Switzerland › Things to do in Zermatt

The car-free town of Zermatt, located in the Valais Canton at an altitude of 1600 metres, holds a magnetic attraction for those who love the mountains.

The 4,478 metre Matterhorn—one of the world's most famous and beautiful mountains—towers over central Zermatt, with a further twenty-eight 4,000 metre peaks (including the Monte Rose and Mont Blanc) visible from the Gornergrat mountain railway station (3135 metres, 40 minutes from the town centre).

In addition, Zermatt has over 400 kilometres of walking trails and 245 kilometres of pistes for skiing and snowboarding.

Visitors also flock to Zermatt for culture, great shopping, luxurious five-star hotels, world-class spas, welcoming mountain restaurants, high class traditional and international cuisine, lively apres-ski and a wonderful atmosphere. It is a perfect place to relax and enjoy the great outdoors.

Peak ski season in Zermatt is between late November and early May, though the height of the Klein Matterhorn cablecar station (3883 metres) means that year-round skiing is available on a number of glaciers. There are lots of things to do in summer, where peak season is between mid-June (when the snow has melted on the higher walking trails) and early October.

1. BVZ Zermatt-Bahn (Glacier Express)

The BVZ Zermatt Railway.

The car-free Zermatt is best accessed by the BVZ railway: the relaxing journey offers stunning mountain views.

The railway is a narrow gauge that runs from Brig (at 724 metres), to Visp (817 metres), Täsch (1450 metres) and on to Zermatt (1616 metres). The whole 44 km journey takes about 80 minutes, and has a maximum gradient of 12.5%.

The locomotives and carriages are painted bright red and are, as with all public transport in Switzerland, relentlessly efficient. But the real joy in the journey lies in taking in the mountains on the way.

We recommend sitting on the left hand side of the carriage facing the direction of travel (on the way up), so that you can catch views of the Monte Rosa range.

In addition to the mountains, the train passes a number of attractions including pretty chalets, villages, gardens and even the unexpected 9-hole Matterhorn Golf Course.

where? From Brig and Zermatt railway stations.

when? First trains leave Brig and Zermatt at about 5.30 am, with last trains leaving at about 10.30 pm. Check the train timetable. A 2nd class return costs CHF74, with 1st class costing CHF140 (Feb 2016).

2. Getting to know Zermatt

Zermatt's bustling main street

Get to know Zermatt by following our walking tour.

Your first impression of Zermatt will be its bustling railway concourse, packed with electric vehicles ready to whisk hotel guests and their bags away (though those staying in Zermatt's two five-star hotels, the Mont Cervin and the Zermatterhoff, will be treated to a short horse and carriage ride instead).

If you want to get to know Zermatt, turn right as you leave the station and walk up Zermatt's busy Bahnofstrasse. There are lots of things to see: the street is packed with restaurants, cafes, bars, discos, and clothes, outdoor equipment and jewellery stores.

Shopping ...

Zermatt must be one of the only places on earth where shops selling Armani suits, Patek Phillipe watches and ice axes are found within metres of eachother!

We particularly recommend the Lorenz Bach outlet store in the arcade opposite the Mont Cervin Hotel, where you will find a range of top designers at bargain basement prices.

Zermatt's church

Further up the high street you will find Zermatt's pretty church and the Matterhorn Museum. Take a few minutes to pay your respects to the climbers who have been killed in the mountains surrounding Zermatt, many of whom are buried in the small graveyard between the church and the river.

Carry on for five or ten minutes past the Church, taking in the pretty chalets, until you reach the lower Glacier paradise cable car station. Then return to town via the river, the Matter Vispa. The circular walk will take about an hour.

when? Zermatt is busy all year round, with skiers and snowboarders in the winter and hillwalkers, mountaineers and sightseers in the summer. Advanced booking is recommended if you are planning to attend Zermatt's events and festivals.

