Last year, I spent a week exploring Switzerland in June hiking the trails, wandering historic villages, and partaking of all the delicious local cheese.
Perhaps there are few places on earth that have a mountain as iconic as the Matterhorn. Lording over the quaint and charming town of Zermatt, deep in the heart of the Swiss Alps, it’s just about as picturesque as you can imagine.
Topping out at an impressive 4,478 meters (14,692 ft), the Matterhorn is a magnet for alpinists and mountain-lovers alive, and definitely lives up to its name “the peak in the meadows” in German. This mountain IS STUNNING!
Arriving on a fine early summer’s day by train from Täsch to Zermatt, the perfect snow-covered Matterhorn almost doesn’t seem real.
Hopping off the train, you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised to find that this endearing Swiss village is car-free and full of charm.
Wandering amongst the narrow historic laneways and beneath the eaves of wooden chalets, you’d be hard-pressed not to be wooed by a part of Switzerland so quintessentially Swiss you almost have to laugh.
How is this place even real?
Easily accessed from the main airport hubs of Geneva or Zurich via the incredible fast, efficient and reliable train network in Switzerland, I instead drove down, and was mildly surprised when Google Maps took me on a route that included an car train in the mountains on the way to Täsch, where you catch a short train up to car-free Zermatt.
After a bit of confusion, I realized you pay the toll and drive your car onto the open-air train carriage before heading off through the mountains.
Straddling the border between Switzerland and Italy, the Matterhorn is the most distinctive of all the alpine peaks in Europe, jutting up alone about the skyline like a shark’s tooth.
Finally tackled by British climber Edward Whymper in 1865, many mountaineers make the trek to Zermatt to tackle the Matterhorn, best climbed from July to September. Though perhaps more impressive was that less than a decade later Lucy Walker become the first woman to climb the Matterhorn, and she did it in a long flannel skirt too!
Over 400 km of hiking trails in summer and 360 kilometers of pistes in winter are right on your doorstep in Zermatt, with plenty of cable cars and mountain railways shaving off time to access higher parts of the mountain for hikes and walks, and most have incredible views of the Matterhorn.
After the massive winter snowfalls in 2018, even by June some of the trails weren’t open and were still covered in snow.
The Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is the largest and highest summer skiing region in Europe, topping out at 3,883 meters, with a cable car station, restaurant and even ice palace, the perfect day trip from town. And you can ski on the Theodul Glacier from there 365 days a year.
Perhaps what makes the area around Zermatt so unique to us in New Zealand, is the vast incredible network of railways and gondolas that connect the terrain high above the town of Zermatt. We don’t have anything like that here.
Open both in winter and summer, along with an endless amount of hiking trails of all levels, with little chalets, restaurants, hotels and well-appointed mountain huts at your disposal.
Journey up by cogwheel train to 3,089 to Gornergrat from Zermatt for the best views of the Matterhorn with plenty of trails at your disposal. Stay the night at the Kulmhotel Gornergrat, and have the mountain to yourself once the day trippers head back home.
Known for being one of Switzerland’s glitziest and glamorous resorts, Zermatt doesn’t disappoint and has something for all types of travelers on every budget.
The 5-star Mont Cervin Palace is an incredible splurge for those on holiday in Zermatt, and looks like it would fit right in in a Wes Anderson film.
No matter where you travel around Zermatt, you will find everyone spellbound and captivated by the sheer beauty and impressiveness of the Matterhorn, a mountain you just can’t seem to stop looking at.
Have you seen the iconic Matterhorn? Is Zermatt on your bucketlist? Share!