Guatemala is known for its diverse and beautiful bodies of water, which play crucial roles in its natural environment, economy, and culture. They are essential resources for recreation, water-based activities, and tourism opportunities while sustaining local communities and supporting biodiversity.
Water Bodies of Guatemala
Guatemala is known for its diverse and beautiful bodies of water, which play crucial roles in its natural environment, economy, and culture. From stunning lakes nestled between volcanoes to rivers that traverse lush forests and carve canyons, Guatemala's water bodies offer many experiences and opportunities for locals and tourists.
The bodies of water in Guatemala are natural wonders and essential resources for the country's economy and ecosystem. They offer recreation, water-based activities, and tourism opportunities while sustaining local communities and supporting biodiversity.
However, like in many parts of the world, these water bodies face challenges related to environmental degradation, pollution, and habitat loss, highlighting the importance of responsible conservation and sustainable management practices.
Gulfs and Bays
Guatemala has a Pacific Ocean coastline to the south and a Caribbean Sea coastline to the east. The Pacific coastline is relatively short but offers surfing, fishing, and beach tourism opportunities. On the Caribbean side, Amatique Bay is a notable feature, providing beautiful coastal landscapes and essential habitats for marine life.
Gulf of Honduras: The Gulf of Honduras is located on the Caribbean coast and is home to various islands, including the Bay Islands. The Gulf is a popular destination for fishing, diving, and sailing. It is also a major shipping route.
Amatique Bay: Amatique Bay is an inlet of the Gulf of Honduras in the Caribbean Sea. Part of the Izabal Department, Amatique Bay receives runoff from three major rivers: the Moho River in Belize, the Sarstoon River on the border between Belize and Guatemala, and the Dulce River of Guatemala. It is a popular tourist destination, and it is known for its beaches, mangroves, and wildlife. The bay is home to various animals, including crocodiles, caimans, and turtles. It is also a popular spot for birdwatching.
Bahía La Graciosa: Bahía La Graciosa is a bay in the Izabal department of Guatemala. It is located on the Caribbean coast, about 100 km (62 mi) north of Guatemala City. The bay is approximately 10 km (6.2 mi) wide and 50 km (31 mi) long. The coast of the bay is covered in mangroves and white sand beaches.
Notable Lakes and Lagoons
Guatemala has several noteworthy lakes, each with unique characteristics and attractions. These lakes provide opportunities for recreation and serve as critical water sources for local communities and irrigation purposes.
Lake Atitlán is one of the world's most famous and picturesque lakes, surrounded by volcanoes and indigenous Mayan villages. Lake Izabal is the largest lake in Guatemala and Central America, connecting to the Caribbean Sea via the Dulce River.
In addition, Guatemala has several wetlands and lagoons. These areas are crucial for biodiversity, providing habitats for various bird species and other wildlife.
Lake Atitlán: Lake Atitlán is one of Guatemala's most famous and picturesque lakes in the Guatemalan Highlands. It is renowned for its stunning beauty, surrounded by three towering volcanoes and numerous Mayan villages. The lake's azure waters, scenic landscapes, and cultural significance make it a popular destination for tourists and nature lovers.
Lake Izabal: Lake Izabal is the largest lake in Guatemala and Central America. It is connected to the Caribbean Sea through the Dulce River, making it an essential part of the country's waterway system. The lake is surrounded by lush tropical rainforests, providing vital habitats for various wildlife species. Several small islands within the lake offer opportunities for exploration and eco-tourism.
Lake Amatitlán: Lake Amatitlán is a significant lake in southern Guatemala, about 25 km (15.5 mi) from the capital city, Guatemala City. It is one of the most accessible and closest bodies of water to the capital, making it a popular destination for locals and tourists seeking recreational activities.
Lake El Golfete: Lake El Golfete is a long, narrow lake in Guatemala. It lies at sea level and is connected by the Dulce River from Lake Izabal, draining to the Amatique Bay in the Caribbean Sea.
Quexil Lagoon: Quexil Lagoon is a small but picturesque lagoon near Flores in northern Guatemala. It is part of the Yaxhá-Nakúm-Naranjo National Park, known for its Mayan archaeological sites and lush biodiversity. Visitors can enjoy boat rides and observe the diverse flora and fauna that thrive in and around the lagoon.
Yaxhá Lagoon: Yaxhá Lagoon is another prominent lagoon situated within the Yaxhá-Nakúm-Naranjo National Park. It is an important ecological area, providing a habitat for various bird species, mammals, and reptiles. The Mayan ruins of Yaxhá overlook the lagoon, adding historical and archaeological significance to the site.
Petén Itzá Lake: Petén Itzá Lake is located near the town of Flores in the northern Petén Department of Guatemala and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region. The lake offers swimming, boating, and fishing opportunities, and the nearby island town of Flores provides a charming colonial atmosphere.
Güija Lagoon: Güija Lagoon is located on the Guatemala and El Salvador border. Although most of the lagoon is in El Salvador, a small portion lies within Guatemalan territory. Picturesque landscapes surround the lagoon and offer a tranquil setting for visitors seeking relaxation and natural beauty.
Laguna de Calderas: Laguna de Calderas is a crater lake in Guatemala's Acatenango volcano complex. It is a popular destination for hiking, camping, and birdwatching. The lake is surrounded by lush vegetation and towering cliffs.
