Switzerland lies in the heart of Europe. Its 41,285km2 surface area can be divided into three distinct geographical regions, including the Alps. They cover two thirds of the country, but only one tenth of the population lives there. Switzerland also shares its borders with five countries and has 6% of Europe's freshwater reserves.
Geography – Facts and Figures
Switzerland lies in the heart of Europe. It shares its 1,935km-long border with five countries: Italy, France, Germany, Austria and the Principality of Liechtenstein.
Switzerland can be divided into three distinct geographical regions. The Alps cover roughly 58% of the country, the Central Plateau around 31% and the Jura 11%. It has 49 four-thousanders – mountain peaks that are 4,000 metres or higher. The Alps cover most of the country, but only 11% of the population live there.
Settlement areas cover 7.5% of Switzerland's territory. These include areas given over to housing, infrastructure (trade, industry and transport), water and energy supply, wastewater disposal, as well as green and recreational spaces. Around 40% of Swiss land is used for agriculture, while roughly 30% is covered by forest and woodland. Much of the natural forest re-growth in Switzerland is on former mountain pastures.
Switzerland has around 1,500 lakes which, together with other bodies of water like streams and lakes, account for 4% of the country's surface area. The sources of four of Switzerland’s main rivers – the Rhine, Rhone, Reuss and Ticino – are in the Gotthard massif, in the heart of the Swiss Alps.
The country has 6% of Europe's freshwater reserves. The source of major European rivers like the Rhone, Rhine and Inn is in the Swiss Alps. The Ticino river is a tributary of the Po (Italy), while the Inn flows into the Danube (Germany).
Geography of Switzerland – Key facts and figures
- Switzerland measures 220km from north to south and 348km from west to east.
- Standing 4,634m above sea level, the Dufourspitze, part of the Monte Rosa massif, is the highest peak in Switzerland.
- The canton of Graubünden has more than 1,200 mountain peaks that are at least 2,000m high.
- Switzerland has 48 mountain peaks that are at least 4,000m high.
- Lake Maggiore, which is only 193m above sea level, is the lowest point in Switzerland.
- At 3,454m above sea level, the Jungfraujoch railway station, in the canton of Bern, is the highest in Europe.
- At 2,126m above sea level, Juf, in the canton of Graubünden, is Switzerland’s highest village.
- Around 20% of the Alps are in Switzerland.
- Stretching over 23km, the Aletsch Glacier in the canton of Valais is the longest glacier in Europe.
- Glaciers cover approximately 1,000 km2 of Switzerland's territory.
Between 1985 and 2009, they shrank by as much as 390km2.
- The Monte Rosa Hut stands at 2,883m above sea level and is surrounded by glaciers and the imposing peaks of the Valais Alps.
- Switzerland is home to 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They include the Jungfrau–Aletsch region, Monte San Giorgio and the Albula and Bernina lines of the Rhaetian Railways.