3. The Gornergrat Railway

The cog railway on its way to Gornergrat (© Christopher Michael, CC-BY-ASA-3.0). The Gornergrat rail terminus

The railway trip to Gornergrat (at 2883 metres) is Zermatt's most popular attraction, taking you into the heart of the Swiss Alps.

The journey of 9.33 kms (and 1200 metres of ascent!) takes about 40 minutes on the way up and slightly longer on the way down. It also takes in a number of other interesting features, including forests, meadows, gorges, tarns, bridges and tunnels.

The views from Gornergrat

When you arrive, you will (on a clear day) be able to enjoy fantastic views of 29 4,000 metre peaks, including the Matterhorn itself, the Breithorn (4164m), the Monte Rosa (Europe's second-highest peak, at 4633m), and the Gornergletsher glacier (the second longest glacier in the Alps).

Walk down?

Many visitors choose to walk down some of the mountain, before re-joining the train at the Rotenboden or Riffelberg stops. Be sure to keep an eye out for ibex, chamoix and marmots.

August 2013 saw over 500 horn blowers gather together at Gornergrat to set the world record for the greatest number of horns played simultaneously!

where? Trains leave from a small station opposite Zermatt's main train station.

when? Trains run throughout the year, normally every 24 minutes. First trains leave at around 7 am, and final trains from Gornergrat leave at about 7 pm. Sunrise packages are available for early birds between June and early September—but be warned, in June the train leaves Zermatt at 4.30am! Gornergrat is a popular place to visit, so expect crowds.

£$€¥ Adults: CHF86 return; Children (6-16): CHF43 return; Children under 6: free (and 7 and 8 year olds go free in winter).

4. Skiing in Zermatt

Zermatt offers spectacular skiing all year round.  © Andrew Sutherland, CC-ASA-2.0. Zermatt Piste Map

Zermatt is the world's most complete ski resort.

Visitors flock for a number of reasons: a top elevation of 3,820 metres, 245 kilometres of marked pistes, challenging off-piste terrain, 73 ski-lifts and mountain railways, and the 13-kilometre run down to central Zermatt, with 2,200 metres of descent.

Zermatt's ski areas

Zermatt has three principal skiing areas, all on the east side of the valley. The first descends from the 3,103 metre Rothorn. The second descends from the spur which includes the 3,400 metre Stockhorn and Gornergrat. The third descends from the 3,820 metre Klein Matterhorn cablecar station.

The height of the Klein Matterhorn, the world's highest cable car station, means that excellent snow conditions prevail until early May and that skiing is possible all year round.

Runs for all abilities

Only 23% of Zermatt's runs are suitable for beginners (blue runs), with 44% suitable for intermediate skiers (red runs) and 33% for those with advanced ability (black runs).

Advanced skiers will also enjoy Zermatt's National, Gant, Aroleid and Triftji mogul fields.

Boarding and apres-ski

Boarders are well catered for, with two snowboard parks and two man-made half-pipes (one at Blauherd, the other between Trockner Steg and Furgg).

Other activities include eating hearty fare at Zermatt's 38 mountain restaurants, apres-ski, two natural and one artificial ice-rinks, and 30 kilometres of cleared winter footpaths.

Skiing and boarding are the things to do in Zermatt in winter.

when? Zermatt's three main skiing areas are open from November to May. The Gravity Park (on the Theodul glacier and accessed by the Furggsattel chairlift) offers 21 kilometres of skiing, accessed by eight lifts, all year round; this makes Zermatt the destination of choice for many national ski teams.

£$€¥ Adult ski passes for cost CHF79 for a day, CHF211 for three days and CHF430 for a week (Feb 2016).

5. Zermatt Walking: the Höhbalmenstafel and Trift

The Trift Hotel An Ibex grazing in the Trift Valley

The trek to Höhbalmenstafel (2665 metres), which offers stunning views of the Trift Gorge, Matterhorn and Monte Rosa, is one of Zermatt's top tourist attractions.

