Volcán Tajumulco is the tallest peak in Central America. Only one other peak, the Volcán Tacaná, is taller than 4,000 m. Eleven peaks in the region have an elevation greater than 3,000m and 24 peaks are taller than 2,000m. Nine of the 25 tallest Central American mountains are found in Honduras. Eight of the region’s tallest mountains are found in Guatemala, and the rest are found in Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua.
10 Tallest Peaks in Central America
The highest mountain in Central America, the Volcán Tajumulco, is 13,786 ft tall. The mountain is a stratovolcano that is part of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas range. The Volcán Tajumulco is located in Guatemala’s San Marcos department. There is little recorded history about the eruption of the volcano and its last eruption possibly occurred in the 18th or early 19th century. The area around this volcano has a low population with the nearest town being 14 km away. It takes five hours to summit the volcano from the Tuichán hamlet. Tour companies offer trips to the summit to tourists but acclimatization is necessary to reach the top of the tall volcano.
Central America’s second tallest mountain, the Tacaná Volcano stands tall at 13,320 ft. It is also a part of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas mountain range and stands at the border between Mexico and Guatemala. The stratovolcano’s last eruption happened in 1986 and it still poses a threat to life in the surrounding settlements. The most powerful eruption of the volcano is estimated to have happened in about 70 AD. The summit of the Tacaná Volcano features several lava domes and calderas. The area in and around the volcano is part of the Volcán Tacaná Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO biosphere reserve. It takes about 10 hours to summit the mountain from the base, and the hike to the top is one of the most scenic and interesting ones in Central America.
Located in Guatemala, near the Antigua city, is the stratovolcano named Acatenango. It features two peaks and is connected to another volcano, the Volcán de Fuego. The 13,045 ft tall volcano is known to have erupted in the 20th century but on a generally small scale. However, explosive eruptions possibly occurred thousands of years ago. The Acatenango is a source of threat to those living around the volcano as a possible future eruption could generate massive debris avalanches that could submerge large areas along the base of the volcano. Currently, hikes to the summit of the volcano is a major attraction in the region. However, hikes can be dangerous due to steep slopes and the possibility of a sudden eruption.
Sierra de los Cuchumatanes
The fourth tallest mountain in Central America is also the highest non-volcanic mountain in the region. The Sierra de los Cuchumatanes is 12,589 ft tall and is located in Guatemala. The mountain hosts a diversity of biomes with rich and unique biodiversity.
Costa Rica’s tallest mountain, the 12,533 ft tall Cerro Chirripó, is also the fifth tallest summit in Central America. The mountain is part of the Chirripó National Park and is noted for its rich biodiversity. High levels of endemism can also be observed here. The high peaks of this mountain and the surrounding mountains act like sky islands with their unique ecosystem and species diversity. Interestingly, on clear days one can observe the entire country of Costa Rica from coast to coast from the summit of the Cerro Chirripó. Climbing the mountain is possible, but a permit must be obtained by the region’s concerned authorities. The first to summit the peak was Agustin Blessing Presinger in 1904.
Volcán Santa María
The volcano is located in Guatemala’s Quetzaltenango Department. It is 12,375 ft tall and is a part of the Sierra Madre volcanic range. The volcano is believed to have started being active about 30,000 years back. The first recorded eruption of Volcán Santa María happened in October 1902. It was a massive disaster that claimed the lives of about 5,000 people.
Volcán de Agua
The 12,340 ft tall stratovolcano Volcán de Agua is located in Guatemala. The lower slopes of the volcano are famous for coffee cultivation. Although the volcano is not known to have erupted in recorded history, it has enough potential to produce a damaging eruption. The volcano has currently part of a protected area that covers an area of 12,600 hectares.
The eighth highest mountain in Central America, the Volcán Atitlán, is 11,604 ft tall. The stratovolcano is located in the highlands of Guatemala, where it forms a part of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas range. The Volcán Atitlán is active, with over a dozen eruptions taking place between 1469 and 1853. The volcano hosts two endemic species of birds, the horned guan and the azure-rumped tanager.
Montañas Peña Blanca
The mountain is Central America’s ninth highest peak. It is 11,542 ft tall and is located in Guatemala. From the nearby La Libertad village, one can get a clear view of the summit. The trail to the summit starts an La Cruz, and ascends past several small farms located near the base of the mountain. Although the slope is quite steep near the bottom of the mountain, especially near La Libertad, the slope is more gentle near the top.
The active stratovolcano of Volcán Barú is located in Panama. The mountain is 11,401 ft high and is thus the tenth tallest mountain in Central America. Although the summit of the volcano is generally ice free, ice pellets or hail has been recorded at the summit on some occasions. The volcano is part of the Volcán Barú National Park and is famous for its rich birdlife. Five species of big cats and over 250 species of birds live here.