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Introduction


Central America is a narrow strip of land that connects two larger landmasses. Central America is situated in the central physical region of the two Americas. It is the southern-most part of North America and is connected to South America. It acts as a bridge between North America and South America. Central America is a part of the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot with about 7% of the worlds' biodiversity. The southern countries of Central America such as Costa Rica and Panama have more biodiversity as compared to the northern countries such as Guatemala and Belize. The central part of Central America consisting of Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador has the least biodiversity.

Geography of Central America

Central America extends from Isthmus of Tehuantepec in South Mexico to Isthmus of Panama. Here, it connects to the Columbian Pacific Lowlands in the north-western South America.  The land of Central America is surrounded by water bodies on three sides. On the south-western side of Central America is the Pacific Ocean while on the north-eastern side is located the Caribbean Sea. In the north of Central America is the Gulf of Mexico.

Most of Central America is a part of the Caribbean Plate. It is a geologically active region and it experiences earthquakes from time to time. There are also active volcanoes in the region and there are volcanic eruptions taking place at various points of time. For example, the earthquake of 1931 and 1972 almost destroyed the Nicaraguan capital, Managua. The latest earthquake resulted in the loss of about 10,000 human lives. El Salvador has experienced three earthquakes that devastated the region. The earthquakes of 2009 in Costa Rica and Honduras have claimed many lives.

 The volcanic eruptions are also a common phenomenon of Central America. But the fertile soils from the weathered volcanic lavas have enabled the people to grow crops and sustain themselves. As a result of fertile soils, the region houses dense population.  Central America also has high mountain ranges. Between the mountain ranges are located some more agriculturally favourable lands. The fertile lands of the valleys allow and sustain dense populations in the valleys. The valleys also provide favourable terrain and climatic conditions for the growth of coffee and beans along with some other crops.

Climate of Central America

The mountains and plain areas on the Pacific side of Central America have different climates from the mountains and plains on the Caribbean side of Central America. The mountains and plains on the Caribbean side experience little rainfall from the month of December to April. The mountains and plains on the Pacific side experience heavy rainfall from September to February. The central and northern Mexico experiences the longest dry season. There is also a wet season when the regions experiences rainfall during the late afternoons and the evenings for a short while. The wet season can also result in high humidity levels and extreme heat in the region. The latitude of the terrain determines the temperature for most part of Central America.

The terrain of Belize in Central America is flat and swampy. It is a coastal plain that has mountains in the southern part. The climate of Belize is tropical which is hot and humid. The rainy season is from May to November while the dry season is from February to May.  The terrain of Costa Rica is characterized by coastal plains that are separated by rugged mountains. The climate here is tropical and subtropical.

The region experiences dry season from December to April and rainy season from May to November. The higher lands of Costa Rica are cooler as compared to other regions.  The lands of El Salvador are mostly covered by the mountains and there is also a narrow coastal belt. Some parts of El Salvador consist of Central Plateau. The climate of El Salvador is majorly tropical. The rainy season for this area is from May to October and the dry season is from November to April. The coastal regions of El Salvador have a tropical climate while the uplands are temperate. 

The region of Guatemala is also covered by the mountains. There are narrow coastal plains and a rolling limestone Plateau. The climate of Guatemala is tropical. It is hot and humid in the lowlands while the uplands are cooler.  Honduras is dominated by mountains in the interiors and there are narrow coastal lines. The climate for Honduras is subtropical in the lowlands and temperate in uplands. Nicaragua is characterized by extensive Atlantic coastal lines that rise to central interior mountains. There is also the narrow Pacific coastal plain that is interrupted by volcanoes at various points. The climate of Nicaragua is tropical in lowlands while there are cooler uplands. 

The interiors of Panama are mostly rugged. There are steep mountains making the interiors dissected. The uplands of Panama are plain and the coastal areas are also largely plains with some rolling hills. Panama experiences tropical maritime climate. The weather is hot, humid and cloudy.  There is a prolonged rainy season in Panama that extends from May to January while there is only a short dry season that spans from January to May.

People of Central America

Before Christopher Columbus reached the Americas, many Native American cultures thrived in the Americas. The region of Central America was a part of Mesoamerica. The Mayan civilization was also part of America. The Maya civilization had its own number system that was based on 20 rather than 10. This civilization also used a typical written language that comprised symbols. There were many books written by the people of Mayan civilization but most of the books were burnt by the Spanish conquerors.

The people of this civilization decorated their monuments and potteries with their writings and art work. The ancient people also had the accurate knowledge of mathematics. They studied planets and stars and invented an accurate calendar. The Mayan civilization disappeared when the Spanish came and conquered the lands in the 1520s. In the later years, some parts were also captured by the British people. Today, Central America is independent with Belize being the least populated country. All the countries of Central America are governed by independent governments today. Except Belize and Costa Rica, all the countries are also a part of the Central American parliament.

Along with the Native Americans and Spanish, today the region is also home to smaller ethnic groups of Africa.  Except Belize, the countries of Central America have adopted Spanish as the official language. The people of Belize speak English and it is the official language of Belize. The native languages are still spoken in many parts of Central America.
 
Tourist Attractions in Central America

As the regions of Central America are still in the developing stage, the tourism industry is also growing.  The majority of the population of Central America is considered to be poor. There have been many natural disasters and civil wars that have constantly devastated the lands of Central America in the past. In spite of all these facts, Central America is one of the favourite tourist destinations.

Some of the reasons for Central America being a top tourist destination are the beautiful natural beauty of the region and the nightlife.  There is warm and sunny weather that attracts more people to relax and rejuvenate in the natural surroundings. The travellers to Central America can experience the ocean beaches, the mountain forests and breath-taking waterfalls. There is city life which never stops giving the tourists endless options to enjoy.

The regions of Central America have been very popular among the adventurous people. For example, sand bugging in the Ica deserts can provide one of the most thrilling experiences of life. It is a perfect stress buster and leaves memories for a lifetime. Diving in Utila, a part of Honduras can be another memorable experience. There are beautiful sea beaches for the peace loving people who can simply enjoy the sun rises and the sun sets. Tikal in Guatemala is a breathtakingly beautiful city that still has the marks of ancient Mayan civilization.

Costa Rica is one of the major attractions of the region. It is a tropical paradise that is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on its west and by the Caribbean Sea on the east. Costa Rica offers bird-watching as the most wonderful gifts to its tourists. There are about 800 species of birds in the protected national parks of Costa Rica. The land offers some of the most diverse natural wonders. There are mountains and volcanic ranges to be enjoyed along with the beaches and the rainy forests.

The tourist can also enjoy surfing at the world-class beaches and enjoy parasailing. Honduras also has some of the most beautiful beaches such as Bay Islands of Roatan, Guanaja, and Utila. The lands of Honduras are home to some of the best historical places. People can enjoy the historical colonial towns that feature Spanish colonial heritage along with ancient Mayan ruins.

The best time to visit any regions of Central America is the dry season that spans from November to April.


Original Authors: Shampa
Edit Update Authors: M.A.Harris
Updated On: 14/11/2009
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