The Great Rift Valley traverses Malawi from north to south. In this deep trough lies Lake Malawi, the third-largest lake in Africa.
The Shire River flows from the south end of that lake and joins the Zambezi River 249 mi (400 km) farther south in Mozambique.
In the west the land forms high plateaus, generally between 2,953 and 3,937 ft (900 and 1,200 m) above sea level. In the north, the Nyika Uplands rise as high as 8,530 ft (2,600 m).
To the east of the Shire River the land rises to an elevation of 5,249 ft (1,600 m), and eventually to the country's highest point, Sapitwa Peak at 9,852 ft (3,003 m) near the Mozambique border.
In the extreme south, the elevation is just slightly above sea level. It is there that Malawi's lowest point sits at the junction of the Shire River and the border of Mozambique, 121 ft (37 m).