Switzerland official name is Confoederatio Helvetica, which is frequently translated in English as Swiss Confederation. It has a confederation of 26 states, called cantons.
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Switzerland is a landlocked federal state in Europe, which borders Germany, France, Italy, Austria
; it has a strong tradition of political and military neutrality, but also of international co-operation, and is home to many international organizations.
Each of the four major bordering countries has had an influence on Swiss culture. The Swiss people are an ethnic mix consisting mainly of native German, French, and Italian speakers. The country has an area of 41,285 sq km (15,940 sq mi). The capital of Switzerland is Bern
and the largest city is Zurich
Switzerland is made up of the Swiss Alps, Mittelland
, and Jura
, the Swiss landscape is characterized by the Alps
, a high mountain range running across the central-south of the country, the highest of which is the Dufour Peak
at 4,634m; here you will find countless valleys, some with glaciers. From these the headwaters of several major European rivers such as the Rhine
, the Rhone
, the Inn
, the Aare
or the Ticino
, flow down into lakes such as Lake Geneva, Lake Zurich, Lake Neuchatel
, and Lake Constance,
Switzerland is famous for its many scenic lakes, especially those of the Alpine region
. Lakes have long been important for transportation in Switzerland, and many towns are situated along lakeshores. Several lakes are shared with other countries, including Lake Geneva
, Switzerland's largest lake.
The Swiss climate is generally temperate, but it can vary greatly locally, from the harsh conditions on the high mountains to the pleasant Mediterranean climate at Switzerland's southern tip.
In the summer months, temperatures in low-lying areas can rise above 27C. Mountainous areas are significantly cooler throughout the year, and temperatures decrease about 2 Celsius degrees, for every additional 300 m of elevation. Large glaciers are found in the Alps
, and permanent snow covers the highest peaks. Winter temperatures are generally below freezing throughout Switzerland, except for the north shore of Lake Geneva
and the shores of the Swiss-Italian lakes, which have a mild climate like that of northern Italy. During January and February high-pressure conditions over the Alps
bring clear, cold weather that is ideal for winter sports.