the perfect conservation of the cone justifies the hypothesis of not very remote eruptions. On the left of the Río Guacalate rises the Agua volcano (3752 m), which played a large part in the history of the ancient capital city. In ancient times called Huhuahu, it took its current name from the catastrophe that took place on the night from 10 to 11 September 1541, when the crater, filled with water following torrential rains and weakened by earthquakes, split open on the side of the Ciudad Vieja, leaving falling on the city water, mud, tree trunks and causing the death of hundreds of people. Between the coastal plain and Lake Amatitlán rises the volcanic system of Pacaya (2544 m), a very complicated massif, divided into two areas: the northern, more ancient (1900 m), is composed of a volcano, much ruined by erosion, with two craters; in the southern area a large number of lava currents are observed: ornoblendic and pyroxene andesites, basalts, feldspar, form the rocks of the most interesting volcanic apparatus in Central America. Numerous important eruptions are remembered from Pacaya. Connected with the volcanic activity of the Pacaya seem to have been the very violent earthquakes, which, in the period from December 1917 to January 1918, partially destroyed Guatemala, the capital.
With the Pacaya ends the Guatemalan central series of volcanoes. The Salvadoran series begins with Cerro de la Gavia (1500m) and Cerro Raxón (1800m): between the Michatoya and Marguerita basins the Tecuamburro volcano rises; to the north there is the small lagoon of Ixpaco (1120 m), with lactic waters and a large quantity of suspended sulfur. The presence of this volcano should be related to the numerous earthquakes that struck Cuilapa in 1870 and 1913, and also the violent seismic movements that caused serious damage between June and July 1930 to the region between the previous volcano and that of Moyuta, which rises between the Río Marguerita and the Río de la Paz. The largest volcano in southern Guatemala is that of Suchitán or Santa Catarina Mita (2042 m);
Guatemala is a land heavily tested by seismic phenomena. During the century. XX we will remember the seismic catastrophe of 1902, which was followed by the eruption of Santa Maria, which caused very serious damage to Quezaltenango and nearby towns; that of December 1917-January 1918, which almost entirely destroyed Guatemala city; the seismic events of June-July 1930, which produced so much damage in the department of Santa Rosa (Cuilapa, Moyuta, Chiquimulilla, Taxisco, etc.), while less disastrous tremors were felt throughout Guatemala and in northern El Salvador.
Towards the Pacific Ocean we have the fifth well-defined geographical individual of Guatemala: the coastal plain, bounded to the north-east by the wall of the volcanic series already mentioned. It looms over the flat area with a very steep slope, given the small width of the strip: it descends from over 2500 m. at an average altitude of 250 m. over a projected distance of 20-25 km. only. The coastal plain is composed of Quaternary rocks, formed by the floods of the numerous rivers that descend to the sea, mixed with abundant volcanic material. The coast is low, sandy, straight; it has sandy cords that enclose narrow and elongated lagoons towards the mainland, like real channels communicating with the sea.