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Mexico Geography

Image credit: Volina | Shutterstock
Image credit: Volina | Shutterstock

Mexico geography is varied, including mountains, deserts, rivers, lakes, high plateaus, volcanoes and miles and miles of beaches.

Despite its Latin American ties, Mexico is located in North America. Mexico is south of the United States, north of Belize and Guatemala and surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The fifth largest country in the Americas and the fourteenth largest in the world, Mexico’s 760,000 square mile land mass is about one-fifth the size of the U.S.

Mexico spreads south from the U.S. border along its great central highland plateau, which occupies most of the width of the country from the U.S. border to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The central plateau is about 4,000 feet in elevation in the north and rises to around 8,000 feet in the center of the country. The Sierra Madre Oriental and the Sierra Madre Occidental flank the central plateau on the east and the west. Volcanic peaks rise to over 17,000 feet in several areas of the country. The high country descends to the coastal lowlands along Mexico’s Caribbean and Pacific coasts. Across the Sea of Cortez, the Sierra de Baja California and the Peninsular Ranges run down the center of the Baja California peninsula, with desert lowlands or fertile valleys extending to both Baja’s east and west coasts.

The Rio Grande, known as the Rio Bravo del Norte in Mexico, is the country’s most important river, extending south 1,300 miles from the U.S. border. The largest natural lake in Mexico is Lake Chapala, 50 miles long and 12 miles wide. Chapala is located just south of Guadalajara.

Central and southern Mexico are home to many ancient volcanoes, 18 tower more than 10,000 feet in elevation.

There are four time zones in Mexico. Most of the country uses Central Standard Time, which is officially named Zona Centro or Central Zone. The state of Quintana Roo uses Eastern Standard Time. Officially, it is called Zona Sureste or Southeast Zone.

The states of Chihuahua, Nayarit, Sonora, Sinaloa and Baja California Sur use Mountain Standard Time, called Zona Pacífico or Pacific Zone (except for the cities on or near the Bay of Banderas that are on Central Standard Time), and Baja California Norte uses Pacific Standard Time, which is called Zona Noroeste or Northwest Zone.

All island territories including reefs and keys observe the time zone based upon the longitude of their location.

Daylight saving time begins at 2:00 a.m. local time on the first Sunday in April and falls back to Standard Time at 2:00 a.m. on the last Sunday in October. The states of Sonora and Quintana Roo do not observe daylight saving time.