The Swiss Alps and the Matterhorn
Switzerland is famous for its mountain scenery and perfect ski slopes. Almost 65 percent of this country’s land area is composed of mountains belonging to the Alpine Region and specifically called the Swiss Alps. Switzerland is one of five countries that share the Alps together with Italy, France, Austria and Germany. The highest mountain in the Swiss Alps is the Monte Rosa in the Swiss-Italian border with a height of 4634 meters. However, its most popular mountain can very well be the Matterhorn.
There are 3 climate zones in the Swiss Alps. The Sub-alpine zone is an area below the tree line. It is the area where you can find human settlements, mountain resorts and Swiss Alps hotels. The Alpine Zone is where only a few grass and wild flowers could live. It is clear of trees because of its altitude and colder temperature as compared to the Sub-alpine zone. And the last is the Glacial Zone, where the area is mostly covered by snow. The snow covered slopes of the Glacial Zone makes perfect ski and snowboarding pistes for tourists.
Most Swiss Alps villages and resorts are about 3 hours away by train from major cities in Switzerland. The country maintains more than 23,000 of trails in the Swiss Alps region to serve the influx of local and foreign tourists. The most famous among Switzerland’s train is the Glacier Express that connects the mountain resort village of Zermatt to St. Moritz. Other popular villages ideal for a complete Swiss Alps vacation are Davos-Klosters, Gstaad, Crans Monatana and the car free villages of Grindenwald, Murren and Wengen.
Because of the beautiful scenery, and lots of opportunities for outdoor sports activities like hiking and skiing, Swiss Alps vacations are always high on demand and are always on top of everybody’s travel wish list.
The Matterhorn, though not the highest mountain in the Swiss Alps region, is the most recognizable peak in all of Europe. This unique pyramid shape mountain has all of its four faces looking out to one of the directions of the compass. It has been a subject of many popular films, poems, songs and paintings. The Matterhorn and its picture has been a favorite emblem of many things, including a famous Swiss chocolate brand, Toblerone.
The Matterhorn is an isolated mountain in the Swiss Alps that stands at 4478 meters or 14,690 feet. The name Matterhorn was derived from the German word ‘Matte’, meaning “meadow” and “Horn” which means “peak”. This meadow refers to the grassy valley under the Gornerschlucht gorge which is now the location of the famous village of Zermatt. The Matterhorn is also called Monte Cervino in Italian and Mont Cervin in French. It has two main summits which are called the Italian Summit and the Swiss Summit. The Italian Summit rises to a height of 4,476.4 meters while the peak of the Swiss Summit is measured at 4,477.5 meters.
Because of the extremely steep faces of the Matterhorn, it discouraged some early climbers and mountaineers from trying to ascend it, and as a result this mountain was among the last conquered Alpine peaks. It was first climbed successfully by a group of explorers lead by an Englishman, Edward Whymper in 1865. With the triumphant first ascent, the Matterhorn soon became very popular among mountaineers and tourists especially with the opening of train railways that makes going to the towns nearest it a little easier and faster. And because of the popularity of the Matterhorn, the once sleepy town of Zermatt was transformed to a lively resort town.
If you want to see and marvel at the Matterhorn, you only need to go to the resort village of Zermatt which is located at its base. Zermatt is also the favorite starting point of those adventurers who wants to climb the peak of this famous Swiss Alps mountain. The climb to the top of this famous mountain is hard but doable by those trained mountaineers, and there are plenty of local experienced guides that can assists and help you reach the very peak of the Matterhorn. Today, authorities have put up fixed ropes along the climb paths to help climbers.
Winter in the Swiss Alps and in the Matterhorn provides the slopes with beautiful snow that is best for Zermatt ski and snowboarding, but even in the summer months, some of the most beautiful slopes in the Klein Matterhorn are still open for skiers.
There are many ways to enjoy the Swiss Alps and the Matterhorn in any months. And with more than 100 listed Zermatt hotels and chalets for you to choose from, finding a Matterhorn hotel or Zermatt lodging is not a hassle.
The Swiss Alps region will continue to draw in tourists from all countries across the globe and the Matterhorn will continue to fascinate adventurers and tourists for many generations to come.