I have to admit that when planning our trip to Zermatt, I was looking forward to going there but I wasn’t so excited that I couldn’t contain myself. I felt more like it was going to be one of those “check-off-the-list” kind of places that we should see since we were going to be close by in the Berner Oberland. I thought it would be an over-rated tourist town with an interesting mountain. NOTHING could be further from the truth!! From the minute Todd and I got to Zermatt we were entranced by the natural beauty of the surrounding scenery and by the loveliness of the town of Zermatt itself. It has become one of our favorite places ever and one to which we hope to return many more times in our lifetime. [slideshow]
Zermatt lies at the end of the Matter valley (Mattertal). To understand the majesty of this place you have to know that the Mattertal is only about a mile wide at most and that the town of Zermatt sits at roughly 5200 feet. This valley is surrounded by Switzerland’s highest peaks. Rising up abruptly on all sides of this narrow valley are many peaks with at least 50 of them exceeding 13,000 feet. As if these peaks, and the numerous massive glaciers, weren’t awesome enough, add the massive, looming presence of the Matterhorn itself and you can begin to understand why this valley takes your breath away!! The Matterhorn is so much more than just an interestingly shaped peak. It’s presence is everywhere you go in the valley and it’s history and grandeur are awe-inspiring. Do I sound really enthusiastic about this place yet?
The town of Zermatt is the quintessential, immaculate, geranium-bedazzled Alpen mountain town you would expect from the Swiss. One thing that really makes the town nice is that it is off limits to all motor vehicles unless you live there. The only other vehicles are these funny little golf-cart type vehicles they use to transport hotel guests and luggage around. To get to Zermatt you leave your car at a very large garage in Taesch and take an easy train ride into Zermatt. Don’t panic about leaving your car behind. Remember, this is Switzerland and the garage is extremely safe and clean. The town can be a bit touristy but only in the sense that there are quite a few people there in the summer and there are the typical Swiss watch shops, etc. We really didn’t see any tick-tacky touristy shops selling cuckoo clocks made in China or anything of that ilk.
You really don’t come to Zermatt to just hang out in the town anyway. You come to Zermatt to experience the Alps and the loveliness of the outdoors here. I should mention, however, that the town does have a wonderful, little, rustic museum that is well worth a visit. It has information on life in the Mattertal hundreds of years ago as well as quite a bit of mountaineering history. The rope used on the first ascent of the Matterhorn, which then infamously broke on the descent, is on display at the museum as well. There’s a small cemetery by the church dedicated to fallen mountaineers as well. Quite sobering!
Obviously, the outdoor adventure options in Zermatt, and the surrounding area, are too numerous to list them all here. Todd and I spent most of our time hiking the trails off of the Gornergrat. The Gornergrat is a ridge of the Alps surrounded by 29 peaks rising above 13,000 feet and several glaciers, including the Gorner Glacier – the second largest glacier in the Alps. There is a cog railway that makes several stops on its way to the top of the Gornergrat. You can hop on or off at several stops a long the way. Gornergratbahn
This trip truly impressed upon me why the Matterhorn and Zermatt are as famous and iconic as they are. I urge you to make sure your Life Bus steers towards Zermatt at least once!! You WILL NOT regret it!! Have fun!!