Zermatt is one of those evocative destination names. Think of Zermatt and ski lifts, apres ski and snow are most likely some of the first things that spring to mind. It’s reputation as one of the best and most exclusive ski areas in the world is long assured.
Home to the mighty Matterhorn, this tiny Alpine village first found itself thrust to fame as the result of a tragic accident in 1865. Climbing was an extremely popular sport at the time and reports of numerous successful first ascents of European peaks were attracting huge interest in the press. Edward Wymper was already a famous British climber when he joined forces with a local priest, Rev. Charles Hudson, and together with Lord Francis Douglas, George Hadow, and the guides Michel Croz (from Chamonix), and Peter Taugwalder and his son (from Zermatt) they attempted to make the first asent of the 4,478 metre mountain. On July 14th that year they reached the summit, but tragedy struck on the decent when four of the party fell to their deaths after their rope snapped. News of the triumph and tragedy quickly spread around the world and Zermatt and the Matterhorn have fascinated people ever since.
Despite this level of fame that most ski resorts can only dream of, as a destination for a summer holiday it may not be the first thought that springs to mind. A perfect place for active families and walkers there is also plenty here to keep the adrenaline junkies happy during the warmer months.
Zermatt offers some of the World’s most stunning mountain walks amongst classic high-alpine scenery. There are 400 kilometres of marked Alpine trails in total leading through a wide range of environments – from pine scented mountain forests, to calm Alpine lakes, to stunning ice-blue glaciers and lookouts over all of Europe’s highest peaks.
We highly recommend the hike up to Zmutt, a tiny, beautiful and ancient mountain hamlet. Enjoy stunning views of the Matterhorn most of the way up, have lunch at the Jägerstube in Zmutt and amble the downhill path back to Zermatt at a leisurly pace.
A lift ride to one of the high summits above Zermatt is an essential experience. Gornergrat is the most popular (3,083 metres) with a magical panorama taking in 29 of the 38 highest peaks in the Alps. If you have to choose though we recommend going up to Klein Matterhorn (meaning Little Matterhorn). At 3,883 metres this is the highest lift serviced summit in Europe and the impressive views from up here are best enjoyed in fine weather. The final part of the cable car asent takes you soaring over vast ice glaciers before swooping right inside the mountain. Before you buy your ticket, try to find out if the “Gipfel-lift” is open. This little elevator takes you right up to the absolute craggy summit of the Klein Matterhorn and gives you an extra special 360° panorama.
The list of other summer activities available is certainly more than most people can cover over a week (or even two) so it’s unlikely that boredom will set in. The more active can choose from Mountain biking, Paragliding, dirt biking, golf, tennis and fly fishing.
We love the Forest Fun Park where you can step, swing and climb from tree to tree. The idea behind this park is to give you a feel for the sport of climbing from the Tyrolean traverses and suspended bridges. It’s plenty of fun in it’s own right though and it’s accessible to most with different levels of difficulty and heights.
And of course there is skiing. Yes, even at the height of summer you can clip your boots on and get on piste. Thanks to the mighty glaciers Zermatt has the largest and highest summer skiing area in Europe with 25 kilometres of pistes and 8 ski lifts remaining open all summer. Glacier skiing is about very broad motorways of well groomed, obstacle free snow and the majority of the summer area is quite suitable for beginners and intermediates.
One of the most surprising things about Zermatt is how it has managed to retain it’s village feel while welcoming 2 million + visitors every year including some very high profile guests.
Life on the bustling Main Street is as much about locals meeting and chatting as visitors enjoying Apres ski and shopping and the whole atmosphere is very open and friendly. The entire centre is car free which adds to the laid back charm. A 2 minute walk from the centre brings you to Hinterdorf, the oldest part of the village where storage barns built in the 15th Century are still in use.
Despite the village atmosphere, there is very cosmopolitan choice of restaurants and nightlife on offer. Pollux on the main street is a fantastic place to go to experience traditional Swiss hospitality and food at it’s best. Their fondue is one of the finest we’ve tasted in the Alps. Just past the Mountaineers cemetery and the museum is one the newest additions to Zermatt’s nightlife scene. The Bubble is a very cool bar serving a selection of American diner style food. The burgers and the chicken wings are a must. If you’re still not ready to head for home check out the Hotel Post on the main street. There is something for every mood here with several bars here over a number of floors and a club downstairs.
Regular flights are available to Zurich or Geneva with Swiss Air. Transfers are easily organised here but by far the best way to travel the last leg of your jouerney is by Swiss Rail. If it’s possible to book the Glacier Express when you’re traveling don’t miss this beautiful experience.
Find out more and look for travel deals on www.zermatt.ch