Snowy white landscapes that seemed straight out of a Christmas post card, majestic ridges, peaks of the Pennine Alps and a mesmerizing town at the foot of the mountains. All this at temperatures ranging from -3 to -19 degree centigrade which would feel far colder due to the wind chill factor caused by the forecasts of ghastly winds. Well, I was in two (or more!) minds while researching and planning my holiday to Zermatt, an alluringly beautiful town at the foot of the Matterhorn, arguably Switzerland’s most famous landmark. And yes, it was the same mountain that is printed on the packaging of my favourite Toblerone chocolate bars! Nonetheless, the temptation was too much to resist and Zermatt remains one of my most memorable holidays till date.
Idyllic resort town
A quaint Swiss town located in the Visp district of the canton of Valais in Switzerland, Zermatt has a population of about 6000 people and consists of just about 3 main roads and several cross roads. It is surrounded by the stunning peaks of the Pennine Alps which includes the Monte Rosa, the Dom, Liskamm, Weisshorn and of course the Matterhorn. The Matterhorn which is one of the most photographed mountains in the world, remains a peak filled with an aura of myth and mystery whose ascent is akin to an emblem or a badge of honour for seasoned climbers. It is Europe’s biggest and highest skiing region and a firm favourite with skiers, snowshoers, ice trekkers and adventure junkies of all kinds.
It is key to note that Zermatt is a car free village and one can reach here either by train or by car though you would need to park it at Tasch, a village 5 km away, from where you need to take shuttle trains that operate every 20 minutes to Zermatt. A town of pristine beauty, it is dotted with hotels, cafes and resorts replete with gabled roofs, charming restaurants and snow covered sidewalks. Nothing can, however, prepare you for the beauty as you look up; the tall snow clad conifers amidst the mighty, glistening mountain peaks blanketed in white snow is truly a sight to behold!
While Zermatt is the gateway to the mountains, you can enjoy the beauty of the high altitudes even if you are not a skiier or mountain climber. From rides on the world’s highest cableway in a gandola to cable car journeys and even a helicopter ride there are several options to savour the spectacular beauty of the mountains.
While here, one thing that you certainly must do is a ride on Europe’s highest altitude electric cogwheel railway that chugs its way up from Zermatt to Gornegrat perched at a height of 3089 meters above sea level. An engineering marvel that is the highest open-air railway in Europe, the panoramic ride traverses through forests and snow-covered landscapes. The view from the top is breathtaking and you can relax at the coffee shop atop or visit the souvenir shop and even the little chapel.
In Zermatt downtown you can visit the Matterhorn museum. The museum is insightful and a perfect way to learn about the history of the town from the 19th century. The museum has interesting displays that capture the essence of the days when there were no ski lifts or mountain railways.
The Mountaineers’ cemetery in the centre of the town which is a memorial dedicated to climbers who have lost their lives in pursuit of the Matterhorn peak is worth a visit and so is the Hinterdorf which is the oldest part of the town replete with timber houses, stables and barns.
A more detailed version of this article has been published in Asiaville.