Venezuela has a total area of 916,445 sq km (353,841 sq mi), which makes it just over twice the size of the state of California. Along the north the country’s coastline extends for about 2,800 km (about 1,700 mi). The numerous recesses along the coast include the gulfs of Venezuela and Paria. The coast is generally narrow and steep except in the west, which has expanses of low and occasionally marshy land. Of the 72 coastal islands that belong to Venezuela, Margarita is the largest and most important.
Venezuela is bounded by Colombia to the west, Brazil to the south, and Guyana to the east. The country has four distinct geographic regions: the northern mountains, the Maracaibo lowlands, the Llanos (plains) of the north central region, and the Guiana Highlands to the south.
The northernmost ranges of the Andes extend into western Venezuela. The largely uninhabited Sierra de Perijá range forms the Colombia-Venezuela border. Peaks in these mountains reach elevations above 3,400 m (11,000 ft), with average crest heights about 2,400 m (8,000 ft). Heavily forested slopes descend from the highest peaks in a series of lesser ridges to the humid lowlands of Lake Maracaibo. The highest Andean range in Venezuela is the Cordillera de Mérida, which extends northeastward from the border with Colombia. Many of the peaks in this range have snow year round. The Cordillera de Mérida contain the country’s highest point, Pico Bolívar (5,007 m/16,427 ft).
A series of lower mountains runs parallel to Venezuela’s Caribbean coast for about two-thirds of its east-west length. Most of Venezuela’s people live along the coast or in the coastal mountains.
The Maracaibo lowlands are situated in the northwest corner of Venezuela and nearly enclosed by the mountains and highlands. Although they make up the smallest natural region of the country, they contain Venezuela’s second largest city, Maracaibo and the rich petroleum fields nearby.
Lake Maracaibo, an inland extension of the Gulf of Venezuela, dominates the Maracaibo lowlands. Lake Maracaibo is one of the largest lakes in South America, extending about 195 km (120 mi) in length. A narrow channel connects the northern end of the lake to the Gulf of Venezuela and the Caribbean Sea. In 1956 this channel was dredged so that oil tankers could pass through it. Oil fields are located along the shores of Lake Maracaibo. The southern lakeshore has a luxuriant tropical forest rising above swampy, insect-infested lagoons. Widely scattered sugarcane and cacao plantations occupy the better-drained soils in this area. "Venezuela" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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