Zermatt Destination Guide
The home of the Matterhorn!
Zermatt made the conscious decision to be car-free to protect the incredible non-polluted view of what has to be the world's most visually iconic mountain - the Matterhorn. Many have said that Zermatt has a unique atmosphere, as Mother Nature is shown off at its absolute best, with exceptional views of that incredible, pyramid-shaped mountain from pretty much everywhere in town.
Indeed the Matterhorn (or Cervin to the French) that straddles Switzerland and Italy is certainly in imposing. At 4478m it's not the highest summit in Europe, but it is certainly the most impressive. Towering down on you, it's pretty much impossible to not take a stunning photograph. She is not alone though, with no fewer than 38 of the 54 surrounding summits coming in at over 4000m, making for pretty amazing panoramas.
Little wonder than, that Zermatt has a long and very deep history with mountaineering and alpinism. The origins of Zermatt can be traced right back to serval thousand years BC, with vines and wine production documented around year 0 and Zermatt becoming a right of passage in the Middle Ages for those transferring commercial goods through Zermatt and in to Italy.
As for tourism, the Monte Rosa hotel opened in 1852 and the Zermatt guide company was founded in 1858, with that first ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865. If you don't know the history of that first summit of the majestic Matterhorn it is as fascinating as it is mysterious and tragic, with only British explorer Edward Whymper and his two Zermatt guides Peter Taugwalder father and son returning from their successful summit as a team of seven…
This is the perfect moment to recommend a visit to the Matterhorn museum in Zermatt, right next to the very grand Zermatterhof hotel. Then wander just around the corner and you'll get to the Mountaineer's cemetery - a sobering and moving place, that reminds us just how small we all are.
No one can deny Zermatt is humbling, yet incredibly inspiring. This is the stuff of bucket lists and when you leave the hustle and bustle of Geneva Airport behind and transfer to this charming town at the very end of the valley, we think you'll agree Zermatt has a definite aura about it.
Skiing in Zermatt
The Gornergrat train (the one right opposite the main train station) opened in summer only from 1890 and in 1928 began transporting skiers in the winter. By the 1940s Zermatt had developed into an impressive ski resort. Zermatt today is still pretty spread out, so it takes some effort to ski all the different areas, but it is well worth it.
- Rothorn/Sunegga - this 1584m long underground funicular opened in 1980 and connects to the bubble and cable car that arrives at 3103m, with pistes all around. The beginner/kids area at the arrival station of the funicular is particularly impressive with an elevator-style lift and covered 'magic carpet' and, of course, great across-the-valley views of that Toblerone-shaped mountain
- Gornergrat/Riffelberg - this impressive rack and pinion railway opens in summer and winter, running all the way to the Gornergrat plateau at 3098m, where you'll find the 3100 Kulmhotel and observatory. If you book a night here, you can expect extraordinary sunset and sunrise views of the Matterhorn and you'll be first on the pistes in the morning. Freeriders also head from here to Stockhorn and Hohtalli for the best off piste skiing
- Matterhorn Glacier/Schwarzee - this is at the furthest end of the town from the train station (it takes around 30 mins to walk from one end to the other) and you are whisked to the highest point of the domaine, the Petit Cervin at 3883m, in a four stage bubble and cable car. From here you can take successive pistes down to town at 1620m, covering 21km as you go
Watch out for the Gandegg drag lift - at 3899m it's the longest in the world and the Furggsattel lift starts in Switzerland and arrives in Italy and is actually anchored in the glacier. Skiing all around this area is excellent and it's where you can ski in summer. And don't forget, on Mountain Drop-offs transfers from Geneva to Zermatt, ski and snowboard carriage is free, all year round.