Lower Saxony has a natural boundary in the north in the North Sea and the lower and middle reaches of the River Elbe, although parts of the city of Hamburg lie south of the Elbe. The state and city of Bremen is an enclave entirely surrounded by Lower Saxony. The Bremen/Oldenburg Metropolitan Region is a cooperative body for the enclave area. To the southeast, the state border runs through the Harz, low mountains that are part of the German Central Uplands. The northeast and west of the state, which form roughly three-quarters of its land area, belong to the North German Plain, while the south is in the Lower Saxon Hills, including the Weser Uplands, Leine Uplands, Schaumburg Land, Brunswick Land, Untereichsfeld, Elm, and Lappwald. In northeast, Lower Saxony is Lüneburg Heath. The heath is dominated by the poor, sandy soils of the geest, whilst in the central east and southeast in the loess börde zone, productive soils with high natural fertility occur. Under these conditions—with loam and sand-containing soils—the land is well-developed agriculturally. In the west lie the County of Bentheim, Osnabrück Land, Emsland, Oldenburg Land, Ammerland, Oldenburg Münsterland, and on the coast East Frisia.
The state is dominated by several large rivers running northwards through the state: the Ems, Weser, Aller, and Elbe.
The highest mountain in Lower Saxony is the Wurmberg (971 m) in the Harz. For other significant elevations see: List of mountains and hills in Lower Saxony. Most of the mountains and hills are found in the southeastern part of the state. The lowest point in the state, at about 2.5 m below sea level, is a depression near Freepsum in East Frisia.
The state's economy, population, and infrastructure are centred on the cities and towns of Hanover, Stadthagen, Celle, Braunschweig, Wolfsburg, Hildesheim, and Salzgitter. Together with Göttingen in southern Lower Saxony, they form the core of the Hannover–Braunschweig–Göttingen–Wolfsburg Metropolitan Region.
Lower Saxony has clear regional divisions that manifest themselves geographically, as well as historically and culturally. In the regions that used to be independent, especially the heartlands of the former states of Brunswick, Hanover, Oldenburg and Schaumburg-Lippe, a marked local regional awareness exists. By contrast, the areas surrounding the Hanseatic cities of Bremen and Hamburg are much more oriented towards those centres.
List of regions
Sometimes, overlaps and transition areas happen between the various regions of Lower Saxony. Several of the regions listed here are part of other, larger regions, that are also included in the list.
Just under 20% of the land area of Lower Saxony is designated as nature parks, i.e.: Dümmer, Elbhöhen-Wendland, Elm-Lappwald, Harz, Lüneburger Heide, Münden, Terra.vita, Solling-Vogler, Lake Steinhude, Südheide, Weser Uplands, Wildeshausen Geest, Bourtanger Moor-Bargerveen.
Lower Saxony falls climatically into the north temperate zone of central Europe that is affected by prevailing Westerlies and is located in a transition zone between the maritime climate of Western Europe and the continental climate of Eastern Europe. This transition is clearly noticeable within the state: whilst the northwest experiences an Atlantic (North Sea coastal) to Sub-Atlantic climate, with comparatively low variations in temperature during the course of the year and a surplus water budget, the climate towards the southeast is increasingly affected by the Continent. This is clearly shown by greater temperature variations between the summer and winter halves of the year and in lower and more variable amounts of precipitation across the year. This sub-continental effect is most sharply seen in the Wendland, in the Weser Uplands (Hamelin to Göttingen) and in the area of Helmstedt. The highest levels of precipitation are experienced in the Harz because the Lower Saxon part forms the windward side of this mountain range against which orographic rain falls. The average annual temperature is 8 °C (7.5 °C in the Altes Land and 8.5 °C in the district of Cloppenburg).