The circular walk can be completed in 5-6 hours and involves 1000 metres of ascent. For those after a more challenging excursion, why not attempt the Wisshorn (2911 metres, 1300 metres ascent, 7 hours), the Platthorn (3343 metres, 1700 metres ascent, 8-10 hours) or the Mettelhorn (3403 metres, 1800 metres ascent, 9-11 hours).

The Höhbalmenstafel

From Zermatt's railway station, head towards the Church at the top of Zermatt's main street, and take a right turn shortly afterwards. Walk up the hill and out of the town. You will quickly find signposts towards Trift (2337 metres), a two-hour walk from the town centre involving 700 metres of ascent. The route is strenuous, but the views of the Trift gorge (pictured) are fabulous; you pass through the pretty Edelweiss hamlet (where you can stop for a drink) at the halfway point.

At Trift, we recommend resting at the Hotel for a pint of home-brewed iced tea and a just-from-the-oven slice of fruit pie. Then head to the left, up to the Höhbalmenstafel. After about an hour from Trift, the Matterhorn will come into view. This is a great lunch and photo spot.

There are three ways down: the steep way (straight back down to Zermatt, taking just under two hours); the way you came up (about 2 hrs 30 mins); and the long way (which takes you further up the valley and past an interesting hydro-electric installation, taking about 4 hrs).

These walks are amongst the best things to do in Zermatt in summer.

Alternative routes from Trift

There are three alternative routes from Trift. Each starts with an hour-long ascent in a north-easterly direction. At about 2750 metres, you reach a signposted fork in the track. For the Wisshorn, regarded as one of Zermatt's best viewpoints, turn right and continue for 40-50 minutes to the summit.

For the Platthorn and Mettelhorn continue for another two hours until you reach a distinctive ridge. From here, the Platthorn's summit is only 20 minutes away. For the Mettelhorn, you need to cross a short section of glacier, before reaching a steep zig-zagging path to the summit.

when? The best time to walk in Zermatt is late May to September. Those without experience should not walk on glaciers. For all others, bring your crampons and check the glacier conditions at the Trift hotel.

£$€¥ Free. A large glass of iced tea at the Trift hotel costs CHF6.

6. The spa at the Mont Cervin

The Mont Cervin's spa.

World-class pampering, with a hefty price tag!

If you have had enough of the mountains, why not chill out for a day at the Mont Cervin's spa. This excellent, state-of-the-art spa offers a great range of facial, body and massage treatments together with some more unusual options (including Swiss chocolate body peeling and Hawaiian flower baths).

The spa's facilities

The spa also boasts a large indoor pool (heated to 28°C), an outdoor pool (heated to 35°C!), indoor and outdoor jacuzzis, Finnish sauna (80-90°C), tepidarium (50-60°C), caldarium (45°C), odorium (40-45°C), ice-grotto, dipping tank, warm foot-baths, power showers and relaxation room. Overall the spa covers an area of 1700 square metres.

The hotel also has an attractive garden (adjacent to the outdoor swimming pool) where you can soak up the rays in summer.

The Mont Cervin Spa is Zermatt's most relaxing place to visit.

directions? The Mont Cervin is found half way up Zermatt's main street, the Bahnhofstrasse. T +41 27 966 88 88

when? The spa is open all year round.

£$€¥ Treatments range from CHF70 to CHF460 (though this includes use of the spa's other facilities).

7. The Matterhorn Museum

The world famous Matterhorn. Edward Whymper, the first person to conquer the Matterhorn

The Matterhorn Museum, where you will learn about the mountain's infamous first ascent, is a great thing to do on a rainy day.

Edward Whymper

The Matterhorn's first ascent, led by Edward Whymper in 1865, involved eight climbers—Whymper, Lord Francis Douglas, Charles Hudson, Douglas Hadow, Michel Croz, father and son Zermatt guides called Peter Taugwalderduring.

After successfully reaching the summit, minutes before an Italian team led by Jean-Antoine Carrel, Hadow slipped and pulled Douglas, Hudson and Croz down the north face with him. All four climbers died.

Was the rope cut?

The remainder of the party survived, because (they claimed) the rope attaching them to the rest of the party snapped. Some later alleged that the rope was cut, though an official enquiry found no evidence to support this theory.

