What are the Differences Between Mountain and Plateau

Difference Between Mountain and Plateau

Mountains and plateaus are classified based on elevation and slope.

According to the Oxford dictionary, the meaning of mountain and plateau is –

A large natural elevation of the earth’s surface rising abruptly from the surrounding level; a large steep hillAn area of flat land that is higher than the land around it


Snow-capped mountains look like an inverted cone covered in cream

Kukenan Tepui Plateau

Plateau is a table-like structure elevated above the surrounding area

Both mountains and plateaus are elevated landforms.

Movements in the tectonic plate due to geologic activity makes them collide. With the process of folding, faulting metamorphism, volcanic activity, and igneous intrusion, mountains are formed.

On the other hand, plateaus are formed by upwelling of volcanic magma, lava extrusion, and erosion caused by glaciers and water.

The mountains are usually taller than plateaus although some plateaus are higher than mountains. Mountains have steep slopes and harsh climates because of which the human population is scarce.

Plateaus look like large tables because of flat (not entirely) terrains. Their elevation is usually less steep than that of a mountain. The summit of a plateau is leveled. Mountains are the elevation of steep slopes while plateaus are elevated plains. Plateaus are rich in minerals.

Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world. Tibetan Plateau, also known as the Roof of the World, is the largest plateau in the world. The oldest plateau is the Deccan plateau situated in India.

Some of the famous mountains in the world are –

  • Mount Everest (Nepal)
  • Mount K2 (Pakistan)
  • Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)
  • Mount Fuji (Japan)
  • Mount Lhotse (Nepal)

Mount Everest

Some of the famous plateaus in the world are –

  • Kukenan Tepui (Venezuela)
  • Island in the Sky (USA)
  • Tibetan Plateau (Tibet/China)
  • Table Mountain (South Africa)
  • Bogota Plateau (Columbia)

Island in the Sky

The significant differences and features of mountains and plateaus are explained below.

Mountain is an elevated landform.Plateau is an elevated flat land that is different from the surrounding plains.
Mountain generally has a cone-shaped structure.Plateau looks like a large table.
Mountains have steep slopes with a pointy summit.Plateaus have inclined slopes. The top of a plateau is a flat expanse of land.
Mountains are the highest natural landscapes.Plateaus are short as well as high. Some of the plateaus are very tall.
Barberton Greenstone Belt situated in South Africa is the oldest mountain range in the world.Deccan plateau in India is considered to be the oldest plateau in the world.
The Himalayas is the highest mountain range in the world that includes the tallest mountain in the world, Mount Everest.Tibet plateau is the highest plateau in the world. Its height ranges from 4,000-6,000 meters.
The climate gets colder as one goes up. The base of a mountain is warmer than its summit.The climate is comparatively dry and moderate in the plateaus.
The mountains are a natural reservoir of water, holding millions of tonnes of clean water in the form of ice and snow.Plateaus are rich in mineral deposits.
Due to the harsh climate, fewer people reside in the mountains.Many cities have settled on the plateaus. Irrigation is also easier.
Mountains are relatively difficult to climb. They have been the place of exotic scenery and provide various forms of challenges to adventure seekers.Plateaus are known for their scenic beauty. Tourists flock to the top of plateaus all around the world.

Mountain and Plateau

To conclude, the major difference between a mountain and a plateau is its shape.

Mountains are pointy or curvy on the top with the shape of a cone, whereas, plateaus look like a large table on the surface of the earth. They both are important because of their contrasting geography along with the diverse features.