When we think of Zermatt in Switzerland, we inevitably think of the Matterhorn. Arguably the world’s most iconic mountain, the Matterhorn is so visually powerful that the makers of everybody’s favourite airport chocolate – ‘Toblerone’ – used it on a logo.
Putting Toblerone talk to one side, if you’re someone who lives and breathes the mountain lifestyle you need to visit Zermatt at least once before you die. Why? Because there really is nothing on earth quite like going on an outdoorsy adventure in sight of ‘The Horn’. It’s, and we’re really not overstating things here, a truly magical place to be outside in.
How To Get There
The four nearest airports to Zermatt are Sion, Geneva, Zurich and Milan. These airports all have good rail connections. Take a train to Tasch, via Brig or Visp, and from there change onto the cog railway which’ll take you to Zermatt. Train travel in Switzerland is notoriously picturesque but the Zermatt valley route really is something else. For more information on Swiss trains, and rail timetables, head to the SBB website.
Things To Do In Zermatt
We’ve probably given the game away early doors here but, just to reiterate, you should go to Zermatt because it will give you an opportunity to set your eyes upon the Matterhorn. No picture you’ve seen, no ‘gram upload you’ve scrolled past, no tales of its beauty can really do it justice. It’s magnificent, a work of art forged by nature and a bucket list view like no other.
Whether you’re visiting in summer or winter, are a hiker, a climber, or a skier, there’s something here for you to enjoy. Words like paradise can get thrown around when describing a place but this really is heaven on earth for people who have a dedicated mountain gear cupboard in their home, and who earnestly share “the mountains are calling” memes on social.
“You can ski and snowboard here 365 days a year – yes, really”
At almost 4,000 metres above sea level, the ‘Matterhorn Ski Paradise’ is not only the highest winter sports area in Switzerland, it’s actually the highest winter sports area in the entire Alps (you can ski and snowboard here 365 days a year – yes, really).
From a piste perspective, 7 and 11 between Rothorn Sunnega will give you the perfect “chocolate” view of the Matterhorn. Tufternkumme (piste 15), meanwhile, is a long and wide one with Matterhorn views so good you’ll want to laser print them to your retinas. The Hirli area is another highlight worth checking out as it will take you seriously close to, you guessed it, the Matterhorn.
Of course, if you’ve watched the video content for our backcountry ski guide already you’ll know that the area around Zermatt is an all-you-can-ski buffet when it comes to freeriding. If you know what you’re doing, or have got the financial resources to bag yourself a trained mountain guide, get stuck in.
Away from skiing and snowboarding, we’d recommend the Five Lakes Walk. Just under 10km in length, it’s a hike like no other in that you can actually see the Matterhorn perfectly reflected in three of the route’s five lakes. We hate ourselves for saying this but the views are “Instagram gold.”
Views, views, views; we keep banging on about it but Zermatt really is all about them really good views. The panoramic views at the top of The Gornergrat (3,089 metres), for example, are otherworldly. To ascend, take a ride on the eco-friendly Gornergrat Bahn. The world’s highest open-air cog railway, it makes its own electricity with a highly clever regenerative braking system. The train ride, which starts at Zermatt station (1,620m), elevates passengers 1,469 metres and takes 33 minutes in total. Get it on your list.
“You can actually see the Matterhorn perfectly reflected in three of the route’s five lakes”
The town is a car-free zone and, as such, has preserved its historical character – something which, let’s face it, can’t exactly be said of every Alpine resort. For more about the town’s fascinating history and its spiritual connection to the Matterhorn btw, go check out the Matterhorn Museum – Zermatlantis. And before you shout “nerd” / “dork” / “museum w*nker” at us, let us just say that visiting it is a great way to find out more about the infamous first ascent of the Matterhorn – a tale of tragedy that took the lives of four climbers and one that, even to this day, is shrouded in mystery.
Another cool (quite literally) tourist experience in Zermatt, one to do when your body needs a break from all the strenuous activities you’ve been putting it through, is the Glacier Palace. In short, it’s a load of really nice ice sculptures 3,883 metres above sea level. Lovely stuff.