Nicaragua: Natural Landscape

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Nicaragua: Natural Landscape

Fri, 11/04/2022 - 21:16
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Nicaragua is situated in Central America between Honduras in the north and Costa Rica in the south. Its geography divides the country into three major zones: the Pacific lowlands, the north-central highlands, and the Caribbean lowlands or Mosquito Coast.

The Natural Landscape of Nicaragua

Nicaragua, Central America's largest country by land area, is situated between Honduras in the north and Costa Rica in the south. The Caribbean Sea lies to its east, and the Pacific Ocean lies to its southwest.

Many islands lie off its Pacific and Caribbean shores, including the Corn Islands, located 80 - 95 km (50 - 59 mi) off the Caribbean coast. Other notable islands include the Miskito Cays, the Pearl Cays, the Nancital Archipelago, Juan Venado Island, etc.

Nicaragua hosts the two largest lakes in Central America, Lake Nicaragua and Lake Managua. Lake Nicaragua is the second-largest lake in Latin America after Lake Titicaca.

The country is situated within the Central America Volcanic Arc, with 19 active volcanoes forming a northwest-to-southeast chain along its western coast.


Nicaragua, located in Central America, boasts diverse ecosystems and is known for its rich biodiversity. The country's varied landscapes, including rainforests, volcanic regions, lakes, and coastal areas, contribute to its unique flora and fauna.

According to the Global Biodiversity Index, Nicaragua is the 41st most biodiverse country in the world, with 685 bird species, 75 amphibian species, 1,076 species of fish, 200 species of mammals, 197 species of reptiles, and 5,796 species of vascular plants.


Nicaragua's Conservation efforts aim to preserve its diverse ecosystems, protect endangered species, and promote sustainable land and resource management. Despite these conservation efforts, Nicaragua faces challenges, including deforestation driven by agriculture and land use changes, habitat loss, pollution, and climate change impacts.

Balancing conservation with the needs of a growing population and economic development remains a complex task. However, Nicaragua's commitment to preserving its natural heritage is evident through its conservation programs and protected areas, contributing to global biodiversity conservation efforts.


Nicaragua has a tropical climate with two distinct seasons: the wet season and the dry season. The wet season runs from May to October, and the dry season runs from November to April.

The wet season is characterized by heavy rainfall, predominantly afternoons and evenings. The dry season is characterized by less rain and lower humidity. However, even during the dry season, there is still some rainfall.

Temperatures range from 21 - 27 ˚C (70 - 80 ˚F) throughout the year and can vary depending on the altitude. The coastal regions are generally warmer and more humid than the interior regions. The mountains in the country's north are also cooler and less humid.

Map of Central America

Location map of the countries of Central America

Natural Geography of Nicaragua

Geographic Regions

The physical geography of Nicaragua divides the country into three major zones:

  • the Pacific lowlands

  • the north-central highlands

  • the Caribbean lowlands

Pacific Lowlands

In the west, the Pacific lowlands extend inland approximately 75 km (46 mi) from the coast. It is a region of lakes and is densely populated.

The soil along the Pacific coast is volcanic. The natural vegetation of the lowlands is dry forest, but much of it has been converted to agriculture or pasture. About 80% of the area is fertile, and it is well-cultivated.

Most of the area is flat except for a line of volcanoes between the Gulf of Fonseca, Lake Managua, and Lake Nicaragua. Lake Nicaragua is bisected by volcanos that have led to the formation of numerous islands, the largest of which is Ometepe Island.

Because western Nicaragua is located where the Caribbean Plate and the Cocos Plate collide, it is subject to earthquakes and volcanic activity. As a result, many tremors and quakes occur each year, some of which cause severe damage. For example, the capital city of Managua was virtually destroyed in 1931 and again in 1972.

Volcano map of Nicaragua

Map depicting the volcanos of Nicaragua

The Pacific lowlands experience a rainy season from May to November and a dry season from December to April. The annual average temperature is about 27 °C (80 °F), and precipitation averages around 1,900 mm (75 in).

North-Central Highlands

North and east of the Pacific lowlands are a triangular area of rugged mountain ridges approximately 900 - 1800 m (3,000 - 6,000 ft) in elevation, alternating with deep valleys. The western slopes are relatively dry, while the eastern slopes are covered in rainforests.

The central mountains form the country's main watershed and mostly drain eastward to the Caribbean Sea; however, the few rivers that do flow to the west empty into the Pacific Ocean or Lakes Managua and Nicaragua.

In the northern highlands, temperatures are cooler than in the lowlands and average around 18 °C (64 °F). Prevailing winds are from the northeast, cool on the high plateau, and warm and humid in the lowlands.

Caribbean Lowlands

The eastern Caribbean lowland plains occupy more than half of the country and are among the widest in Central America, averaging 100 km (60 mi) in width.

Also known as the Mosquito Coast (or Miskito Coast), this vast lowland region skirts the Caribbean Sea for about 360 km (225 mi).

River mouths, deltas, and coastal lagoons break the coastline. Coral reefs, islands, cays, and banks occur along the country's continental shelf, the widest in Central America.

Soils on the Caribbean coast vary, including fertile areas along waterways and relatively infertile areas in the pine-savanna and rainforest regions.

The climate is slightly cooler and much wetter in the east than in the west. Here, the rainy season lasts for about nine months out of the year, and the dry season runs from March through May, while annual precipitation averages around 3,800 mm (150 in).

Topographic map of Nicaragua

Topographic map of Nicaragua

Islands and Archipelagos

Nicaragua has several islands and archipelagos scattered across its Caribbean and Pacific coastlines. The country has a long coastline and diverse geography and is home to various islands. Each offers a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and recreational opportunities.

See more: Islands and Archipelagos of Nicaragua

Bodies of Water

Nicaragua hosts an impressive array of water bodies, contributing to its natural beauty and ecological significance. From vast lakes to meandering rivers and serene lagoons, Nicaragua's waterways play a vital role in shaping its landscape, supporting diverse ecosystems, and providing valuable resources to its people.

See more: Water Bodies of Nicaragua

Administrative Divisions

Nicaragua is divided into 15 departments and two (self-governing) autonomous regions for administrative purposes.

See more: Cultural Landscape of Nicaragua

Political map of Nicaragua

Political map of Nicaragua

Natural Regions

Nicaragua is a biodiverse country, home to many plants and animals.

Ecological Regions

The following is a list of terrestrial ecoregions in Nicaragua, as defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Nicaragua is in the Neotropical realm. Ecoregions are classified by biome type - the major global plant communities determined by rainfall and climate.

Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forest

Tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests

Tropical and subtropical coniferous forests


  • Gulf of Fonseca mangroves

  • Mosquitia–Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast mangroves

  • Southern Dry Pacific Coast mangroves

  • Rio Negro–Rio San Sun mangroves

Nicaragua land use map

Nicaragua land use and vegetation map