France topographically is one of the most varied countries of Europe, with elevations ranging from sea level to the highest peak of the continent, Mont Blanc (4,807 m/15,771 ft), on the border with Italy. Much of the country is ringed with mountains. In the northeast is the Ardennes Plateau, which extends into Belgium and Luxembourg; to the east are the Vosges, the high Alps, and the Jura Mountains; and along the Spanish border are the Pyrenees, much like the Alps in ruggedness and height.
The core of France is the Paris Basin, connected in the southwest with the lowland of Aquitaine. Low hills cover much of Brittany and Normandy. The old, worn-down upland of the Massif Central, topped by extinct volcanoes, occupies the south-central area. The valley of the Rhône (813 km/505 mi), with that of its tributary the Saône (480 km/298 mi), provides an excellent passageway from the Paris Basin and eastern France to the Mediterranean.
There are three other main river systems: the Seine (776 km/ 482 mi), draining into the English Channel; the Loire (1,020 km/ 634 mi), which flows through central France to the Atlantic; and the Garonne (575 km/357 mi), which flows across southern France to the Atlantic.