Geography of Switzerland


Terrain shapes and bedrock

According to COUNTRYAAH, Switzerland is largely mountainous and high, with an average height of 1,350 m above sea level. A wealth of different types of habitat exists, and three major landform regions can be discerned.

At the far north-west stretches the arcuate and narrow mountain range of the Jura Mountains, whose main part falls within Switzerland. It consists of 1,200-1,600 m high ridges of fossil-rich limestone and marble, separated by broad valleys. They are folded in connection with the alpine mountain range tour.

More than half of Switzerland’s area belongs to the Alps, which occupy the southern and eastern parts. The mountain range has a central zone of crystalline rocks and overlays of sandstones, limestones and marble. A deep depression, with the upper course of the Rhone and the Rhine, separates the southern and northern Alps. South of it rises in the western Pennine Alps with the highest peaks in Switzerland, Dufourspitze in the Monte Rosa massif (4,634 m asl) and Matterhorn (4,478 m asl), known for its magnificent scenery. To the east is marked the Lepontic Alps, with The St. Gotthard Massif, and the Rathi Alps. North of the sink is in the western Bernal Alps, with Finsteraarhorn (4,274 m asl) and Jungfrau (4 158 m asl) and to the east the Glarner Alps. There is also an important watershed area, from where the Rhône flows to the west, the Rhine to the east, Ticino to the south and Reuss to the north.

To the north lies Mittelland, a wavy plateau between Lake Geneva and Lake Constance. It is made up of sedimentary rocks. Glaciers have deposited large amounts of moraine during the ice ages and eroded valleys and streams, where deep, long-narrow lakes now exist. Lake Thun, Vierwaldstätters Lake and Lake Zurich. The largest lakes are Lake Geneva, Lake Constance and Lake Neuchâtel.


According to BRIDGAT, Switzerland has a transitional climate that is governed by Atlantic air masses from the west, continental from the east, Mediterranean air from the south and central Europe’s low pressure from the north. The country can be divided into four characteristic climatic regions: the southern country, the Alps, Mittelland and the Jura mountains.

The warmest region lies farthest to the south with the Alps to the north, which have warm summers and in low-lying terrain relatively mild winters.

In the  Alps, the climate variation is large due to significant local elevation differences. In winter, cold air in the valleys accumulates with frost, fog or low clouds as a result. At mountain peaks above the cloud cover, it can be sunny and pleasant in warm weather. During the summer, the situation is the opposite: the mountains are often chilly and cloudy and the sun and heat are found in the valleys. In the Alps, the wind gusts can be strong, especially in winter on the northern side of the mountain range in valleys that run in a north-south direction. This very dry fall wind when it reaches the valleys can raise the temperature by 15-20 °C with rapid snow melting and avalanches as a result.

In the central plateau Mittelland, winter is cold and low clouds or fog is common, and cold with snowfall can be for several weeks. The summer is warm but the rainfall is quite plentiful; in Zurich, the average fall is approximately 130 mm per month during the summer.

The Jura mountains at the far west are more rainy than Mittelland and can have snow cover over long periods. The summers are cloudy and rainier.

The summer temperature averages 20 °C in the valleys, about 17 °C in Mittelland and 0-10 °C in the altitude areas. During winter, the average temperature is about 2 °C in the valleys, about 0 °C in Mittelland and about −10 °C in the altitude areas.

The annual rainfall averages 800–1,500 mm in the northern parts of the country, in the Rhone valley less than 500 mm and in the Alps 2,000–3,000 mm.

Plant Life

Despite its small size, Switzerland has close to 3,500 species of higher plants. The calcareous bedrock makes it possible to find e.g. several in Sweden very rare orchid species, such as big-bodied, brown-bellied and smell-spore. The forests are dominated in the northern parts of the country, around Mittelland and Jura, by noble spruce, beech and oak blend forest with eg. bohuslind, chestnut, avenue and sweet cherries; where you also find eg medical concrete and in their places also Christmas roses and cyclamen. In the more rainy climate of the Jura mountains, tall mosses are formed, in which northern species such as dwarf birch, string thistle and marshland occur. Further south, in the Central and Southern Alps, there are at lower altitude spruce forests with elements of larch.

Above the tree line you will find shrub vegetation with low rock numbers as well as rhododendrons and other heather plants. At even higher altitudes, lush alpine mountains with very rich flora of, among other things, are spreading. grass, pine root, mountain sip, gentian, drab, vivre, ranuncle and orchid. Species such as paradise lily and mountain bridges are particularly noticeable in the Southern Alps. The best known of the alp flowers is probably edelweiss, a species that in Switzerland has in spread but which often grows in inaccessible places.


Wildlife is dominated by alpine species, many of which are glacial relics with main extensions in the mountains of Northern Europe (compare Alps, Plant and Wildlife). In the south there are also Mediterranean species, e.g. the bird polyglot singer, a scorpion of the genus Euscoʹrpius and the spider foot Scutiʹgera coleoptraʹta. Among the alpine animals, which are largely above the tree line, can be mentioned alpine goat, gems, alpine marmot, stone hen, alpine quay, alp crow, masonry creeper, alps salamander and aspis viper. At the lakes, mainly in Mittelland, there are among other things. dwarf tube room and red-headed diving duck.

Nature conservation

In Switzerland (2012) there is a national park in the eastern part of the Alps (Parc Naziunal Svizers). Otherwise there are a large number of hunting reserves, areas with protected landscapes and nature reserves, all of which are administered by the individual cantons.