The Swiss Confederation, located in west central Europe, is bounded on the north by France and Germany, on the east by Austria and Liechtenstein, on the south by Italy and on the west by France. The country´s area is 41 285 km2.

Switzerland is extremely mountainous, with more than 70 percent of its area covered by the Alps, in the central and southern sections, and the Jura, in the north-west. The Swiss Alps are famous for their jagged peaks and steep gorges and rise to 4 634 m at Switzerland´s highest peak, the Dufourspitze of Monte Rosa. Glaciers occur as low as 1 070 m. The Jura are much lower and smaller. They consist of a series of parallel ridges that are separated by narrow valleys.

Between these two mountain ranges lies the hilly Swiss plateau, about 400 to 600 m above sea level. About 50 km wide, it extends from Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) in the extreme south-west to the Bodensee (Lake Constance) in the extreme north-east.

The principal river system is formed by the Rhine and its tributaries. Other important rivers are the Rhône, Ticino, and Inn. Ancient glaciers formed many beautiful lakes. Lake Geneva, Bodensee, Lake Lugano, and Lake Maggiore are only partially within Switzerland, while Lake Neuchâtel, Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstätter See) and Zürichsee, Brienzersee, and Thunersee are entirely within Switzerland.

On the plateau and lower valleys of Switzerland a temperate climate prevails, with a mean annual temperature of about 10° C. January temperatures average from -2 to 1° C while July temperatures average from 18 to 21° C. The temperature is much colder at higher elevations, decreasing about 2° C for every additional 300 m of elevation. Precipitation on the plateau and in the lower valleys is about 1 000 mm annually with higher regions generally receiving more, much of it in the form of winter snow.

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

last updated:  Monday, May 28, 2012