Switzerland is one of the most mountainous countries of Europe. More than 70 % of its area is covered by the Alps, in the central and southern regions, and the Jura, in the northwest. The Swiss Alps are part of the largest mountain system in Europe and are famous for their jagged peaks and steep-sided valleys.
The Swiss Alps encompass several mountain ranges, three of which are particularly noteworthy. The Pennine Alps, which form a part of Switzerland’s southwestern border with Italy, have Switzerland’s highest peak, the 4,634 m Dufourspitze, one of ten lofty summits of the Monte Rosa mountain group. Nearby is the world famous Matterhorn, a 4,478m glacially sculpted mountain, and the 4,545 m Dom, the tallest mountain located entirely within Switzerland. The Bernese Alps, which straddle the border between the cantons of Bern and Valais, have many of Switzerland’s most famous peaks.
These include the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau, mountains that tower above the resort town of Interlaken. The Rhaetian Alps, which form part of the eastern border with Italy, contain Piz Bernina and neighboring peaks in the Saint Moritz area.
The Jura are much lower than the Alps and occupy a smaller area. They are generally rounded and naturally wooded, with many cleared areas used as pastureland for dairying. The highest peaks in the Swiss Jura are Chasseron and Chasseral, located some 50 km apart, each rising to a height of 1,607 m.
Between these two mountain systems lies the Swiss Plateau, or Mittelland, a basin that stretches across much of central Switzerland. It extends from Lake Geneva in the far southwest to the Bodensee (Lake of Constance) in the far northeast. A region about 50 km wide with an average elevation of about 400 m above sea level, the plateau consists of gently-to-moderately rolling terrain punctuated by hills. Most of Switzerland’s large towns and about three-quarters of the Swiss population are located in this region. The plateau contains many lakes and rivers, as well as Switzerland’s most fertile soils.
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