|Switzerland is a small, landlocked, mountainous
country in Western Europe. It is bordered by Germany to the north, by Austria
and the principality of Liechtenstein to the east, by Italy to the south
and by France to the west.
Switzerland has three major geographical areas: the Jura Mountains, the Mittelland (Middle Land), and the Alps. The Jura Mountains straddle the border with France in the northwest. The Mittelland is an area of hills, rivers and winding valleys in the central part of the country. It is the most heavily populated and industrialized region of Switzerland. The Alps occupy the central and southern regions of the country. There is also a small region known as the Ticino in the southernmost part of the country.
|About a hundred of Switzerland's mountain peaks
are close to or higher than 4,000 metres. The Dufour summit (4,634 metres)
of Mount Rosa is the highest, although the Matterhorn (4,478 metres) is
more well known. There are also more than 3,000 square kilometres of glaciers
Water is Switzerland's richest resource. The country has thousands of streams and rivers and more than 1,500 lakes. Lake Geneva is the largest. Many rivers have been dammed to drive water turbines for power plants. Some of Europe's largest rivers, including the Rhine and the Rhone, originate in Switzerland.
|Switzerland's climate varies according to altitude.
The Ticino in the south has a Mediterranean climate, but most of the country
has a central European climate, with warm summers and cold winters. The
is often covered by a dense blanket of fog during the late fall. The only
areas in Switzerland with permanent snow and ice are the high peaks in
Forests occupy about a quarter of the country. Beech and oak trees predominate in the forests of the Mittelland and in the alpine valleys. At higher altitudes, spruce and fir grow in moist areas, and pine and larch grow in the drier regions. Palm trees grow along the shores of Lake Lugano in the Ticino. Beautiful flowers such as gentian, edelweiss, Alpine poppies, columbine and mountain valerian grow in the mountains during the spring and early summer.
|The most famous and distinctive alpine
animals are the ibex (a mountain goat with curved horns), the marmot (a
small rodent like the groundhog), and the chamois (a horned antelope).
Many wild animals still roam the Mittelland and Jura Mountains,
especially deer, fox and rabbits. Bears and wolves were once plentiful
in Switzerland, but today they are almost extinct.