Difference Between Plain and Plateau

Main Difference – Plain vs Plateau

Plains and plateaus are both flat areas of land; the main difference between plain and plateau lies in their elevation. A plateau is a flat land that is raised significantly above the ground whereas plain is a flat, low-lying area. Let us discuss the difference between plain and plateau further in this article.

What is a Plain

A plain is a flat, low-lying area. They are one of the major landforms on earth and they cover more than one-third of the earth’s land area. Plains can be found in lowlands, at the bottom of valleys, and on top of plateaus. Plains can be formed by many different methods such as erosion, the movement of rivers, volcanic activity, etc. the Great Plains in North America, Tabasco Plain in Mexico, plains of Sichuan in  China are some examples of plains. It is worthy to note that many pains, like Great Plains in North America, are grasslands. Plains can be classified into several types based on their structures and formations. Given below are some of these classifications.

Coastal plain is an area of flat, low-lying land adjacent to a seacoast.

Alluvial plain is a plain formed over a long period of time by a river depositing sediment on its flood plain.

Floodplain is a flat area beside a stream or river that is subject to flooding.

Plains play a major role in agriculture because plains where the soils were deposited as sediments may be deep and fertile, and the flatness of the land facilitates mechanization of crop production. Grasslands provide good grazing for livestock.Difference Between Plain and Plateau

What is a Plateau

A plateau is a flat land that is raised significantly above the ground. Plateaus are also known as high plains, tablelands or flat-topped mountains. It differs from a mountain as a mountain’s top is peaked or jagged. Plateaus, as explained above, have flat tops. A plateau can be formed by a number of processes; they can be formed when a large segment of earth is pushed up from the earth due to volcanic movements or when the top of mountains are worn down by erosion.

The Tibetan Plateau is the largest and the highest plateau on earth. When a plateau is very high in altitude, it has a very cold and bleak climate, their living conditions are thus harsh. Plateaus at lower elevations offer more positive living conditions.

Some plateaus on earth are so high in altitude that their climate is very harsh, and living conditions are bleak. Tibetan Plateau is the highest and the largest plateau in the world. Plateaus at lower elevations offer more favorable living conditions. The grasslands in plateaus are used for grazing animals.

Plateaus can be classified into various types according to their formation and surroundings. Given below are some classifications and examples.

Intermontane plateaus –  bordered by mountains on all sides.

Ex:  Altiplano in the Andes, the Tibetan plateau

Continental plateaus – bordered on all sides by the sea or plains

Piedmont plateaus – bordered on one side by the plains or sea and on the other side by mountains.

Volcanic plateaus – produced by volcanic activityMain Difference - Plain vs  Plateau

Difference Between Plain and Plateau


Plain is an un-raised flat area.

Plateau is a raised area of land with a flat top.


A plateau rises abruptly from the surrounding area.

The slope of the plain is gradual and not abrupt.

Living Conditions

Plains generally have favorable living conditions and have many uses.

Plateaus offer harsh and bleak living conditions.

Alternative names

Plain is called lowlands.

Plateau is called high plains, tabletops or flat-topped mountains.


The soil in a plain is typically fertile and supports agriculture.

The climate at the top of the plateau may not be supportive towards agriculture.Difference Between Plain and Plateau-

Image Courtesy:

Carizzo plain spring flowers in bloom 7″ by Alan Vernon – Flickr: Carizzo plain spring flowers in bloom……7. (CC BY 2.0) via Wikimedia Commons 

“Narrow Neck Plateau in the rain” by Poyt448 Peter Woodard – Own work. (CC0) via Commons

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