If seeing the Matterhorn was a once in a lifetime experience, admiring the sleepy giant from different angles and altitudes was even more fascinating. The highlight of our two days in Zermatt was a trip up to the Gornergrat at an altitude of 3,089 m from where you can enjoy the stunning views of almost 30 peaks, including the famous Matterhorn. If you are ever in Switzerland, then this place is a must, provided the mighty sun will shine its face upon it.
The cogwheel train ride up to the viewing platform on the Gornergrat is an experience in itself. The train leaves from a yellow building (station) just across the main train station in Zermatt. As you leave the station, the track climbs around the back side of Zermatt leaving the village behind in the deep valley.
While the train continues to climb going through small wooden tunnels and wiggling through the curves, you may see cute marmots, mountain sheep, or goats and enjoy some of the best views of the Matterhorn. The scenery changes continually, taking you first through beautiful woods and meadows with lots of wild flowers, then passing by ski slops and snow covered mountain peaks.
There are five stops along the way and your ticket allows you to get off at any of them and then re-join the train, if you decide to stop for photos or just to walk for a while.
Once the train arrives at its final destination atop the Gornergrat, you can walk up the short, snowy path that leads first to a little chapel, then to the hotel/restaurant and the observatory whose domes are visible for miles.
Further up there are some more steps that lead to a wider viewing platform where you get a 360-degree view of the entire Monte Rosa range of mountains, including the iconic Matterhorn.
To fully enjoy this trip, consider these three tips:
1. Try to take the earliest train to Gornetgrat
2. Sit in direction of the train at the right, on the way up the mountain. This will help you enjoy the best views down to the valley without having to look over the other passenger’s heads.
3. If you sit in the last car of the train, it is possible to pictures the train during the curves. The windows of the train can be opened, so it is possible to make wonderful pictures.
In summer, as the snow melts revealing a lush scenery with beautiful lakes and mountain springs, many people choose to walk from the Gornergrat all the way down to Zermatt.
We took the cogwheel half way and then hiked all the way down to our hotel in Zermatt. The hiking was not difficult, but it took longer than we expected. What was estimated to be a 4 hour hike ended up being about 6 hours, even though we walked pretty fast.
If you have a Swiss Rail Pass you get a 50% discount on the cogwheel tickets, but they are still expensive. Even so, the memories of that beautiful ride on the Gornergrat railway to the top of the mountain will stay with me for a long, long time.