The ascent marked the conquering of the last great alpine peak and the end of the golden age of alpinism; it was so widely reported and controversial that Queen Victoria is said to have considered banning British men from climbing.

Other exhibits

The second main exhibit tells the story of traditional Swiss country life. Visitors are able to walk through a recreated cottage, stable, hotel and church.

The third exhibit is devoted to mountaineering, and how it has changed since Whymper's successful ascent of the Matterhorn.

Allow one to two hours for your visit to this popular Zermatt attraction.

where? Head up the main street until you reach the Kirchplatz (between the Zermatterhoff and the Church). Tel. +41 27 967 41 00.

when? Visiting times vary: check the Matterhorn Museum's website for details.

£$€¥ Adults CHF 10; Seniors (60+), students, SAC members CHF 8; Children (0-9 years) free; Children (10-16 years) CHF 5.

8. Eating in Zermatt

A fondue cauldron.

Zermatt offers a great variety of food options, but they come at a price!

Traditional Swiss dishes

You can't come to Switzerland without sampling the traditional Swiss dishes, most notably fondue and raclette.

Fondue is better-known, and involves dipping bread and sometimes meat into a bubbling cauldron of cheese. But be careful: in Swiss tradition, if a nugget of bread is lost in the cheese by a man, he must buy a bottle of wine; if such a thing happens to a woman, she must kiss the man to her left.

Raclette involves a starter of cured local meats and pickles, a main course of grilled cheese and potatoes, and a dessert of pineapple and Kirsch. We recommend the Stockhorn Grill and Le Mazot for such traditional fare.

Other food options

Otherwise we suggest Le Gitan for fabulous quality meat grilled over an open fire in the restaurant itself and served with gratin potatoes and a daily vegetable dish; the Schäferstube (at the Hotel Julen) for excellent lamb sourced from the Zermatt valley; the Spaghetti Factory for moderately priced Italian, and Guisseppi's for the best Italian and friendliest welcome in town; China Garden for, well, Chinese food; Sparky's for good value pub grub; and Myoko for Japanese.

For more formal occasions, try the Mont Cervin's Grill.

The cost

Eating in Zermatt is expensive. Bank on between CHF30 and CHF80 per person without drinks. Further information is found on our Zermatt restaurants page.

9. Klein Matterhorn and Glacier Paradise

Views from the Glacier Paradise are fantastic.

The Klein Matterhorn cablecar whisks visitors up to a height of almost 4,000 metres, to enjoy views and an ice grotto at the Glacier Paradise.

The journey

A series of cable-cars whisk you up to Schwarzee (2583 m, with an idyllic lake and small Maria sum Schnee chapel), Trockner Steg (2939 m) and then the Glacier Paradise, at an altitude of 3883 metres.

The ride is half of the fun, taking you close to the Matterhorn itself and giving you magnificent views of the Monte Rosa range and the mountains to the west of Zermatt. When you arrive you will be treated to stunning views over the French, Swiss and Italian alps (for instance, Mont Blanc appears surprisingly close). Make sure you visit the observation deck.

The Glacier Paradise

The Glacier Paradise has a cafeteria (selling much needed hot drinks). For those with mountaineering experience, why not book a guide from the Zermatt Alpine Centre to take you up one of the 4000 metre peaks accessible from the Paradise? They are, in ascending order of difficulty, the Breithorn, Castor, Pollux and the Breithorn half-traverse (see further 12, below).

Wrap up warm before enjoying this popular tourist attraction.

where? The cable car to the Glacier Paradise leaves from the south end of Zermatt (about 10 minutes walk from the town centre).

when? Times vary depending on the season, but the Glacier Paradise is generally open between 9.30 am and 4 pm.

£$€¥ The cable car journey together with access to the observation deck and ice cave is CHF100 for adults and CHF50 for children (until April 2016). Swiss half-fare card discounts are available.

