Official name : Republic of Honduras
Area: 112,090 square kilometers (43,267 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Cerro Las Minas (2,870 meters/9,417 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Western
Time zone: 6 A.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 663 kilometers (412 miles) from east-northeast to west-southwest; 317 kilometers (197 miles) from north-northwest to south-southeast
Land boundaries: 2,340 kilometers (1,454 miles) total boundary length; El Salvador 342 kilometers (212 miles); Guatemala 256 kilometers (159 miles); Nicaragua 922 kilometers (572.6 miles)
Coastline: 710 kilometers (440 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
Honduras is located in Central America and is bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the north and east, Nicaragua and the Pacific to the south, El Salvador to the southwest, and Guatemala to the west. With a total area of about 112,090 square kilometers (43,267 square miles), the country is slightly larger than the state of Tennessee. Honduras is administratively divided into eighteen departments.
Honduras has no territories or dependencies.
Honduras is generally warm throughout the year, with varying rainfall and humidity. Coastal temperatures average 31°C (84°F), with lower temperatures at the higher elevations. The country has only two seasons: a dry season lasting from November through April, and a wet season from May through October. Rainfall is highest in the coastal areas, where it can exceed 240 centimeters (95 inches). The southern regions are the driest, receiving an average annual rainfall of 84 centimeters (33 inches). The Caribbean coast is subject to hurricanes.
Honduras, part of the isthmus of Central America, is the second-largest Central American republic, with coasts on both the Pacific and the Caribbean Sea. It has four main regions: the eastern lowlands, the northern coastal plains, the central highlands, and the Pacific lowlands. Honduras also has many rivers, some of which have extensive valleys. Honduras is located on the Caribbean Tec-tonic Plate, near its boundaries with the Cocos and the North American Plates. Consequently, earthquakes are frequent, although they are generally mild.
Honduras has a large northern coastline along the Caribbean Sea and a shorter one to the south along the Pacific Ocean. There are many large coral reefs in the Caribbean off Honduras's northern coast.
The Caratasca Lagoon, a major inlet on the Caribbean Coast, provides a natural harbor for the city of Puerto Lempira.
The small Swan Islands (Cajones Cays) are about 177 kilometers (110 miles) north-north-east of Patuca Point in the Caribbean Sea. Also in the Caribbean are the Bay Islands (Islas de la Bahía) which include Guanaja, Utila, and, the largest, Roatán. Honduras also controls some small islands in the Gulf of Fonseca (Gulfo de Fonseca).
Honduras's northern coast is long and even, running east from the Gulf of Honduras for most of its length before curving south as it approaches the Nicaraguan border at Cape Gracias a Dios. The Pacific coast is much shorter and uneven. It is all on the sheltered waters of the Gulf of Fonseca.
Lake Yojoa (Lago de Yojoa) is the only large natural lake in Honduras. Surrounded by massive mountains, the lake itself sits at an altitude of approximately 669 meters (2,200 feet) above sea level. The Tepemechín River drains the lake on the south and the Blanco River empties the lake on the north.
There are many large river systems in Honduras. They have formed the valleys in which many of the people live, and their alluvial deposits have contributed to the fertility of the soil. In the north, from west to east, are the Chamelecón, the Ulúa, the Aguán, the Sico, the Paulaya, the Platano, the Sicre, the Patuca, and the Coco Rivers. All the rivers in the north flow into the Caribbean Sea. The Ulúa and its tributaries drain one-third of the country. The Coco actually rises in the south, then flows north along the border with Nicaragua. It is the longest river in Honduras.
Other than the Coco, all the rivers that arise in the south flow toward the Pacific Ocean. The Lempa, Sumpul, and the Goascoran Rivers run nearly the entire length of Honduras's border with El Salvador. Further east are the Nacaome and the Choluteca; the latter drains into the Gulf of Fonseca.
There are no notable deserts in Honduras.
Tropical lowland areas are found on both coasts, but are much larger in the north. The plains extend particularly far inland along the Ulúa River valley, about 121 kilometers (75 miles). The southern coastal plains are much shorter, with lowlands extending only about 40 kilometers (25 miles).
Inland from the northern coast, Caribbean pines cover large portions of land. Other trees include hardwoods such as walnut, mahogany, cedar, and ebony. It is estimated that about 54 percent of Honduras is covered with forest and woodland areas.
Much of the small amount of cultivated area is located in the flatlands and river valleys that are between, and parallel to, the mountains. These temperate valleys and flatlands are also the primary areas of settlement, except for the north coast banana district, which was reclaimed from tropical forests in the twentieth century.
Honduras is the most mountainous country in Central America, and two distinct series of mountain ranges divide the country roughly into two halves: the north and the south. Over 80 percent of the land is mountainous, thereby limiting the area suitable for cultivation and pastures.
In the north, mountain ranges extend from the Guatemala border on the west to the Platano River on the east. These northern ranges are all extensions of the Central American Cordillera, a mountain chain that travels across Central America from Mexico to Nicaragua. The chains of the Central American Cordillera run largely parallel to the coast and to each other. The northern mountain ranges were formed by changes in the earth's crust several million years ago. Underneath the surface cover of limestone and sandstone, the mountains are composed of granite, mica, slate, and other materials.
The Volcanic Highlands extend from the border with El Salvador in the southwest and across the southern part of the country to the border with Nicaragua in the east. Unlike the mountains of the north, these southern ranges are newer, consisting of lava formed by volcanic eruption some twelve million years ago. Volcanic material has both eroded and been ejected from these highlands and forms fertile soil.
The Volcanic Highlands are higher overall than the Central American Cordillera chains. The highest peaks in the country, Cerro Las Minas (2,870 meters/9,417 feet) and Mount Celaque (2,848 meters/9,345 feet) are found here.
Various caves are located in the rainforest areas of central Honduras, including Talgua Cave, which is also known as the "Cave of the Glowing Skulls." Caves often have been used as burial grounds for the dead.
In the areas between one mountain range and the other, in both the Central American Cordillera ranges and the Volcanic Highlands, are various plateaus. These intermountain flat-lands average 3 to 11 kilometers (2 to 7 miles) in width and are flanked by mountains from 914 to 2,133 meters (3,000 to 7,000 feet) in height. Historically, these level lands have been the most highly populated regions.
There are no notable man-made features in Honduras.
Gollin, James. Honduras: Adventures in Nature . Emeryville, CA: Avalon, 2001.
McGaffey, Lita. Honduras . New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1999.
Merrick, Patrick. Honduras . Chanhassen, MN: Child's World, 2001.