The Alps

The Swiss Alps lie to the south of the country and stretch from the Austrian border in the east to Lake Geneva in the west.

Dents de Bertol in the Valais Alps
The Dents de Bertol in the Alps of the canton of Valais at sunset. The snow is covered with sand from the Sahara carried over by the southerly winds. © Neil Harrison

The Alps cover roughly 60% of Switzerland’s surface area and have shaped the country’s identity since time immemorial. Despite this, the Plateau remains the country’s economic epicentre, and only 11% of the population live in the Alps. The myriad mountain passes through the Swiss Alps have long been important transport routes. 

The Swiss Alps have 48 peaks that are more than 4,000 metres above sea level. Standing 4,634 metres (15,000 feet) above sea level, Dufour Peak, part of the Monte Rosa massif, is the highest summit in Switzerland. 

Forests and woodlands cover some 23% of the area in the central Alps and 49.1% south of the Alps. Almost 97% of wooded areas created between 1985 and 2009 are in the Alps. There is relatively little agricultural land in the Alps (18.4% of the western central Alps, 12.7% south of the Alps and 30.3% of the eastern central Alps).