Switzerland is a pristine country of lakes, mountains and forests. For centuries, protected by the mountain ranges that surround it, Switzerland has been an idyllic oasis in the middle of Europe.

The best known of the continent’s mountain ranges, the Alpine chain, runs through most of Switzerland and provides the majority of the country’s magnificent natural sights. A popular wintersport area, some of the Europe’s most fashionable and exclusive ski resorts are located high among the peaks. Many, such as Klosters and St Moritz attract Europe’s rich and famous, including the British Royal Family. In the summer, towns such as Interlaken become green mountain centres for walking and mountaineering, and there are few places more naturally beautiful in the whole of Europe.

The smaller Jura Mountain range in Northwest Switzerland is no less spectacular. Here brilliantly green valleys dotted with waterfalls end in dizzying steep-sided mountains rising to snowcapped peaks. The sublime beauty of the landscape inspired literary giants such as Byron, Shelley and Coleridge who visited the area in the 19th century. Man has left its mark on the Jura in the tiny villages and romantic castles that speckle the landscape – including Chateâu Chillon, which moved Mary Shelley to write the spine-tingling classic, Frankenstein.

Then there are the cities. Zurich, Geneva, Berne and Lucerne are models of Swiss efficiency – running as smoothly as the clocks and watches for which the country is so famous. The cities offer a wealth of perfectly serene history untouched by the great conflicts of Europe and immaculately preserved in the fine buildings dating from the Renaissance. Less busy are the lakeside resorts, including fashionable Montreux on Lake Geneva.

Historic as the country is, there are few places in Europe more modern. It is a place to get out and enjoy the clean, fresh mountain air but in which you will never be too far from the comforts of home.

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