10. Climbing: the Riffelhorn

The Riffelhorn, with the Matterhorn in the background (© Andrew Bossi, CC-BY-SA-2.5).

The Riffelhorn (2927 m) is a small peak to the south of Zermatt which is traditionally used as a training climb for the Matterhorn.

Accessed by short walk from the Rotenboden stop (2815 m) on the Gornergrat railway, the Riffelhorn is perched above the Gornergletsher glacier and offers tremendous views to Monte Rosa (4633 m) to the south-east, the Breithorn (4164 m) ridge to the south, and the Matterhorn (4477 m) to the west.

Scrambling and climbing

The easiest route is up the Riffelhorn's east ridge, a scramble with two or three short pitches where climbing is required, taking about 45 minutes.

For those looking for something a little more technical, there are a number of different bolted routes found to the south of the Riffelhorn. They vary in standard, with the easiest (the Egg route) having seven pitches varying between 3 and 4a. Other routes contain pitches at levels up to 5a.

This is the thing to do for those training for the Matterhorn, or for climbers looking for safe and accessible bolted routes.

where? The easiest way to get to the Riffelhorn is to take the Gornergrat railway (located close to Zermatt's main railway station) to Rotenboden. The journey takes about 45 minutes.

when? The rock is suitable for climbing in summer months.

£$€¥ The climbing is free. An adult return to Rotenboden costs CHF68.

11. Mountaineering: Climbing the Matterhorn

the Matterhorn from Schwarzee

The Matterhorn (4478 m) was, in 1865, the last of the great Alpine peaks to be climbed.

The Matterhorn, or Le Cervin as it is known in France, is probably the world's second most famous mountain, after Mount Everest. Its fame is down to two things: the infamous first ascent of a party led by Edward Whymper in 1865, in which four climbers lost their lives, and the mountain's classic Toblerone-mountain shape.

Each year, thousands of climbers summit the Matterhorn. Most take the Hornli Ridge from the Hornlihutte, easily accessible from Zermatt.

Learn about the routes and how to train for a summit attempt on our Climbing the Matterhorn page.

12. The Gorner Gorge

The Gorner gorge

The Gorner Gorge has been created by the fast-running waters of the Gornervispe over tens of thousands of years.

The result is an impressive natural gorge, complete with waterfalls and whirlpools, through which the glacial waters of the Gornervispe continue to run.

The wooden walkway

The Gorner Gorge is a particularly interesting attraction because of the creation of a wooden walkway by Joseph and Elias Lauber and Joseph and Gabriel Taugwalder in 1886-87.

Whilst the walkway is steep at times, it allows visitors to get close—literally metres away—from the icy waters below. Visitors can choose to either retrace their steps, or to continue to walk down the far side of the Gorge towards Zermatt.

Gorner Gorge is an interesting attraction within easy reach of Zermatt; it is ideal if you have a spare few hours and fancy an easy walk.

where? The Gorge is about 20-30 minutes' walk from Zermatt's main railway station. Walk straight up the high street, past the church, and past the Matterhorn Express cable car station. Continue uphill, following the signs for the Gorge and crossing the river, for another 15 minutes.

when? Summer months.

£$€¥ CHF4.50 for adults; CHF2.50 for children.

13. Mountaineering: Zermatt's 4000 metre peaks

The Breithorn ridge. The summit of Castor

Zermatt provides the ideal base for tackling 4000 metre peaks.

A number of peaks can be reached from the Klein Matterhorn cable car station, which avoids the need for a long approach and overnight hut stay. Others can only be attempted after spending the night in one of Zermatt's many friendly and efficiently run alpine huts - an experience in itself - and an early morning start the next day.

The Breithorn

The easiest peak is the Breithorn, graded F+ (at the higher range of the facile/easy range), a 4159 metre peak which involves about 350 metres ascent from the Klein Matterhorn cablecar station (taking about 4 hours in total). This is an ideal first peak, suitable (if accompanied by a guide) for anyone with reasonable levels of fitness.

