Love the mountains? Then Zermatt is the paradise your mountaineer heart is looking for. It’s a virtually car-free municipality that sits at 1,600 meters above sea level at the foot of one of the world’s most renowned and stunning peaks, the Matterhorn. In fact, the mountain’s name is derived from the town’s name, which is also derived from the terrain that characterizes the place. “Matten” is a German term that refers to alpine meadows, which pretty much describes the valley in which Zermatt lies.
The small town is almost surrounded on all sides by the high, jagged peaks of the Pennine Alps, which includes Switzerland’s highest mountain, Monte Rosa (4,634 meters). It also is traversed by a river and is proximate to the Gorner Glacier. It also boasts of fantastic trail options, ski spots, and transports that can take visitors through various points of the mountainous region. As such, it is one of the most popular ski and climbing destinations in the country. When in Zermatt, the question is not what to do but which of the dizzying number of adventurous and recreational options you should take.
Stay at Unusual Accommodations
One choice is booking for a night or two at some of the most unique accommodations this side of Switzerland. You can, for example, stay at a hotel that also doubles as an observatory – the 3100 Kulmhotel Gornegrat. What better place to stargaze and appreciate the stratospheric Swiss Alps but at one of the highest points – at 3,120 meters above sea level – in Europe? It’s, at the very least, pretty much Europe’s highest viewing point with a fully functioning hotel that has its own telescope. The fantastic thing about this kind of accommodation is that even those new to astronomy can very well use the equipment in the observatories with relative ease.
The Iglu-Dorf Hotel in Zermatt is also another viable option. If you want to experience what a white winter wonderland is like, including spending the night in an igloo, this is the perfect place for you!
Get Up Close and Personal with the Matterhorn
When in Zermatt, pay homage to the Matterhorn. Conquering its summit is not the only way to do this, which is good news for those new to hiking. You can, for example, go on a breathtaking cable car ride to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, which sits at nearly 4,000 meters above sea level (practically the highest point in Europe) and allows you a fantastic view of the mountain peaks surrounding Zermatt. You’ll also get to see a uniquely different angle of the Matterhorn itself. You can be forgiven for not recognizing it once you step out of the highest-altitude cable car in Europe. You can also visit the magnificent Glacier Palace, which has a collection of ice sculptures and an ice slide for good measure.
If you’re into hiking, you can take the picturesque and engrossing 5-Lakes Walk, which will take you through Zermatt’s mountains and lakes: the Stellisee, Grindjisee, Grünsee, Moosjisee, and Leisee. What’s remarkable is that none of these lakes are alike, and each one has its own distinctions. The Grindjisee, for example, has rare flowers blooming on its shores. The Leisee is great for swimming and is safe enough for children. You’ll also see the Matterhorn reflected on the waters of the Grindjisee, Stellisee, and Leisee, making these bodies of water perfect for creating photographic memories.
Explore the Gorner Gorge
This awe-inspiring destination was formed by the last ice age, which resulted in the Gornervispe river carving out a deeper channel than ever. Today, the naturally formed Gorner Gorge is renowned for its impressive beauty and flowing waters, from waterfalls to whirlpools. Fortunately for visitors, a wooden walkway was set up between 1886 to 1887 by Elias Lauber and Joseph and Gabriel Taugwalder, allowing tourists to go as close as possible to the chilly, turquoise waters of the chasm and appreciate the unusual, 220 million-year-old rock formations in the serpentine gorge.
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