Monte San Giorgio

The beauty of the surrounding landscape – verdant sugar loaf mountains, turquoise waters and Mediterranean architecture – would have also made Monte San Giorgio worthy of inclusion on the World Heritage List. But there is more to this UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site than its superficial beauty. Its unique value is buried deep under ground… thousands and thousands of prehistoric fossils.

Monte San Giorgio, a fossil-rich mountain ©
Facts & figures


“Dinosaur Mountain” in Mendrisiotto (1,096m), fossils from the Triassic period


Canton of Ticino, Switzerland and Italy

UNESCO inscription

2003 and 2010 (Italian part of Monte San Giorgio)


Outstanding example representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life (Criterion 8 of UNESCO Operational Guidelines).


The value of Monte San Giorgio lies in the fact that it is a repository of thousands of fossils of fish, insects, reptiles and other invertebrates dating from the Triassic period. These creatures lived over 200 million years ago, when Monte San Giorgio was a 100-metre-deep lagoon and the region was subtropical. As the richest source of Triassic marine fossils, researchers from the Universities of Zurich and Milan have flocked here for more than one hundred years. The main fossil finds are now in the Museum of Palaeontology, Zurich. However, select specimens are also on display in the local “Museo dei Fossili” in Meride. Recently, the municipalities which neighbour Monte San Giorgio have set up an organisation which should ensure the continued protection of this World Natural Heritage Site.

World Heritage and Swissness

Not only is Monte San Giorgio beautiful on the outside but it is beautiful on the inside too, with its vast treasure trove of ancient fossils.

Switzerland is teeming with forests (35% of its surface area), lakes (some 1500) and mountains (25% of its surface area).  Given this terrain, it is not surprising that most of the really exciting action happens underground. Switzerland has some 900 tunnels, turning its underworld into a stony block of Emmental cheese. Besides road and rail traffic, many tunnels were built to carry water and electricity. Switzerland currently has the longest tunnel in the world. For more about the new AlpTransit rail link, the Gotthard base tunnel and the Swiss landscape in general, check out our Stories and Resources pages (see also the “Living cultural heritage” and “Modern communication” sections in this Swiss Special).

Virtual tour

UNESCO world heritage - Monte San Giorgio
Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA