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Cuba is the largest and western most island of the Antilles, strategically situated at the entrance to the Golf of Mexico. Its coast is washed by the Caribbean Sea on the south and by the Atlantic Ocean and Golf of Mexico on the north.
Cuba is actually an archipelago comprised by the island of Cuba (104, 945 km² - 40, 520 mi²), Isle of Youth (2, 200 km² - 850 mi²) and approximately 4,195 keys and islands (3, 715 km² -1 435 mi²). The total area of the country is 110, 860 km² (42, 830 mi²), which is located at 20º 12' 36'' and 23º 17' '09'' north latitude and 80º 53' 55''- 84º 57' 54'' de west longitude. Only Cuba and the Isle of Youth have the necessary conditions for a permanent habitation. The island is of 1,250 km long (780 miles) from east to west, with an average width ranging from 32 to 210 km (20-131 miles) from north to south and approximately 5,800 km of coastline. Cuba has often been compared to a crocodile, due to its long and narrow configuration, as a result of which the soothing cool effect of the trade winds can be felt throughout the country.
The territory is predominantly flat, especially in the western and central region. Approximately 75% of the country consists of plains interrupted by three mountain chains in the western, central and eastern regions of the island. The plains are actually quite flat or slightly undulated by the presence of hill less than 100 m above sea level. Practically all of the population of the country inhabits these regions, where most of the economic activity is located, with the exception of the Zapata swampland in Matanzas and Guanahacabibes peninsula in Pinar del Rio.
Cuba’s geography is made up of extensive fertile plains broken by three mountain ranges. Most of the land is devoted to cattle grazing and to the cultivation of sugarcane, coffee and tobacco, while the mountainous areas in the western, central and eastern regions represent 25% of the national territory. Cuba’s highest mountain is Pico Turquino (1 972 m). Due to the configuration of the island (long and narrow), most of the rivers are small with low volumes of water. The longest river Rio Cauto (370 km) however is not navigable although the Toa River holds the largest volume of water.