11 reasons to plan a summer adventure to Zermatt, Switzerland

From wandering through the glittering glacier palace to riding the world’s highest 3S cable car, Zermatt abounds with adventures for the perfect summer getaway.

Published 30 Jun 2021, 19:23 BST
Zermatt is the ultimate base for nature lovers, with cable-cars winging you ever higher to the ...

Zermatt is the ultimate base for nature lovers, with cable-cars winging you ever higher to the phenomenal Matterhorn — one of the highest summits in the Alps and Europe. 

Photograph by Christian Pfammatter

Whether seen in the pink glow of sunrise or wisped in cloud, the 14,692ft summit of the Matterhorn is wholly arresting. The peak you can't quite stop gawping at is the stuff of mountain-climbing legends — whether you’re hiking through wildflower-flecked meadows to the backbeat of cowbells or hurtling downhill on a mountain bike or go-cart. Zermatt is the ultimate base for nature lovers who are ripe for a summer adventure, with cable cars winging you ever higher to phenomenal mountains.

1. Visit the highest mountain station in Europe

The Matterhorn glacier paradise is the icing on Zermatt’s cake. Europe’s highest mountain station leaves you speechless with views taking in the full sweep of the Swiss, French and Italian Alps — across 38 peaks above 13,000ft and 14 glaciers. Mont Blanc, Jungfrau, Gran Paradiso: you can spot the lot on cloudless days. While you’re up here, explore the frosty interior of the glacier palace, where ice sculptors exercise their artistry, or summer ski on 13 miles of slopes. Aspiring mountaineers can join guided tours to reach the top of the 13,661ft Breithorn.

2. Hike past serene turquoise lakes

Beginning at Blauherd, this almost six-mile, two-and-a-half-hour hike to Sunnegga strings together five mountain lakes. Follow the ‘Five Lakes Walk’ path-markers and you’re in for a scenic treat as the trail ticks off the rugged, jade-green Grünsee, the kid-friendly Leisee which is perfect for a summer dip, and tranquil Stellisee, holding up a mirror to the Matterhorn. Equally lovely are the startlingly turquoise Moosjisee, and Grindjisee, where rare Alpine flowers bloom and larches turn russet and gold in autumn. And the best bit? The trail delivers sensational views with minimal exertion as it's largely downhill.

3. Get to know the picture-perfect Schwarzsee

The jagged, dagger-like shape of the Matterhorn rising above the ink-blue waters of this 8,474ft-high lake sends photographers and Instagrammers into rapture. From this rockscape of boulders and scree, the village and valley unfurl spectacularly before you. The lake is the trailhead for a climb up to the Matterhorn (mountaineers give thanks for a successful ascent at Maria zum Schnee chapel), as well as for numerous hiking and biking trails. Mountain bikers rave about the single-trail dash down to Zermatt, while serious, surefooted hikers get their kicks by trekking up to the 10,700ft Hörnlihütte, where climbers bed down before tackling the big one.

4. Go swimming or mountain-biking at Sunnegga

Like a magic trick, the Sunnegga funicular does a disappearing act into an underground tunnel in Zermatt, only to reappear at this 7,506ft-high sunny plateau less than five minutes later. The pop-up views of the Matterhorn elicit wows at nearby Leisee lake, a terrific spot for a swim, picnic or barbecue. Families also love the Marmot Trail, which of course offers plenty of opportunities to glimpse these cute Alpine critters emerging from their burrows. More action, you say? Jump onto the Sunnegga Flow mountain bike flow trail or rent a kick bike for a fast-paced helter-skelter ride down to thick woods of larch and Swiss stone pine above Zermatt.

Findeln is the Swiss fantasy hamlet made real — a place where slate-roofed, sun-blackened timber barns are surrounded by meadows freckled with Alpine wildflowers.

