As the largest of the more than 1,000 Caribbean islands, Cuba is located in the far west of the archipelago. The Caribbean islands are divided into the Greater and Lesser Antilles and the Bahamas. Cuba belongs together with Jamaica, Hispaniola (with the states Dominican Republic and Haiti) and Puerto Rico to the Greater Antilles. The arch of the island chain creates a connection between the two continental blocks of North and South America. If you look at the heights from the sea floor, the Caribbean islands represent a very powerful mountain range with height differences of around 12,500 m (between the highest point at 3,175 m and the lowest point at -9,219 m).
According to 800zipcodes, Cuba is located in the south of the Tropic of Capricorn (23 ° 17 ‘to 19 ° 49’ north latitude, the capital Havanne is thus at a geographical latitude similar to Calcutta (India) or Aswan (Egypt)). Together with the numerous smaller islands on the Cuban shelf, the archipelago covers 110,860 km². While the length is 1,250 km, only 32 to 145 km are reached in width. The neighboring Antilles Islands are 77 km (Hispaniola) and 140 km (Jamaica) away. Florida, USA is 180 km away, with Key West only 140 km away. Yucatan (Mexico) is 210 km to the west of Cuba. In contrast to the other islands of the Greater Antilles, which are very mountainous, the surface of Cuba is characterized by wide plains, only interrupted by four mountain ranges.
Coasts and waters
In the northwest, Cuba has a portion of the Gulf of Mexico, while the entire northern coast lies on the Atlantic. The southern coast is on the Caribbean. The north coast is mostly rocky, due to the constant uplift of the island you can also find cliffs. The south coast with sandy beaches, mangroves and swamps (on the Zapata Peninsula), on the other hand, is relatively flat and can be compared to the Everglades in Florida.
Of the 200 Cuban rivers, none is longer than 250 kilometers. The heavy deforestation and the increase of monocultures are responsible for the decreasing amount of water in the rivers. The most important river in Cuba, the Río Cauto, was still navigable at the beginning of the settlement by Europeans, today it is only a sluggish, barely flowing body of water. Another problem in Cuban waters is the heavy herbage.
About 75 percent of the country’s area are relatively monotonous plains that are between 0 and 100 m in height. Where fertile soils permit, large areas of sugar cane are usually grown. On infertile soils, only extensive pasture use is worthwhile. These pastures have been overgrown with bushes for several decades.
The east is Cuba’s most mountainous region. The highest peaks of the island are here in the Sierra Maestra, the highest point in Cuba at 1,974 m (and one of the highest points in the Caribbean) is reached on the Pico Turquino. Other large elevations are: Pico Martí (1,722 m) and La Gran Piedra (1,214 m). Further to the northeast is the Sagua-Baracoa massif. In the north of the mountains there is a tropical rainforest, in the south there is a dry plain. Guantanamo is the driest region in Cuba.
Central Cuba is home to the Sancti-Spiritus and the Escambray Mountains. Central Cuba is, however, characterized by extensive plains. Originally covered with forest, it was completely cut down and used for sugar cane cultivation.
The province of Pinar del Río represents the western region of Cuba. The Guaniguanico massif is the most striking landscape. It is divided into two mountain ranges – the Sierra del Rosario and the Sierra de los Organos. The Sierra del Rosario is geologically diverse with numerous different rocks. The highest point in western Cuba with 692 m, Pan de Guajaibón is located here.
The relief of the Sierra de los Organos can be divided into flat areas between 100 and 130 m, eroded hills of the Pizarras and summit areas of the Kalksierren between 400 and 500 m.
The south of the province of Pinar del Rio has flat coastal areas with mangroves.
This is followed by an approximately 10 to 25 km wide pine woodland on white sand. Originally there was loose forest here, but this is increasingly degraded by intensive grazing, large areas are already covered by open vegetation such as palm savannah or pine-palm grassland.
The following hilly, wooded landscape on slate and sandstone is called Pizarras or Lomas.
This is followed by the cone karst mountains and fertile valleys of the Sierra de los Organos. A well-known valley is the Valle de Viñales.
Further north, pizarras and palm savannahs appear again. A wide mangrove line stretches along the coast and there are small islands in the sea, the cayos.