A much harder ascent is the half traverse of the Breithorn, again attempted from the Klein Matterhorn. It involves a substantial section of scrambling and rock climbing on an exposed ridge. It is graded AD- (at the lower end of the assez difficule (quite difficult) range), and takes about 6 hours.

Castor and Pollux

The twin peaks of Castor (4228m) and Pollux (4092m) are also accessible from the Klein Matterhorn. They take about 6-7 hours each, with Castor being a predominantly snow climb and Pollux containing lengthy rock sections. Both are graded PD (at the middle of the peu difficile (a little difficult) range).

Zinalrothorn & Ober Gablehorn

The western side of the Zermatt valley offers more exposed peaks, tackled from the friendly Zinalrothornhutte (3177 metres, a 5 hour hike from Zermatt). The Zinalrothorn (4221m) is an 8 hour trip from the hut, graded AD-, and involving fantastic climbing on a sharp summit ridge. The slightly lower Ober Gablehorn, at 4063 metres, is an equally difficult challenge (also granded AD-), requiring mountaineers to first ascend the 3903 metre Wellenkuppe.

Mountain huts

Two huts are attractions in their own right. The Bergrestaurant Fluhalp is known for its excellent catering, and is the starting point for an ascent of the Rimpfischhorn (4199 metres). The round trip takes a demanding 9 hours, involving 1600 metres of ascent, and is graded PD+.

Last of all is the Monte Rosa, and its new environmentally friendly hut, described below.

Mountaineering is an exhilarating thing to do if done safely. We strongly recommend hiring an IFMGA mountain guide.

£$€¥ Guides typically cost about CHF400 per day. Mountain huts typically offer dinner for about CHF30 and breakfast for about CHF10. Dorm spaces are usually about CHF35 per person, and small and basic private rooms about CHF70 per person.

14. Zermatt's wildlife

A Chamoix in Zermatt. A Zermatt Marmot The Swiss national flower, Eidelweiss, growing in Zermatt.

Visitors come to Zermatt for its plants, flowers and wildlife.

Chamoix

The largest attractions are Chamoix (Rupicapra rupicapra, pictured) and Ibex (Capra ibex), different varieties of mountain goat which have adapted to live in steep, rocky terrain.

Chamoix can reach a height of around 75 centimetres, a weight of between 20 and 30 kilograms, and are identifiable by short horns hooked backwards near their tip and by a white face with black stripes.

Ibex

Female Ibex are of a similar size to Chamoix, with males reaching a metre in height and a weight of up to 115 kilograms. The horns of male Ibex are substantially longer than those of females, reaching up to a metre in length; both bend backwards.

Marmots

A somewhat smaller mountain animal is the Marmot (Marmota marmota).  These large burrow-dwelling ground squirrels yelp to each other in high pitched tones (especially when alarmed); they are shy by nature, and so best spotted early in the morning on lesser travelled trails.

Flowers

Alpine flowers abound between June and September; a particular draw is the Edelweiss, the Swiss national flower, which can often be seen growing alongside mountain paths.

Other prevalent flowers include the northern and alpine milkvetch, the yellow oxytropis, the wood pink, the alpine and dairy star asters, brown clover, French honeysuckle, mountain sorrel and the broad-leaved orchid.

The Trift gorge is a particularly good place for spotting mountain flora and fauna.

15. Walking & Mountaineering: The Monte Rosa

The Monte Rosa is, at 4634 metres, the highest peak in Switzerland and the second highest in the alps.

Leonardo da Vinci was so impressed with the view that he observed that the mountain "lifts itself above almost all the clouds."

The main summit is called the Dufourspitze, first conquered in 1855, though the Monte Rosa massif includes a number of other 4000 metre peaks including Nordend (4609 metres), Zumsteinspitze (4563 metres), Signalkuppe (aka Punta Gnifetti, 4554 metres) and Parrotspitze (4436 metres). The Monte Rosa is also notable for the 57 square kilometre Gorner Glacier leading to its higher slopes.