Photograph by Marco Schnyder Werbung

5. Devour homemade food in Findeln

Findeln is the Swiss fantasy hamlet made real — a place where slate-roofed, sun-blackened timber barns are surrounded by meadows freckled with Alpine wildflowers. Once a traditional grain-growing and cattle-grazing settlement, it has now carved out an outstanding culinary reputation. For a taste of the area's delicious offerings, embark on the gourmet trail – a short hike from Sunnegga to Zermatt via Findeln – and stop off at the many mountain restaurants along the way. Go for the Findeln Gourmet Pass, a one-day pass that takes in four restaurants offering the very best of the region's cuisine, 42 Gault-Millau points and, of course, sensational views of the Matterhorn.

6. Embark on a high-altitude hike

From the sun terrace of this 9,642ft-high mountain station, the Matterhorn is so in your face it’s almost intimidating. Trockener Steg is a great launchpad for high-altitude hikes, like the four-mile, two-hour Matterhorn Glacier Trail (No. 26), providing ravishing close-ups of Zermatt’s celebrity peak and shining a light on how retreating glaciers have sculpted this landscape of rock and ice, lakes and streams. Want to reach it in style? Hitch a ride in the Matterhorn Express VIP gondola, where you can pop the cork on a bottle of champagne as the Matterhorn slides into view.

 7. Reach great heights with the Matterhorn glacier ride

You can’t help but gasp as the world’s highest 3S cableway glides higher: the Matterhorn’s snarling summit feels close enough to touch. The Matterhorn glacier ride from Trockener Steg up to Matterhorn glacier paradise (Klein Matterhorn) is extraordinary in itself, but to ramp up the drama and luxury further still, book the Crystal ride for a spin in a gondola sparkling with thousands of shining crystals. The glass floor becomes transparent three minutes into the journey to reveal astonishing views of the glacier below.

8. Hop on a mountain cart from Blauherd to Sunnegga

The view of the mighty Matterhorn looming large on the horizon quickens pulses — and never more so than when you’re catapulting downhill on a mountain cart on the dirt trail from Blauherd (8,435ft) to Sunnegga (7,506ft). Get kitted out with a helmet and goggles and pick up speed if you dare in one of these chunky three-wheel go-carts, with fat tyres, strong breaks and a low centre of gravity to ensure a smooth ride. Hire carts at the Blauherd kiosk.

Kids catapulting downhill on a mountain cart on the dirt trail from Blauherd (8,435ft) to Sunnegga (7,506ft).

Photograph by Zermatt Bergbahnen Ag

9. Discover the glacier garden and suspension bridge of Furi

Lifted high on Alpine pastures above the valley and fringed by forests of larch and Swiss stone pine, the bucolic hamlet of Furi throws you in the deep end of the last Ice Age on a two-mile, one-hour loop walk of Dossen Glacier Garden, with its bizarre rock formations and glacier mills. While you’re up here, test your nerve on the 330ft-long suspension bridge, which dangles 295ft above the foaming waters of the river that pounds its way through the Gornerschlucht Gorge (follow the signs for ‘Hängebrückenweg Furi’).

10. Head on a single-track bike tour

Single-track fans are in their element on this eight-mile ride from Schwarzsee via Kalbermatten and Zmutt to Zermatt, zipping through forests of larch and spruce, and over open pastures with snapshot Matterhorn views. Involving 3,353ft of descent, the hour-long trail is initially flat and easy, heading along gravel tracks to cross the Zmuttbach River. But in Zmutt, it picks up the pace on the Yo-yo Trail, where extreme twists and turns enthral.

11. Soak up the breathtaking sunrise at Stellisee

The vista of snow-frosted peaks rippling from Switzerland deep into neighbouring Italy beggars belief at lake Stellisee (8,323ft). And the Matterhorn view? Staggering — especially at sunrise when pink light creeps down its chiselled face, and the reflection of this natural wonder on the lake below makes for sensational photographs. If you fancy snapping a similar shot yourself, the lake is a short walk from Blauherd summit station. For a treat, try the sunrise tour, which comes with an unforgettable breakfast in the mountains.

For more information, visit matterhornparadise.ch/en

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