Guatemala relief map
Notable Dams and Reservoirs
Guatemala has constructed various dams and reservoirs for water management, hydroelectric power generation, and irrigation. The Chixoy Dam, Jurún Marinalá Dam, and others contribute to the country's energy needs and water supply for agricultural and domestic use.
Chixoy Dam and Reservoir: The Chixoy Dam, also known as the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam, is located in the department of Baja Verapaz in central Guatemala. The dam was completed in the 1980s and created the Chixoy Reservoir, which spans a large area in the Chixoy River valley. The reservoir provides hydroelectric power generation and helps regulate water flow for irrigation and flood control in the region.
Jurún Marinalá Dam and Reservoir: The Jurún Marinalá Dam is situated in the department of Chimaltenango, west of Guatemala City. The dam created the Jurún Marinalá Reservoir, an essential source of water supply for agriculture and drinking water in the surrounding areas.
El Salto de Chilascó Dam and Reservoir: El Salto de Chilascó Dam and Reservoir are located in the department of Alta Verapaz, north of Guatemala City. The dam was built for hydroelectric power generation and is part of the country's efforts to utilize its natural resources for renewable energy production.
Madre Vieja Dam and Reservoir: The Madre Vieja Dam and Reservoir are located in the southern department of Santa Rosa. The reservoir provides water for irrigation and is crucial for agricultural activities in the region.
La Máquina Dam and Reservoir: The La Máquina Dam and Reservoir are situated in the department of Escuintla. The reservoir contributes to water storage and hydroelectric power generation.
The rivers of Guatemala are diverse and play vital roles in the country's water supply, hydroelectric power generation, and transportation. The Motagua River, one of the longest rivers in Guatemala, forms part of the border with Honduras. The Usumacinta River is significant historically and culturally, as it was a substantial waterway for the ancient Maya civilization. The Sarstún River is a natural border between Guatemala and Belize, known for its clear waters and rich biodiversity.
Motagua River: The Motagua River is one of the longest rivers in Guatemala, originating in the western highlands and flowing eastward to the Caribbean Sea. It forms part of the border between Guatemala and Honduras. The river has played a crucial role in the region's history, acting as a natural route for transportation and trade.
Usumacinta River: The Usumacinta River is another important river in Guatemala, forming a portion of the border between Guatemala and Mexico. It is one of the largest rivers in Central America and has significant historical and cultural importance, as it was a major waterway for the ancient Maya civilization. The Usumacinta River flows into the Gulf of Mexico.
Sarstún River: The Sarstún River forms a natural border between Guatemala and Belize. It is known for its clear waters, diverse aquatic life, and lush mangrove forests. The river is ecologically valuable and attracts visitors interested in nature and wildlife.
Cahabón River: The Cahabón River flows through the northern region of Guatemala and is an essential waterway for the country. It is known for its scenic beauty and is popular among adventure seekers for activities such as whitewater rafting and kayaking.
Polochic River: The Polochic River flows through the northern part of Guatemala and eventually joins Lake Izabal. The river and its surrounding area are vital for agriculture, providing water for irrigation and supporting the local communities.
Dulce River: The Dulce River is a short but significant river in Guatemala that flows from Lake Izabal to the Caribbean Sea. It is a popular destination for boating and tourism due to its scenic landscapes and unique features, including the impressive gorge known as "El Boquerón."
Paz River: The Paz River flows through the central region of Guatemala and is a tributary of the Usumacinta River. It plays a crucial role in the country's water supply and agriculture.
Chixoy River: The Chixoy River is a tributary of the Motagua River. The Chixoy River is known for its whitewater rapids, which make it a popular destination for rafting and kayaking.
Samalá River: The Samala River is a tributary of the Motagua River. The Samala River is known for its scenic beauty, including waterfalls and lush vegetation.
La Pasión River: The La Pasión River is a tributary of the Usumacinta River. The La Pasión River is known for its archaeological sites, including the ruins of the Maya city of Yaxchilan.
The following is an exhaustive list of the rivers in Guatemala. Note that this list includes major and minor rivers and streams, and the names of some smaller rivers may vary across different sources and maps.
- Río Acome
- Río Cabuz
- Río Cahabon
- Río Chixoy
- Río Coatan
- Río Coyolate
- Río Cuilco
- Río Cutzan
- Río de la Pasion
- Río Dulce
- Río Grande de Zacapa
- Río Guacalate
- Río Ican
- Río Ixcan
- Río Las Vacas
- Río Los Esclavos
- Río Los Platanos
- Río Madre Vieja
- Río Maria Linda
- Río Melendrez
- Río Michatoya
- Río Mongoy
- Río Motagua
- Río Nahualate
- Río Nahuatan
- Río Naranjo
- Río Nenton
- Río Oc
- Río Ocosito
- Río Olopa
- Río Ostua-Guina
- Río Paso Hondo
- Río Paz
- Río Polochic
- Río Pueblo Viejo
- Río Salinas
- Río Samala
- Río San Pedro
- Río Sarstun
- Río Selegua
- Río Sis
- Río Suchiate
- Río Usumacinta
- Río Villalobos
- Río Xaclbal