Several weeks ago, my husband and I visited Lake Maggiore in Italy for a weekend trip. On our way home from Italy, we made a spur of the moment trip to visit the Matterhorn since it was on our way.
We headed out from Stresa Sunday morning and drove along Lake Maggiore up toward Switzerland and into the Alps. We crossed the Alps through the Simplon Pass. The drive and the scenery were really beautiful and it was while we were driving that we realized just how close we were to Zermatt and the Matterhorn, so we decided to take a detour to visit. While we were in the car, we did a little bit of research on our phones about the best way to see the Matterhorn.
The two most common ways were to either take a cable car or a train up to a view point. So, we dug a bit more into the options and found a couple reviews from people who had done both options. They said that all the view points were amazing and equally worth-while, the real difference was how you got there. So, we decided to take the train up to Gornergrat to view the Matterhorn since I’m not a huge fan of cable cars and the Gornergrat Bahn was a bit less expensive than the other options and they had a lot of discounts available, like my half-fare card for the Swiss trains. (You can check their website for the full list of discounts.)
Zermatt is the closest town to the Matterhorn and is used by just about anyone visiting it as a starting point. However, there are no cars permitted in Zermatt, so instead, we drove to Tasch and parked at the train station. When we arrived at the station, we didn’t see the typical Swiss train ticket machine, but a large bank of ticket counters staffed by people who spoke English. We purchased our tickets (my half-fare card was valid here just like at any other SBB CFF FFS station) and headed to the platform for the train to Zermatt. The Tasch train station had a specific “shuttle” train that only runs from Tasch to Zermatt and back and the journey is very quick, only 15 minutes.
The train arrived in Zermatt around 10:15 am or so and we only had to walk across the street to the Gornergrat Bahn train station to get our tickets and hop on the train. After boarding, we were really glad we chose to take the train. It was very comfortable and had huge windows so you could really enjoy the scenery on the trip up the mountain. We snagged seats on the right side of the train and they were just perfect because just a few minutes out of the station, we had a great view of the Matterhorn on our right side! In fact, we were able to see the Matterhorn for most of our journey up the mountain.
There were several stops along the way between Zermatt and Gornergrat and a lot of people got on and off the train along the way because there are a ton of beautiful hiking trails on the mountain. There were also several restaurants and even a few hotels at the stops. After about 25 minutes or so, we arrived at Gornergrat and disembarked.
The view at Gornergrat was absolutely stunning! Not only could we see the Matterhorn, but we could also see several mountains and glaciers surrounding it. There were several different viewpoints at Gornergrat where we could take in the spectacular sight of not only the Matterhorn, but the panoramic view of the Alps surrounding it. We even spotted a few mountain goats on the rocky mountainside. we spent about 45 minutes at Gornergrat before catching the train to head back into Zermatt.
We were really lucky that we had such a clear view of the Matterhorn. I think the trick was that we arrived in the morning before the clouds moved in. We were also lucky that while there were plenty of people in Zermatt, the summer is not the high season, so it wasn’t too crowded. There was also plenty of shopping and other sights to see in town. We’ll definitely be back to spend more time in the area and take in more of the sights, but our trip worked out really well as a stop on our way back home from Italy.
If you plan to visit Zermatt, I have a few tips for you. First, summer is the low-season because Zermatt is a popular ski destination. So, if you hope to avoid the crowds, head to Zermatt when there’s no snow. Also, the earlier you head up to see the Matterhorn, the better. The sky tends to be beautiful and clear in the morning with more chance of fog in the afternoon. You’ll also definitely want to pack some warm clothes and sturdy shoes! We visited in July and needed fleece jackets and windbreakers to block the wind. While I wore sandals because we took a spur of the moment trip to visit and that’s all I had with me, I would recommend close-toed shoes like boat shoes, tennis shoes, etc because there was a bit of walking on dirt.
If hiking is your thing, visit the Gornergrat viewpoint first thing in the morning and then either hike all the way down to Zermatt or take the train part-way down and hike the rest; there are stunningly beautiful hiking trails. I would also strongly urge you to spend some time in Zermatt and maybe even spend a night. The town is beautiful and there’s plenty to see and do.
To see more photos from our trip, visit the original post on my personal blog.
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