Vaud, one of Switzerland's 26 cantons, is located in the country's southwestern region. The local area is commonly known as Romandy, a name for the French-speaking western part of Switzerland. Vaud neighbors the canton of Neuchâtel to the north, the cantons of Fribourg and Bern to the east, the canton of Valais to the south, the canton of Geneva to the southwest, and France to the west. Additionally, in the north, surrounded by the canton of Fribourg, lies a Vaud exclave, Avenches, on the shores of Lake Neuchâtel. Moreover, three enclaves belonging to the Fribourg canton and two enclaves of the Geneva canton are found within Vaud's borders. The capital city, Lausanne, located on the shores of Lake Geneva, is the largest settlement within the canton. Lausanne is also known as the base for the International Olympic Committee. Other prominent cities include Montreux, Nyon, and Orbe. Geographically, Vaud is one of Switzerland's two cantons that extends from the Alps to Jura, securing various landscapes and outdoor options for nature enthusiasts. Furthermore, two nature parks, the Gruyère Pays-d'Enhaut Regional Nature Park and the Jura Vaudois Nature Park are also located within the canton's borders.
Lake Geneva, serving as the southern border of the Vaud Canton, is one of the predominant destinations in the region, as several attractions can be found on its shores. Firstly, Vaud's capital city, Lausanne, stands on the shores of Lake Geneva, with vineyard-covered slopes surrounding the town from the other three sides. Lausanne holds a fairly strong connection to sports, as the International Olympic Committee has been based in the town since 1914. Thus, the city has established the Olympic Museum—the world's largest information center about the Olympic games. Regarding historical value, Lausanne's car-free old town is dominated by the Lausanne Cathedral, which is reportedly among Switzerland's most impressive pieces of early Gothic architecture. Other cultural destinations in the city include the collection of marginal art in Beaulieu Castle, the Fondation de l'Hermitage, and the Musée de l'Elysée (photo museum). Additionally, in Lausanne, Europe's largest freshwater aquarium, Aquatis, can be found.
Another destination on the shores of Lake Geneva is the Lavaux region, bordering the city of Lausanne to the east. Lavaux is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, as the local Vineyard Terraces can be traced back to the 11th century. The vineyard area is protected as an example of multiple centuries of interaction between humans and their environment and the optimization of local resources to produce high-quality wine. However, the shores of Lake Geneva are home not only to natural heritage but cultural heritage as well. Chillon Castle stands at the easternmost part of the lake, on the rocky island. Reportedly, the site has been inhabited since the Bronze Age and was later used to control passage from the north to the south of Europe. Today, the castle is open to visitors, offering guided tours.
Two national parks extend within the Vaud Canton's borders. Gruyère Pays-d'Enhaut Regional Nature Park is found in the southern part of Vaud within the Bernese Alps, providing numerous hikes through local alpine pastures surrounded by rock fields and sheer cliffs. The second protected area, Jura Vaudois Nature Park, is located in the western part of Vaud. The nature park features diverse geographic formations and habitats, such as limestone rocks, forests, marshlands, and glades, providing different hiking conditions for local visitors. To the north, the Jura Vaudois Nature Park neighbors Vallée de Joux, a valley between two Jura mountain chains, which additionally contains a lake known as Lac de Joux. During winter, Lac de Joux tends to be completely frozen over, providing ice-skating opportunities to visitors that are seeking winter sports. Moreover, the Franco-Swiss border region near Lac de Joux is the largest cross-country skiing area in Central Europe.
Vaud, same as the Canton of Bern, is one of two Switzerland cantons with territory extending from Jura to the Alps through three distinct geographic regions. The southeastern part of Vaud, commonly called the Vaud Alps, is of the mountainous landscape, as it is situated close to the Bernese Alps. The highest mountain area in the territory is the Diablerets massif, with the highest elevation point being 3,210 m above sea level. Other predominant summits include Grand Muveran and the Tour d'Aï. Due to its mountainous landscape, several skiing destinations can be found in that part of Vaud, such as Villars, Les Diablerets, and Leysin, to name a few. The second geographic region contributing to Vaud's territory is located in the center of the canton. Moraines, hills, and plains along the lakes account for the central regions of the canton. The north-western part of Vaud Canton comprises hills rarely exceeding 1,500 m above sea level, belonging to the Jura Mountains.
Varying elevations within the Canton of Vaud allow for numerous ecosystems. Rolling hills near Lake Geneva in the south of the canton are home to vineyards. Vaud forests tend to consist of Norway spruce, European beech, silver fir, juniper, pine, larch, and alder trees, while in lower elevations, oaks, maples, and chestnut trees can be found. Common flowers include deadnettle, Martagon lily, purple orchid, lilies, tulips, astragalus, forget-me-nots, and germander speedwells, among others. Regarding wild species inhabiting the region, Vaud is inhabited by western roe deer, chamois, ibex, fox, marmot, wild boar, red deer, marmot, pine marten, and gray wolf, along with various species of bats and rodents.
In terms of local temperatures, in Vaud canton's capital, Lausanne, the warmest month is reportedly July, with an average daily temperature of 25°C. January is the coldest month, with a typical average of 5°C. February tends to be the driest month in Lausanne due to having 63 mm of rainfall on average. The most precipitation falls during May, which generally receives about 119 mm.
Vaud area has been inhabited since prehistoric times. First, the lake dwellers and, later, the Celtic tribe of Helvetii settled the territory during their attempt to migrate south. However, the Celts were defeated by Julius Caesar in 58 BC. In 27 BC, Romans established the state Civitas Helvetiorum, with its capital at Aventicum (Avenches), where significant Roman remains have been excavated. Among other ancient settlements also belongs Viviscus (Vevey), Lausonium, or Lausonna (Lausanne), to name a few. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Burgundians occupied the Vaud territory in the 5th century, followed by Margovian Franks. In 888, Vaud lands became part of the Jurane Burgundy until 1032.
The counts of Savoy have ruled Vaud territory since the 13th century. Their power started to decline in the 15th century when Bernese troops occupied the land. Bern completely annexed the area by 1536. Vaud's Protestant Reformation was fully implemented only due to the strong influence of Bern. In 1723, there was a revolt against Bern, resulting from the denial of the political rights of the French-speaking Vaudois by the German-speaking Bernese. Despite the unsuccessful revolt, the Vaud people drove out the Bernese governor in 1798 and declared the Lemanic Republic. Under Napoleon's rule, during the times of the Helvetic Republic, Vaud became the Canton of Léman. However, after the fall of the Helvetic Republic in 1803, the Canton of Vaud became part of the Swiss Confederation and has remained a sovereign canton since then.
A new cantonal constitution was established in 2003, replacing the former one from 1885. Nowadays, Vaud is Switzerland's second largest producer of wine, mainly known for producing white wine. The canton also exports tobacco, sugar beet, and fruit production. Lausanne is the largest city within the canton, which also serves as a capital city.
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