Switzerland was pretty flat a few million years ago. This was until the plates started moving, creating the Alps as we know them today. What is left of earth’s sliding and shifting is a unique geography with hundreds of valleys, river sources, lakes and peaks.
Here are some interesting facts and figures about Switzerland’s lakes and mountains:
For a landlocked country, 1500 lakes is not too shabby.
Some lakes are more special than others, such as the largest lake in the Alpine region (Lake Geneva) and the largest body of water contained within Switzerland (Lake Neuchâtel). Among the smallest lakes are Lago di Poschiavo and Oeschinensee.
Switzerland’s land mass is only 0.4 percent that of Europe, but the country holds 6 percent of the continent’s fresh water reserves.
40 percent of water originates from snow melt (“discharge”), and barely 2 percent from the melting of glaciers.
For the most part, the fresh water is so clear that you can drink out of rivers and lakes. And if you cannot see the bottom of a lake, it is considered dirty.
Switzerland has more high peaks than any other country in Europe: 48 that are above 4000 meters.
In fact, mountains cover a whopping 60 percent of Switzerland’s land area.
If Switzerland’s surface were flattened out like a pancake, the country would be 12.5 percent larger.”
With all these mountains, does it surprise that Switzerland has over 60’000 km of signposted hiking trails?
The highest railway station in Europe is in Switzerland, on top of the Jungfraujoch at 3454 meters.
Switzerland has nearly 5000 cable cars, inclines and ski lifts.
For those who want to take the stairs, the world’s longest staircase with 11’674 steps leads up to Mt. Niesen in the Bernese Alps.
Europe’s highest wind farm is on the Nufenen Pass at 2500 meters above sea. As of this writing, there are just 37 wind turbines in all of Switzerland.
(Photograph courtesy of Paul Hilliard)
Although the Alps are generally associated with Switzerland, they also stretch through the following countries: Austria and Slovenia in the east, through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west.
And a lot of the mountains contain hollowed out bunkers for army and civilian protection in the event of an attack.
The world’s longest railway tunnel is in Switzerland. It measures 57.1 km and the construction took 17 years.
The Swiss are so clean, they even wash their tunnels! You gotta see it to believe it…
(Photograph copyright Atelier mécanique Vincent Bourguet)
The Matterhorn has got to be the most iconic mountain in Switzerland. Have you added a visit to Zermatt to your bucket list yet?
Now, download our e-book with 77 interesting facts about Switzerland:
(Sources: Surface area of Switzerland by swisstopo.ch, Mountains above 4000 m by Wikipedia, land area by Wikipedia, cable car statistic by seilbahninventar.ch, Mt. Niesen on Wikipedia, Water discharge stats and water sources)