Cuba is the largest and westernmost island of the Antilles, strategically situated at the entrance to the Golf of Mexico. Its coast is washed by the Caribbean Sea on the south and by the Atlantic Ocean and Golf of Mexico on the north.
Cuba is actually an archipelago comprised by the island of Cuba (104, 945 km? – 40, 520 mi?), Isle of Youth (2, 200 km? – 850 mi?) and approximately 4,195 keys and islands (3, 715 km? -1 435 mi?). The total area of the country is 110, 860 km? (42, 830 mi?), which is located at 20? 12′ 36” and 23? 17′ ’09” north latitude and 80? 53′ 55”- 84? 57′ 54” de west longitude. Only Cuba and the Isle of Youth have the necessary conditions for a permanent habitation. The island is of 1,250 km long (780 miles) from east to west, with an average width ranging from 32 to 210 km (20-131 miles) from north to south and approximately 5,800 km of coastline. Cuba has often been compared to a crocodile, due to its long and narrow configuration, as a result of which the soothing cool effect of the trade winds can be felt throughout the country.
The territory is predominantly flat, especially in the western and central region. Approximately 75% of the country consists of plains interrupted by three mountain chains in the western, central and eastern regions of the island. The plains are actually quite flat or slightly undulated by the presence of hill less than 100 m above sea level. Practically all of the population of the country inhabits these regions, where most of the economic activity is located, with the exception of the Zapata swampland in Matanzas and Guanahacabibes peninsula in Pinar del Rio.
1. The Guaniguanico mountain range is located in Pinar del Rio province, comprised by the Sierra de los Organos Mountains on the west and the Sierra del Rosario Mountains in the east. The range extends through an area of 150 km SW-NE, with a width that varies from 10 to 30 km. The region is abundant in beautiful scenic views and tourist attractions. The Sierra de los Organos Mountains consists of steep slate elevations of up to 400 m above sea level (mostly covered with pine trees) and bizarre round-shaped mountains called mogotes or buttes made of limestone that jut up from the floor of the valley reaching from 200 to 500 m above sea level, resulting in scenes of great beauty such as the world famous Vi?ales Valley. The average height of this mountain range varies from 300 to 700 m. The highest elevation is the Pan de Guajaibon (702 m), covered with endemic plants, precious wood and coffee plantations. Also present in the area are a number of canyons paved by rivers as the run through the mountains.
2. Guamuhaya Group is located in the central region of the country, this range extends across the provinces of Cienfuegos, Sancti Spiritus and Villa Clara (4,500 km?) and is formed by the Escambray and Sierra Trinidad mountain range. The Escambray Mountains are closely linked to the recent history of the Cuban Revolution during the mid 1960?s. The elevations range from 300 to 1,100 m, being the Pico San Juan the highest elevation with 1,140 m above sea level. Most of these mountains are covered with thick vegetation, including precious wood. The relief is undulated, with narrow valleys and abundant waterfalls, while the southern flank is rugged and steep and falls precipitously to the Caribbean Sea, since the only separation is a narrow costal plain. A virtual paradise for ecotourism!
3. The Sierra Maestra mountain range is located in the eastern region of the country and is the highest in the country, forming an impregnable bastion along the southern coast from Cabo Cruz to Punta Maisi, covering a distance of 250 km (length) and 15-60 km (width). The range is conformed by the Sierra Maestra and Sierra Cristal, located near Punta Maisi, and the Sierra de Nipe on the northeast. The average height varies from 300 to 2,000 m, the highest being the Pico Turquino (1, 974 m above sea level), Pico Cuba (1, 872 m) and Pico Suecia (1, 734). The Sierra Maestra mountains offer the most majestic view in the country and include several natural parks such as the Pico Turquino, Desembarco del Granma, Santo Domingo-La Sierrita and Marea del Portillo. Ideal for nature tourism! This natural region is also closely linked to the recent history of Cuba and served as the scenario of the struggle of the guerrillas headed by Fidel Castro against the Fulgenico Batista dictatorship from 1956 to the end of 1958.
Cuba’s geography is made up of extensive fertile plains broken by three mountain ranges. Most of the land is devoted to cattle grazing and to the cultivation of sugarcane, coffee and tobacco, while the mountainous areas in the western, central and eastern regions represent 25% of the national territory. Cuba’s highest mountain is Pico Turquino (1 972 m). Due to the configuration of the island (long and narrow), most of the rivers are small with low volumes of water. The longest river Rio Cauto (370 km) however is not navigable although the Toa River holds the largest volume of water.