Zermatt is one of these places that are way beyond compare. Far from any kinf of concrete jungle this village grew into its own kind of world and a paradise for mountaineers and mountain lovers but also party enthusiasts.
The village is packed with tourists from all over the world almost all year round, most of them in hope of seeing the worlds' most photographed mountain, the Matterhorn.
While the Matterhorn, contrary to widespread belief, is not the highest mountain of Switzerland, it surely is the most popular and one of the most well-known mountains worldwide.
The mighty pyramid shaped peak reigns over the whole area, showing off its massive rock faces from pretty much every spot in and around Zermatt.
There are three main regions around Zermatt, the Glacier Paradiese, which takes you up to the Kleinmatterhorn at 3883m, the Gornergrat, accessible thru an impressive trainride up to 3089m, and the Sunnegga/Rothorn Paradise, with Sunnegga at 2288m and Rothorn at 3103m. Each area has its own jewels and treasures, nestling down in vast overwhelming nature landscapes.
All three areas each form a ski resort in winter season, connected to each other with cable cars, but also huge hiking sites in summer season. Wether you're a big skiing/snowboarding fan or prefer wandering thru beautiful naturescapes, Zermatt will have something for you, whatever the season is.
You will find loads of restaurants, bars and clubs including fine nightlife and maybe even some celebrity spotting. But be aware, the Zermatt locals foster the fashion of leaving them alone, 'paparazziing' is not welcomed. If you rather spend your time up in the mountains, each of the three areas hosts a bunch of mountain huts and restaurants and even a few hotels, all of them located close to wonderful hiking trails in summer and the slopes in winter.
One of the top hotspots is the Stellisee at the Sunnegga site at 2537m. Easily to get to in the summer season with the Sunnegga cable cars up to Blauherd and a 30mn hike, the Stellisee offers this one of a kind view.
If you're lucky and hit a windless day, the Matterhorn will reflect in the crystal clear water of the lake. And if you're really lucky a herd of the famous valais blacknosesheep will join the show.
I highly recommend hiking back down instead of taking the cable car back, even though it might take a while. Whatever path you're taking, you will be rewarded with unforgettable views and impressions of majestic mountain sites. Pay attention to all those different smells of trees and plants along the way!
One more hint: camping is not allowed at Stellisee, swimming neither. Keep in mind this is nature (even though sometimes it appears like Disneyland), whatever you bring with you, also take it back with you.
Another top spot is the Riffelsee at the Gornergrat side. If you plan on going there in high summer season, be prepared to meet loads of other people there and not being able to shoot mountain solitude styled pictures.
The Riffelsee is easy to reach by taking the Gornergrat Bahn up to Rotenboden or Riffelalp and then hiking for about 15-30mn.
Like at Stellisee, the Matterhorn reflects in the lake and depending the time of the year, the sun sets behind its peak.
By taking the Gornergrat Bahn up to the top station you reach a platform that gives you a mindblowing panorama over glaciers and mountains, including the highest peak of Switzerland, the Dufourspitze at 4634m, the Gornerglacier (third-longest glacier of the Alps) and a bunch of other 4000m peaks like Lyskamm, Castor and Pollux. Oh and yes, the Matterhorn is visible from here, too!
Walking a bit further up you'll get to the Kulmhotel Gornergrat, a couple tourist shops and a restaurant, that also lets you sit outside and watch the Matterhorn, while a bunch of Choixs try to steal your food.
Behind this building the path leads to another platform that hosts a 360 view and if you're not used to high altitudes, this couple-minutes-walk will teach you. Remember, you're up at over 3000m altitude here.
The cable cars of the Glacier Paradise take you even higher, up to 3883m, and you will definitely feel like in another world. When going in summer, the changes of colours and landscapes are impressive, riding from summer straight into ice age in just about 40mn. In winter season the slopes start right here and riding down, you can even make a stop at the border to Italy on the way back to Zermatt.
In summer, you might want to make a stop at Schwarzsee and/or Trockener Steg, either to just do some sight-seeing along the way or start your hiking adventures from here.
Starting at Trockener Steg the Glacier Trail is a wonderful path thru glacier landscapes right at the foot of the mighty Matterhorn. If you want to do this trail, be prepared with good shoes (waterproof mountain boots), extra clothing, drinks and a full mobile phone battery. You're about to enter rough high altitude wilderness of rocks, ice and snow. I also recommend to have some hiking and high altitude experience as well as good fitness.
Also, you might want to leave rather early, as the last cable cars down go around 17h. If you miss those you'll have to walk down all the way back to Zermatt, which is quite a long way, especially after doing a trail at 3000m altitude. If you would like to stay up there, you could book a room at Hotel Schwarzsee, which is located at the end of the Glacier Trail, right at the name-giving Schwarzsee.
And if you then still didn't have enough, you could go for the Hörnli Hut the next day, the history-charged basecamp of the Matterhorn at 3260m. Based at the foot of the famous Hörnli Grat this hut will blow some adventurers wind around your nose. And if you're not keen on climbing the Matterhorn peak, this place is the closest you can get to her Majesty.
As for staying in Zermatt, you're spoilt for choice. Wether you prefer a simple room, a 5 star hotel or a luxury appartment, you can choose from a wide range of offers.
One accomodation I can recommed is the Suitenhotel Zurbriggen, owned by famous skier Pirmin Zurbriggen. Since it is family run you might bump into at least one member of his family or even get picked up at arrival with one of those typical electric vehicels by Pirmin himself. The house hosts a beautiful spa area with sauna and pool and an outdoor jacuzzi with Matterhorn view. The interior is filled with designs of Zermatt local artist Heinz Julen. Obviously it is not the priciest choice, but definitely worth it.
In the end, Zermatt got everything you need, the whole year round. If you're looking for exceptional views and photo spots other than all the tourist hotspots you might want to stay for a couple days and explore the area aside from the popular trails and spots. You might discover some jewels :)
How to get there
By car via Visp to Täsch. Zermatt is car-free, which is why you have to park in Täsch and take the shuttle train from there to Zermatt.