Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona

It may not be the catchiest name, but this 30,000 hectare mountain landscape is truly memorable. Its “magic line” of mountain chains and Martinsloch have intrigued researchers and astronomers and inspired many a travel writer. Today, the Tectonic Arena is a giant nature trail and an important research centre on mountain formation.

Swiss tectonic Arena Sardona ©Presence Switzerland
Facts & figures


Glarus thrust, mountain formation with seven over 3,000 metres high, tectonic phenomenon.


Cantons of Glarus, St. Gall and Graubünden, Switzerland.

UNESCO inscription



Outstanding example of the earth’s history as well as of geological and geomorphic processes (Criterion 8 of UNESCO Operational Guidelines).


The Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona is the best place in the world to understand and study the processes and mechanisms of mountain building. It is a living record of how the collision of the African and European continental plates thrusted older, deeper rocks over kilometres on top of much younger rock formations. Plate tectonics is today a recognised scientific discipline, but for many years the Glarus thrust had geologists puzzled. It has been a key site for the geological sciences since the 18th century. Indeed, such is the renown of the Glarus thrust (the “magic line”) among geologists that a full-scale reconstruction is on display in the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

World Heritage and Swissness

Research on the Glarus thrust led to the development of the theory of plate tectonics, which explains how the defining natural feature of Switzerland – the Alps – came to be. Besides occupying one third of the country’s total surface area, Switzerland’s mountains have also played a major historical and geopolitical role. Furthermore, their huge popularity as a tourist destination has also helped drive the Swiss economy. Switzerland is right to be proud of its mountains. Nowhere else in Europe has as many mountain peaks standing over 4,000 metres high: a staggering 48 peaks in total! Find out more about the Swiss Alps in all their fascinating diversity in our Swiss Special.

Virtual tour

UNESCO world heritage - Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona
Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA