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Swiss Alps

Swiss Alps

The Swiss Alps (German: Schweizer Alpen, French: Alpes suisses, Italian: Alpi svizzere, Romansh: Alps svizras) are the portion of the Alps mountain range that lies within Switzerland. Because of their central position within the entire Alpine range, they are also known as the Central Alps. The highest summit in the Swiss Alps is Monte Rosa (4,634 metres (15,202 ft)) near the Swiss-Italian border. The highest mountain which lies entirely on Swiss territory is the Dom (4,545 metres (14,911 ft)). Other main summits can be found in the list of mountains in Switzerland.


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Since the Middle Ages, transit across the Alps played an important role in history. The region north of the St. Gotthard Pass became the nucleus of the Swiss Confederacy in the early 14th century.

Geography:The Alps cover 65% of Switzerland's surface area (41,285 km2), making it one of the most alpine countries. Despite the fact that Switzerland covers only 14% of the Alps total area (192,753 km2),many alpine four-thousanders (48 of 82) are located in the Swiss Alps and the remaining few are within 20 km of the country's border.

Swiss Alps

Swiss Alps

The glaciers of the Swiss Alps cover an area of 1230 km2 (3% of the Swiss territory), representing 44% of the total glaciated area in the Alps (2800 km2).

The Swiss Alps are situated south of the Swiss plateau and north of the national border. The limit between the Alps and the plateau runs from Vevey on the shores of Lake Geneva to Rorschach on the shores of Lake Constance, passing close to the cities of Thun and Lucerne. The countries with which Switzerland shares mountain ranges of the Alps are (from west to east): France, Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein.

The Alps are usually divided into two main parts, the Western Alps and Eastern Alps, whose division is along the Rhine from Lake Constance to the Splugen Pass. The western ranges occupy the greatest part of Switzerland while the more numerous eastern ranges are much smaller and are all situated in the canton of Graubunden. The latter are part of the Central Eastern Alps, except the Ortler Alps which belong to the Southern Limestone Alps. The Pennine, Bernese and Bernina Range are the highest ranges of the country, they contain respectively 38, 9 and 1 summit over 4000 metres. The lowest range is the Appenzell Alps culminating at 2,500 metres.

Swiss Alps

Swiss Alps

Rivers:The north side of the Swiss Alps is drained by the Rhone, Rhine and Inn river (which is part of the Danube basin) while the south side is mainly drained by the Ticino river (Po basin). The rivers on the north empty into the Mediterranean, North and Black Sea, on the south the Po empty in the Adriatic Sea. The major triple watersheds in the Alps are located within the country, they are: Piz Lunghin, Witenwasserenstock and Monte Forcola. Between the Witenwasserenstock and Piz Lunghin runs the European Watershed separating the basin of the Atlantic (North Sea) and the Mediterranean Sea (Adriatic and Black Sea). The European watershed lies in fact only partially on the main chain. Switzerland possesses 6% of Europe's fresh water, and is sometimes referred to as the "water tower of Europe".

Lakes:Since the highest dams are located in Alpine regions, many large mountain lakes are artificial and are used as hydroelectric reservoirs. Some large artificial lakes can be found above 2,300 m, but natural lakes larger than 1 km2 are generally below 1,000 m (with the exceptions of lakes in the Engadin such as Lake Sils, and Oeschinen in the Bernese Oberland). The melting of low-altitude glaciers can generate new lakes, such as the 0.25 km2 large Triftsee which formed between 2002-2003.

Travel and tourism:Tourism in the Swiss Alps began with the first ascents of the main peaks of the Alps (Jungfrau in 1811, Piz Bernina in 1850, Monte Rosa in 1855, Matterhorn in 1856, Dom in 1858, Weisshorn in 1861) mostly by British mountain climbers accompanied by the local guides. The construction of facilities for tourists started in the mid nineteenth century with the building of hotels and mountain huts (creation of the Swiss Alpine Club in 1863) and the opening of mountain train lines (Mount Rigi in 1873, Mount Pilatus in 1889, Gornergrat in 1898). The Jungfraubahn opened in 1912; it leads to the highest train station in Europe, the Jungfraujoch.

Swiss Alps

Swiss Alps

Summer tourism: Switzerland enjoys a 62,000-km network of well-maintained trails, of which 23,000 are located in mountainous areas. Many mountains attract a large number of alpinists from around the world, especially the 4000-metre summits and the great north faces. The large winter resorts are also popular destinations in summer, as most of aerial tramways operate through the year, enabling hikers and mountaineers to reach high altitudes without much effort. The Klein Matterhorn is the highest summit of the European continent to be served by cable car.

Winter tourism: Highest ski area in Europe above ZermattThe major destinations for skiing and other winter sports are located in Valais, Bernese Oberland and Graubunden. Some villages are car-free and can be accessed only with public transports such as Riederalp and Bettmeralp. Zermatt and Saas-Fee have both summer ski areas.

Transport: The Swiss Alps and Switzerland enjoy an extensive transportation network. Every mountain village can be reached by public transport, the main companies are: Federal Railway ,Rhaetian Railway ,Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn ,Golden Pass PostBus

Most of mountain regions are within 3 hours travel of Switzerland's main cities and their respective airport. The Engadin Valley in Graubunden is between 4 to 6 hours away from the large cities; the train journey itself, with the panoramic Glacier Express or Bernina Express, is popular with tourists.

Swiss Alps

Swiss Alps

The Engadin Airport near St. Moritz at an altitude of 1,707 metres (5,600 ft) is the highest in Europe.

The crossing of the Alps is a key issue at national and international levels, as the European continent is at places divided by the range. Since the beginnings of industrialization Switzerland has improved its transalpine network; it began in 1882, by building the Gotthard Rail Tunnel, followed in 1906 by the Simplon Tunnel and more recently, in 2007, by the Lotschberg Base Tunnel. The 57-km long Gotthard Base Tunnel is slated to be open in 2016, and it will finally provide a direct flat rail link through the Alps.

Links: Zermatt Official Website & Zermatt Photos