Facts about the Swiss Alps

Matterhorn at dusk

Get to know the Alps before you arrive

The Swiss Alps are the highlight of any tour to Switzerland. Even though less than 15% of the Alps lie within Switzerland, it's the country that people most closely associate with the Alps. No doubt, Switzerland is home to some of the most famous Alpine locations—the Matterhorn, the Eiger, the Jungfrau—and many of the highest peaks and largest glaciers. It's also home to an extensive network of well-marked hiking trails.

We think you'll enjoy these interesting facts about the Switzerland and the Swiss Alps. For additional information and books about Switzerland see our Suggested Reading.

Hiking through the Swiss Alps

Geography and Population

  • Total area of Switzerland: 15,940 sq. mi (41,293 sqare kilometers)
  • The Alps cover 65% of Switzerland's surface area (41,285 km ²), however, Switzerland covers only 14% of the Alps total area (192,753 km ²)
  • Population: 7.7 million

Languages and Ethinic Makeup

  • German, French, and Italian are national and official languages. Romansch, a Latin-based language spoken in the Engadine, is a national language, but not an official language.
  • Primary languages spoken as a percentage of population: German 63.6%; French 20.4%; Italian 6.5%; Romansch 0.5%; other 9%.
  • 20.1% of the people living in Switzerland are non-Swiss.

MountainsHiking in the Swiss Alps

  • Most of the 4,000 meter peaks in the Alps (48 of 82) are located in Switzerland and the remaining few are within 20 km of the Swiss border.
  • The highest summit in the Swiss Alps is Monte Rosa at 4,634 meters (15,202 ft) on the Swiss-Italian border.
  • The highest mountain which lies entirely in Swiss territory is the Dom at 4,545 meters (14,911 ft).
  • The lowest point within Switzerland is Ascona in the canton of Ticino at 643 feet (196 meters) above sea level. As the crow flies, it's only 43 miles (70 km) from the highest point in Switzerland, the summit of Monte Rosa.
  • The Haute Route, a popular trekking route from Chamonix to Zermatt, passes the twelve highest peaks in the Alps along the way.

Hiking in the Swiss AlpsGlaciers

  • Glaciers cover an area of 1,230 km ² (3% of the Swiss territory), representing 44% of the total glaciated area in the Alps (2800 km ²).
  • The largest glacier in the Alps is the Aletsch Glacier (German: Aletschgletscher) with length of about 23 km and covering more than 120 square kilometers (more than 45 square miles). It's located in the Bernese Alps in the canton of Valais and is best seen on our Exploring the Jungfrau trip.
  • The highest concentration of glaciers in the Alps is found in Switzerland

Hiking Trails

  • Switzerland has a 62,000 km network of walking trails, of which 23,000 are located in mountainous areas.
  • The Klein Matterhorn, near Zermatt, is the highest summit of the European continent to be served by cable car. The elevation of the cable car terminal is 3,820m (12,533 feet).
  • Walking and hiking is a way of life in Switzerland. The average Swiss person takes 9,650 steps a day (nearly 5 miles) while the average American takes just 5,117 steps a day--only about 2.5 miles.

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