Travel Guides

Zermatt | Adventure Destination Guide

Home of the world's most iconic mountain, Zermatt is a bucket list destination for adventurers

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.

Photo: Samuel Ferrara

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.

Where To Stay

You won’t be surprised to learn that Zermatt, like the rest of Switzerland, isn’t the cheapest travel destination on earth. That being said, if you are on a tight budget, the luxury mountain town does have a few well-reviewed and relatively affordable hostels. Take Youthhostel Zermatt, for example, where prices start at around £27 a night (based on current exchange rates). See also the Matterhorn Hostel, with prices starting at around £24 a night.

If you’re looking to get a bit more flash with the clash / want to stay somewhere a bit more… well… fancy, check out the Monte Rosa Hotel. Not only is it a nice four-star hotel, with nice rooms and the like, it’s also a significant landmark in Zermatt history. It was from here, in 1865, that English mountaineer Edward Whymper began the first ascent of the Matterhorn. He survived, but four members of his climbing party were killed during the descent. The sense of history in this hotel is palpable.

Pictured: Monte Rosa Hotel in Zermatt

Eating And Drinking

Feels weird to start a discussion of the best places to eat in Zermatt by recommending a Japanese establishment called Myoko, but that’s what we’re going to do. The on-show chefs here put on knife-juggling routines, commit tiny acts of arson, and chop eggs like master-level ninjas. You will be entertained. You will be fed nice food.

Another recommended activity in Zermatt, one suitable for foodies and walkers alike, is the Gourmetweg (Gourmet Path). Starting in Sunnega (2,228m) and finishing in Zermatt (1,620m), the 8.8km hiking trail features a number of amazing dining experiences. Try delicious food en-route, and experience some of the area’s best Matterhorn views while you’re at it. Get an outside table at Findlerhof and / or Chez Vrony, and you’ll see exactly what we mean.

Check out our other adventure travel destinations for 2020.

This destination guide was brought to you in association with outdoor fashion retailer Blackleaf.

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