Zermatt, Travel Information and Pictures

 

Pictures of Zermatt reveal it to be what it is: a smart, expensive destination for designer-conscious, international alpine tourists and skiers with a fair amount of disposable income. Switzerland is divided into administrative regions called cantons, and Zermatt is in the south of the country in the canton called Valais, an area dominated by the strikingly beautiful, 4,478m (14,691ft) high summit of the Matterhorn, unmissable in some of the pictures below. What the pictures alone can’t tell you, is that in Zermatt it is possible to ski 365 days in the year. This is because of its extreme height – Zermatt has the highest 3S gondola lift in the world, ready to transport you to the ‘Matterhorn Glacier Paradise’, which guarantees snow for skiers and snowboarders the whole year round. The Snowpark for snowboarders and freeskiers is itself over 3,000 metres (9,843 ft) high, and for downhill skiers there are 21 km of maintained pistes, even in July.

When to go
The weather in Zermatt, taken together with its extreme height, means that the skiing season can go on right into early May. November to January is the peak season for good skiing weather, and the slopes get very busy over Christmas and New Year. February to May are quieter, but then the weather is not so good. June to September tends to be very pleasant, and these are the best months to visit Zermatt, although some ski lifts and slopes are closed. In summer the daytime temperature ranges from 12 to 25 degrees Celsius, and good weather can be expected.

How to get there
Zermatt, as you can see in the pictures, is car-free (hooray!), so if you did choose to arrive by car your journey would end at Täsch, 5 km from the ski resort. From there you can take a shuttle train (every 20 minutes) or taxi to Zermatt itself. But it is much better to do the whole journey by public transport. From Zürich Airport (three and a half hours) or Geneva Airport (4 hours), take the train direct to Zermatt.

The Tourist Office in Zermatt is conveniently situated in Bahnhofplatz just near the station. (Look for the white ‘i’ on a square blue background.) It opens at 8.30 every morning, except Sunday when it opens at 9.30. (They do shut the Tourist Office for lunch daily between 12 and 1.30pm.) As well as giving you advice and information about the weather, the people in the Tourist Office can book you tickets for trips and supply ski passes.

While you are in Zermatt, and if you feel like a magical full day out, take the Glacier Express to Davos or St Moritz. It’s a 7 hour trip through beautiful mountain landscape, over deep gorges and through 91 tunnels. Take your seat in the panorama viewing car for a ride on what is claimed to be “the most famous railway in the world”. You will see some of Switzerland’s highest mountains, the Täschorn, Dom and Weisshorn. Three companies, STC Switzerland, Zermatt RailTravel and Railtour Suisse, have combined to offer packages that start at the Swiss border on the Glacier Express, and include at least one night in a hotel. At Täsch, photographers can take a view of the Klein Matterhorn and the Breithorn; then, you must be ready, for the first chance to take a picture of the whole Matterhorn from the train only lasts a few seconds.

The Matterhorn
This is said to be the ‘most photographed mountain in the world’ – but how would anyone know? If it is true, it is a summit worthy of the title. Certainly its jagged peak, at 4,478 metres (14,692 ft) stands as a challenge to all serious mountaineers, and was not climbed until 1865 when Edward Whymper’s party of young English gentlemen and two Swiss guides made the first ascent. Four of them were killed on the way down, and more than 500 climbers have died on the mountain since then. The ascent even with modern equipment means a gruelling five hours non-stop climbing, and some seasons (July to September) as few as 10 people make it to the top, and some of them have to be rescued by helicopter.

Hotels in Zermatt
Stay at the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof, and if you pick carefully from the 77 rooms available, you will be able to take that stunning picture of the Matterhorn from your own balcony! This 5 star hotel is part of Swiss Deluxe Hotels, and has both an indoor pool and a spa and wellness centre. There are 3 restaurants and 2 bars: one restaurant serves Valais-style haut cuisine, one is a brasserie serving French food, and the third specialises in Swiss cheese dishes; or you can have afternoon tea in the Rudenbar, and listen to piano music in the Stars Bar.
To see the Matterhorn from the Alpenhotel Fleurs de Zermatt you may have to go into the garden, but it is only a few minutes’ walk to the funicular stations and the bus stop for the cable car from this well recommended 4 star hotel. Here there are only 38 Alpine-style rooms, some with south-facing balconies. They also offer an indoor pool and spa.

