Day trip at the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise
One of the top things to do and see is to take a trip on the cable car to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise whilst in Zermatt, Switzerland. It may cost an arm and leg to travel on but the views from the highest cable car station in Europe is to die for but it is just not the views to come and see, there are other things up there also. Let me tell you.
Early start needed
The best time to go is early as possible. This is because there are less clouds and more likely to get a view of the most famous mountain in the area, the Matterhorn (the one which looks like a wizard’s hat). Also in the winter months there maybe a chance to travel up to the Glacier Paradise and catch the sunrise to the east or in the evening, check out the sun setting to the west. I always say start early especially in the summer months before the droves of tour companies bringing in hundreds of sightseers with their cameras. The cable car station is easy to get to from anywhere in Zermatt, located at the southern side of the resort, it is signposted. Also the cable car ride and the buildings on route are wheelchair friendly and step-free access which is great, just don’t expect the mountains to be friendly mind you. Like I said, bring lots of cash for this attraction as I came away suffering with open wallet surgery.
What to do first?
Head to the top. Do a long trip to the summit first as like I said, you want to get there before all the tourists. The journey takes a while but the views are amazing. The Matterhorn is in view all the time and further up you go, there is more rocky treeless landscape to take in before the snowy peak. However the journey is done in two parts, the gondolas take visitors to Trockener Steg at 2939m. From here there is a connecting cable car which does the steepest part of the journey to the summit of Klien Matterhorn at 3883m (the highest cable car station in Europe). Here is where the snow peaks come into play and gets a little bit colder due to the thin air and elevation gained since traveling up from Zermatt (which is 1620m above sea level).
At the summit, now what?
The way I do this trip (I done this twice now in 2009 and 2016) is to let all the visitors from the cable car go to the viewing platform and I head into the Glacier Paradise. Here I took a lift to go inside the mountain and walk down a tunnel into an ice cave full of amazing ice sculptures which are probably changed every year. It is colder in here than outside so bring a jacket. Check out some of the amazing sculptures I saw in these photos.
Next to the viewing platform there is an exit to check out sporting activities and to see the border of Italy/Switzerland further down the slope. Even from here there is a cable car to take visitors to Italy but I haven’t done this. Inside the building there is a restaurant (buffet bar style – but is very pricey as it is a tourist trap but do not eat here. Read on and I explain why….) and a small cinema with all the history of the Matterhorn to check out.
The Viewing Platform
There is a lift to take visitors to the platform on top of the building (one wonders how the swiss build these buildings on mountain summits and shove a cable car system into them). The views on a clear day is amazing. The valley of Zermatt and the Matterhorn mountain (which looks very different from the south and not much of a wizard’s hat) is an amazing sight to see but looking to the west is the French Alps and France and Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe comes into view, to the east are the other mountains of Switzerland and to the south, Italy and maybe, just maybe, a view of the Mediterranean Sea can be seen. I just about saw it on my first trip as it is over 200 miles and there are a few mountains in the way.
Heading back down
After a while up here I got a bit peckish so instead of going to the restaurant here from a buffet, I wanted ‘proper’ cooked alpine food. I noticed on the way up there is a small hotel-restaurant at the second cable car station stop called Schwarzee (at 2583m). Here I got great service whilst sitting outside on a terrace and had the Matterhorn and the other surrounding mountains to look at whilst mountain sheep and goats wander around. I always choose a ‘rosti and a beer’ whilst in the Swiss Alps and they satisfy me to the max. Can’t beat a bit off old fried egg on top of potatoes.
After a meal and before heading back down to Zermatt, I took a very short five minute walk to the nearby lake (also called Schwarzee) to check out the small chapel here, take in the mountains from different angles, jumped into the lake with the fish (do NOT do this if you DO not know what you are doing, its deep, very cold and still at high altitude – I am trained for these situations so I am a crazy nutter you know!) and smell the fresh alpine air. This area is simply perfect.
Other hiking trails
There are several stops on the way up to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise and after each stop there are hiking routes (as well as ski slopes) to check out. I didn’t do any hiking on this side of Zermatt but if anyone wants information on the routes etc then visit the tourist information centre next to the the train station in Zermatt.
After thoughts and some tips
As a visitor to the area many times, despite the price, this is still one of the best cable car journeys I have been on to take in some of the amazing alpine mountain summit views in Europe. This place is truly amazing and I recommend you guys to go and check it out (after getting a bank loan first!). I done the journey twice and always come back feeling great. However always take lots of money (I can’t express this enough, it is Switzerland of course) and a light jacket for the summer. Make sure you are dress properly and have the right footwear in case you go onto the snow or onto the hiking trails. The air is thin up there so you may feel dizzy, cold and out of breath for a while. If this carries on, stay in the restaurant area to warm up and if it gets worse get a member of staff. Worse case scenario is that you be whizzed off back down the cable car to thicker air. Don’t let this put you off, it’s very rare visitors will spend five minutes here and go back down. It is a case of getting the body adjusted to the altitude.
Have you been to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise? I love to hear what you think. Please leave a comment. Have a great day guys.