Like its North American neighbor the United States, Mexico is divided into states that vary widely in climate and geography. Mexico’s landscape includes tropical rain forests, deserts and seashores, and much of the country is covered by high plateaus and rugged mountains. Many of its canyons, such as Copper Canyon in the state of Chihuahua, are deeper than America’s Grand Canyon and are so difficult to reach that they have yet to be explored.

Central Plateau

Mountains run along both Mexico’s Pacific coast and the Gulf coast – the Sierra Madre Occidental range on the west and the Sierra Madre Oriental range on the east. Between these mountains lies a heavily populated central plateau called the altiplano. At the northern edge of the plateau is Mexico’s longest river, the Rio Grande, which runs some 1,300 miles along the U.S. border. To the south is the neo-volcanic Cordillera, which contains most of Mexico’s volcanoes. Make sure to take visit the inactive volcano called Orizaba is the country’s highest peak, reaching 18,700 feet. The southern highlands of the plateau hold Mexico’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Chapala, which covers 417 square miles.

Northwestern Deserts

Mexico’s isolated northwestern region, consisting of the Baja California peninsula and the Sonora and Sinaloa states, features a desert landscape. With the exception of some vegetation around the Gulf of California and occasional oases fed by underground springs, the area is dry and barren. Although some deserts here support plant life. If looking to get some off roading fun, check out the Algodones Dunes.

Tropical Lowlands

Along the eastern coast from Tamaulipas state to Veracruz state lies Mexico’s tropical lowlands. This flat plain between the Gulf of Mexico and the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains has a tropical climate making it a great place to check out many different kinds of plants and animals.

Southern Mountain Ranges

The sparsely populated southern region of Mexico features the Sierra Madre del Sur, the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca and the Sierra de Soconusco mountain ranges. Some northern sections of this area are covered with dry deciduous forests, while the southern section is covered with thick rainforest. Make sure to visit this site if looking to check out some Mesoamerican ruins.

Yucatan Peninsula

The easternmost territory of Mexico is the Yucatan Peninsula, which projects into the Gulf of Mexico. The Yucatan region is covered with tropical forest on a flat, low-lying limestone shelf. A characteristic feature of the soft limestone landscape here is the sinkhole, which forms when the ground above the Yucatan’s numerous caverns and underground rivers collapses. In fact, there are several great places to go scuba diving in the sinkholes to get a truly unique experience.


Mexico has more than 6,000 miles of shoreline. In the northwest, the coastal area is desert land; the country’s western shore meets mountains. On the eastern side of Mexico, the Gulf of Mexico creates lagoons on the coastal area. The southeast Yucatan peninsular coast features the white sands and coral reefs characteristic of the Caribbean. At one spot in Mexico, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in the state of Oaxaca, the coastlines of Mexico’s two great oceans, the Atlantic and the Pacific, lie only 130 miles apart.