For those whose budget won’t run to these luxury hotels, the 2 star Hotel Alfa Zermatt is a family-run small hotel, yet most of its 21 rooms have views of the Matterhorn, and it too has a pool. (However nothing in Zermatt is cheap, so expect to pay quite a lot even for hotels with relatively fewer stars.)
If you are in a group, you should consider the alternative of renting a chalet – there are plenty of these in Zermatt, and as with hotels, they come in all standards and prices. The Chalet Schwalbennest, for example, is a fifteen minute walk from the centre of the village, and has floor to ceiling windows offering multiple views of the Matterhorn. Everything about this chalet is numbered 4: it is in a four storey block, it sleeps four adults, and it has four stars. For a party of four couples sharing, the Chalet A la Casa offers 5 star luxury on a south facing slope on the edge of the village. Not only does it have three bathrooms and a private sauna, there is also an outdoor hot tub. Needless to say this chalet has panoramic views of the Matterhorn.

Other alternative types of accommodation to consider in and around Zermatt are Guest Houses, Pensions and B + Bs and Camping.

Campsites
Camping Matterhorn (2-star) is on the northern edge of Zermatt, at 17 Spisstrasse. It is only accessible on foot, so is really for hikers and people with small tents, although you can reach within two minutes walk of the site by taking a train or taxi. However there is no access for mobile homes or caravans. The camping area is grassy and the sanitation block is open 24hrs a day. This campsite is well situated in that the bus to the cable car stations stops nearby, and the Mammut fixed rope route starts just a 15 minute walk away. There are 125 emplacements, and they only accept bookings by phone: +41(0) 279673921.

Camping Alphubel is in Täsch, 5km (3 miles) from Zermatt; a bus or shuttl1e train takes you to or from the traffic free town. This is a much larger site than Camping Matterhorn, with tennis, table tennis and swings, and offers free WiFi and a Spa and Wellness Centre. You can order bread to be delivered, and entertain yourself in the small climbing garden. This site only opens May to October. For winter camping in a caravan or mobile home, try the 2-star Camping Attermenzen in Randa, 9kn (5.5 miles) from Zermatt. Next to the site is the Hole In One restaurant with rooms, and taxis or the shuttle train from Täsch will take you to Zermatt. There is a small shop and a washing machine and tumble drier for guest use. Note: in winter you should book ahead to give them time to clear the snow off your pitch!

Around Zermatt
A great place to take pictures is the Gornergrat, a rocky ridge 3,135 metres (10,285 ft) high, reached by a rack railway from Zermatt in 33 minutes. Once out of the station you have a view of more than twenty summits over 4,000 metres (13,000 ft), including (of course) the Matterhorn. As well as an observatory, the Gornergrat has the 3100 Kulmhotel, where you can stay and eat your dinner in Europe’s highest hotel, with the Matterhorn just 19 km away!

The Klein Matterhorn peak is the highest place in Europe served by a cable car. It is part of the Breithorn Massif and looks down on Zermatt from its 3,883 metre (12,740ft) summit. The ski lifts to the Gobba di Rollin all-year ski area start at the aerial tramway station. The Breithorn Plateau to the south is a high, flat glacier; you can take a picture of it from the ice cave called ‘Glacier Grotto’. 560,000 visitors a year use the cable car.

The Schwarzsee (‘black lake or sea’) can in fact be any shade of turquoise blue, but in certain light conditions looks dark and uninviting. However in summer the surface water temperature can reach 22˚C, encouraging bathing. For those who don’t want to swim, a circuit of the Schwarzsee on foot is a hike of 4km (two and a half miles). Various longer hikes start or finish at the Schwarzsee: the two hour hike to the Hörnli Hut, heading for the Matterhorn; the Matterhorn Trail (9.8 km or 6 miles) and the Matterhorn Glacier Trail from Trockener Steg (four and a half hours), none of which should be undertaken without good equipment, a head for heights, and robust physical fitness. If you are not up to these trails, there is a hotel and restaurant Schwarzsee where you can eat and/or rest, before venturing out to get magnificent pictures of – you’ve guessed it – the Matterhorn!

Zermatt
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Gornergrat
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