At the southern tip of the Mattertal Valley between 38 majestic peaks over 4,000 m in the Swiss Alps lies the “diamond” of the Alps, the Zermatt alpine village. At an altitude of 1,620 m, in the shadow of the stunning Matterhorn (4,478 m), to which it owes much of its fame, Zermatt is one of the most popular destinations in the world. There are no cars in the village. You can move around by small electric vehicles (taxis), electric buses (ski bus), bicycles, and horse-drawn carriages.
Zermatt belongs to the German-speaking canton of Valais. It is quite large and full of hotels, restaurants, après ski bars, dozens of shops between its numerous streets and stone alleys, and some old, well-preserved wooden houses. The Vispa River, descending from the surrounding mountains and glaciers, crosses the Zermatt, complementing the landscape’s magic. A living fairytale!
It is Switzerland’s trademark, displayed in the alpine country, from Toblerone to advertisements for watches. The perpetually snow-covered Matterhorn, at an altitude of 4,478 m, is located in Zermatt on the Swiss-Italian border. Although it is not the highest peak in Switzerland, it is the most famous and most photographed peak globally. This steep mountain was first “conquered” in July 1865 by the British Edward Whymper and his six-member team. It was an effort that was marred by the death of four of the seven members. Whymper survived. This event made Zermatt famous, opening an era of rapid tourist development in the area, which led, among other things, to the creation of enormous ski fields.
Skiing in Zermatt
There are three ski areas in Zermatt (Rothorn Paradise, Gornergrat, Matterhorn Glacier Paradise) that stretch from 1,620 m to the 3,883 m ski peak glacier. They all start from the village, while there are slopes that end at the back of it. The 3,883m peak at Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is the highest ski resort in Europe.
The temperature fluctuates steadily often in winter, even below -20 °C. The 200 km long slopes, state-of-the-art facilities, and the perfect Swiss organization, combined with the Matterhorn’s incredible view from the whole Swiss side, launch a unique skiing experience. Simultaneously, there is a lift connected to the Italian ski resort of Cervinia and the Italian villages of Cervinia (2,050 m) and Valtournenche (1,524 m) located on the south side of the mountain behind the Matterhorn.
The ski slopes mainly aim at experienced skiers with many red and black slopes but without missing the blue ones and beginners’ learning schools. There is excellent natural snow cover from the end of November to the end of April, but at the same time, there is an artificial snow system on all slopes with low altitude. The possibility for heliskiing and snowboarding with a professional mountain guide completes a fantastic ski destination profile all year round.
What to taste
At Zermatt you will find more than 100 restaurants for all tastes with Swiss and international cuisine. Similarly, an additional 56 restaurants are located on the mountain, next to the slopes throughout the ski resort, including award-winning. Do not forget to try the most famous Swiss specialty, the cheese fondue. It is served on a lighted fire. You will find it in variations in almost every restaurant in the area.
Plus, taste Raclette and Rosti and be sure to try the mulled wine (gluhwein) with its exceptional taste to harmonize perfectly with the environment.
What to do in Zermatt
An organized network of trails for every degree of difficulty is offered to hiking enthusiasts. Simultaneously, for the more adventurous, there is the possibility of mountaineering, ice climbing, helicopter flight around the Matterhorn, paragliding, sledding on a specially designed track. Concurrently, on the rink in the center of the village, there is the possibility of skating and curling.
The night sledding experience from Furi to Zermatt is unique. Must include a visit to the Matterhorn Zermatlantis Museum, with its glass dome in the village’s center, beneath which is a whole hidden world of another era. In this old Zermatt district, one can enter a 19th-century house and experience sounds and images of how its inhabitants lived in their daily lives.
Zermatt is also the destination of the famous alpine mountaineering route “Haute route,” which starts from Chamonix in France and crosses the Alps, and ends in Zermatt after 10-12 days. From here also begins the most enchanting train journey in the world, the Glacier Express, which passes through impressive valleys and gorges, hundreds of bridges and tunnels to reach after about seven hours in St. Moritz or Davos.