Landforms are the natural physical features of the earth’s terrain. They can range from very small in size, such as the grooves on rock surfaces, to the massive mountain ranges and ocean basins. All seven continents are home to many distinct landforms, such as mountains, plains and rivers.
Asia covers an area of more than 17 million square miles -- 29.8 percent of the world’s land area -- making it the world’s largest continent. It is home to the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest, which is the highest peak of the Himalaya Mountains, the largest mountain range on earth. Asia is also home to one of the world’s largest deserts, the Gobi Desert, located on a plateau that ranges in height from 3,000 to 5,000 feet. Other notable landforms include the Caspian Sea, the largest lake on the planet.
Africa, the second-largest continent, is home to the Sahara Desert, the world’s largest non-polar desert. Vast plain, plateaus and mountain ranges are located throughout Africa, including the Atlas Mountains, Tebesti Mountains and the Ethiopian Highlands. Additional major landforms include the continent’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro, the Sinai Peninsula, which connects Africa to Asia and the island of Madagascar, the world’s fourth-largest island.
The third largest continent, North America, is home to one of the world’s largest plains, the Great Plains. The Great Plains cover an area of nearly 502,000 square miles, stretching from the southern region of the United States to northwest Canada. North America is also home to several mountain ranges, including the Rocky Mountains of Canada and the United States, the Sierra Madres in Mexico, and the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States.
South America, the fourth-largest continent, makes up about 12 percent of the planet’s land area. It is divided into three distinct geological regions: The eastern region is made up of highlands and plateaus, the Andes Mountains span the west coast and the river plain makes up the northern region of the continent. Other notable landforms in South America include the world’s highest waterfall, Angel Falls and the world’s driest desert, the Atacama Desert.
The fifth-largest continent, Antarctica, is made up of mountains under its icy surface. The continent’s largest mountain range, the Transantarctic Mountains, divides the continent into two geographic regions: West Antarctica and East Antarctica. The western region is composed mainly of the Antarctic Peninsula, a glaciated mountain chain surrounded by small islands. East Antarctica is mostly made up of an ice sheet plateau and contains the world’s largest desert, the Maudlandia Desert, which covers a 2.5 million-square-mile area.
The eastern peninsula of Eurasia makes up the sixth-largest continent, Europe. Multiple mountain ranges span the continent, which is separated from Asia by the Ural Mountains. From the Atlantic Coast of central Europe to the Urals lies the great European plain. Europe is also home to four major peninsulas: the Kola, Scandinavian, Iberian and Balkan peninsulas.
Australia, the world’s smallest continent, is home to the world’s largest coral reef system, the Great Barrier Reef. More than 66 percent of the continent is made up of the Western Plateau, which encompasses three deserts. Several mountain ranges line the coasts of Australia with the Great Dividing Range spanning more than 2,100 miles along the entire east coast.