Cordillera de Talamanca: Mountain Range (Costa Rica, Panama)
The Cordillera de Talamanca is a mountain range that lies in the southeast half of Costa Rica and the far west of Panama. The range rises from sea level on the Caribbean side to over 12,000 ft and then drops back down to the General Valley on the Pacific side.
Cordillera de Talamanca
The Cordillera de Talamanca range, in southern Costa Rica, stretches from southwest of San José to beyond the border with Panama.
This spectacular mountain range rises from sea level on the Caribbean side to over 12,000 ft (3,650 m) and then drops back down to the Valle General on the Pacific side.
The Cordillera de Talamanca contains the highest peaks of Costa Rica and Panama, among them Mount Chirripó at 3,819 m (12,530 ft) above sea level and where, on a clear day, both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean are visible. A more accessible high peak is Cerro de la Muerte at 3,451 m (11,322 ft) above sea level.
This range was a volcanic island in the geological past, it was raised as the result of tectonic uplift and its separation from other mountain ranges means that it has developed many endemic species of animals and plants, often with affinities to Andean forms.
The lower slopes of the mountains are rich in wildlife and are covered with rainforests. The highest slopes are covered with Páramo vegetation, similar in appearance to the Páramo in the Andes.
Topographic map of Costa Rica depicting the Talamanca range in southeastern Costa Rica and western Panama
Poor transportation resources limit access to the Talamanca region. Therefore, much of the Caribbean areas of the range are still unexplored. Several national parks and indigenous reservations are located here, including Chirripó National Park.
The Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park which extends along the border between Costa Rica and Panama has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and is the first bi-national Biosphere Reserve.
The Cordillera de Talamanca is a center of endemism for many plant and animal groups. It is an important habitat for many large mammals such as the Baird's Tapir, the Puma and the Jaguar, and birds, which are now threatened in much of their range.
December through March is the driest season. The lower altitudes of the range can be quite hot. The summit areas of the mountains can be very cold and wet year-round. Below-freezing temperatures are common at higher elevations.