What to do in Zermatt during summer: my itinerary
Right on the southern border of Switzerland (with Italy not very far away) lies the alpine resort of Zermatt which lies underneath the shadows of one of the most famous mountains in the world, the Matterhorn which looks like a wizard’s hat. I come to this resort a few times in the last few years, not because of the tourist trap cable cars and shops but I come for the hiking and taking in all the nature and the surroundings.
Not only the resort is surrounded by the Matterhorn but a whole ray of mountains which most are over 4,000 meters high (13,000ft) which makes the setting for Zermatt a very special place. Combined with the ‘no motorised traffic’ allowed, the fresh alpine air has just got even fresher.
The resort is known for its skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer but for the lazy tourists there are a few things to do like to check out the Alpines Museum which documents the history of mountaineering in the region to take a train to the Gornergrat Mountain or the cable car to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise (more about this later). However Zermatt is a great place to shop for expensive Swiss-made watches, cuckoo clocks and cow bells and has a variety of restaurants and cafes but don’t expect to find cheap eats here.
How to get to Zermatt
With no cars or buses going to the resort, most people arrive in the area by train. The railway line goes from Visp-Brig and through the valley passing St Niklaus, Randa and Tasch before making the long climb to Zermatt. If visitors have a car, they can drive through the valley as far as Tasch then must park the vehicle in the huge car park in the station before taking the train to Zermatt.
OK, let’s take the Gornergrat train
There is another train line which goes from Zermatt and climbs to one of the highest peaks in the area, the Gornergrat, which stands at 3,089m/10,138ft. The train has ran up this mountain since the late 1890s and climbs up 1,500 meters from Zermatt, stopping off at Riffelalp and Riffelberg on the way. Once at the top I had views of more than twenty four-thousand metre mountain peaks. However, I only got to do the journey down as I decided to reach the summit of the Gornergrat by running up it during the Zermatt-Gornergrat marathon back in July 2016. I just love doing things the hard way!
Let’s go to see the wizard
Most people will hit the cable car which takes them to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, which lies on the summit of Kleines matterhorn (3,883m/12,744ft). After leaving the cable car at the highest cable car station in Europe, the views are just simply breathtaking and the mountains of Switzerland, France and Italy can be seen. This mountain is on the border of Italy and Switzerland and what totally took me by surprise from the viewing platform is that the Matterhorn looks completely different here than say, looking at it from Zermatt or from another mountain to the east from here. The view of the south face of the Matterhorn looks more triangular and not like the wizard’s hat from other angles.
A trip up here is totally worth despite the open wallet surgery caused (it is expensive, did I mention that and I am not just talking about the cable car journey). It’s just not a viewpoint here but also included in the price of the cable car is a look into the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise which is located inside a cave underneath the surface. After walking down through a tunnel there is a room full of ice sculptures. A handy tip is to take warm clothing (even in summer). The air here at the summit is so thin so it can be cold, may cause tiredness and just allow a little bit of extra time to explore.
The Old town of Zermatt is worth checking out and seeing this really old apartments from many moons ago and is not too far away from the main resort area. However there is only a few blocks of them now exist but visitors can see how people used to live, store their goods and where they kept their horses.
Viewpoints of the Matterhorn from Zermatt
The best place for a view of the Wizards Hat is on the Kirchbrücke bridge. The views will include some of the buildings and meadows as well. I have seen this in the winter with the snow but I have also seen this in May when there are plenty of flowers on the meadows blooming. This is worth taking a photo shot.
To the south of Zermatt (about a fifteen minute walk from the centre) is one amazing walk which has to be done (but only open in the summer months), is the Gorner Gorge. For a small fee visitors can walk above the water gushing down the mountainside whilst checking out the greenish serpentinite rocks which is estimated to be around 220 millions years old.
Hiking in the area
There are quite a few hiking trails around Zermatt and one of my favourites is a short walk which takes a couple of hours to complete and even visitors not used to doing long hikes can do this one, it is called the Five Lakes Trail. After taking a short train up a mountainside, the hike takes in five lakes, one of which on a good day has the Matterhorn (Wizard’s Hat) mountain reflecting on the water surface. At the end of the hike, a good lunch can be had at the restaurant at the end of the trail before heading back into Zermatt.
Zermatt, despite being touristy at times is still an amazing place to visit and check out. There are a variety of accommodation places (but to be honest not many options for the budget traveler), eating places and of course a few things to do and see. For me it is one of my favourite places for hiking (after the Jungfrau region of course) and there are certainly plenty of routes to take from here. Bring lots of money as the Swiss will rob you for every penny but apart from that, it’s a must on anyone’s travels.