Climbing the Monte Rosa

The Duforspitze can be climbed by a demanding 11-hour day (graded PD) from the Monte Rosa hut, itself accessed by a two-hour trek from the Rotenboden station on the Gornergrat railway. The new hut, owned by the Swiss Alpine Club and at an altitude of 2795 metres, is worthy of particular mention.

The new Monte Rosa hut

Opened in late 2009, the five-storey crystal shaped building provides accommodation for 160 climbers; it is built on a stainless steel foundation, has an interior made exclusively of wood, and is wrapped in aluminium. The award-winning building, designed to harvest 90% of its power requirements from the sun, is a must-see attraction.

The Tour de Monte Rosa

Others prefer to complete the Tour de Monte Rosa, a nine-day trek that circumnavigates the Monte Rosa massif. The trek offers striking views of not only the Monte Rosa but also the Matterhorn, Dom (4596 metres) and Alpine villages, scenery and wildlife. It is often started and finished in Zermatt, crossing into Italian territory almost immediately before returning to Swiss soil during stage 5.

It comprises the following legs: (1) Zermatt to Theodulpass (4 hrs); (2) Theodulpass to St Jacques (7.5 hrs); (3) St Jacques to Gressoney la Trinite (4.5 hrs); (4) Gressoney la Trinite to Alagna (8 hrs); (5) Alagna to Macugnana Staffia (8 hrs); (6) Macugnaga Staffa to Saas Fee (6.5 hrs); (7) Saas Fee to Grachen (7 hrs); (8) Grachen to Euopahutte (5.5 hrs); and (9) Europahutte to Zermatt (6.5 hrs). At 3317 metres, Theodulpass is the tour's highest point.

16. Walking: the Matterhorn fitness test and the Oberrothorn

The crowd-free views from the Oberrothorn are probably the best in Zermatt. Are you fit enough to climb the Matterhorn? The Matterhorn from Sunnegga

Many guides use the fitness trail from Zermatt to Sunnegga to assess whether their clients are fit enough to climb the Matterhorn.

The track is found 100 metres east of the Hotel Cervo (marked with a large white sign (pictured)).  It takes you through a beautiful forest notable for its black squirrels, thrushes and deer.  Follow the track uphill (taking the steepest paths if in doubt). 

Matterhorn fitness test

If you are Matterhorn material, you will emerge at Sunnegga (2288 metres) in 60 minutes or less.  Walkers sometimes come off the direct path to Sunnegga, and emerge at Tufteren (2215 metres)—an equally difficult walk on account of the greater distance covered.   For those too tired to go further, we suggest you spend some time at the picturesque Leisee lake (and its adjacent children's playground and campfire areas) before making your way down to Zermatt via Findeln. 

For further information, see our Climbing the Matterhorn page.

Those with more energy should take the direct path from Sunnegga to Blauherd (2571 metres, 1 hour), and then the zig-zagging path from Blauherd to Rothorn (3103 metres, 1.5 hours). The Restaurant Rothorn offers good food and a unique 'Peak Collection' exhibition, giving information about the surrounding mountains in a number of languages. 

Oberrothorn

The super-fit can proceed from Rothorn to the Oberrothhorn (3415 metres, 1.5 hours): start by descending about 100 metres from the Rothorn, before following a steep path around to the summit (having been fooled by several false summits en route). 

The views from the Obberrothorn are the best in Zermatt, improved by the absence of crowds.  Starting at the Matterhorn and moving clockwise, you will see the Obergablehorn, Zinalrothhorn, Weisshorn, Rimpfischhorn, Strahlhorn, Monte Rosa Massif, Liskamm, Castor, Pollox and the Breithorn. 

The final pleasure of this walk comes in saving most of the knee-jarring descent by taking the cablecar from Rothorn to Sunnegga and the underground funicular railway to Zermatt. 

17. More things to do in Zermatt

A helicopter sightseeing tour of the mountains surrounding Zermatt.

Zermatt offers a host of other attractions and things to do, briefly described below:

(1) Air Zermatt offers 20, 30 and 40 minute helicopter flights which leave from their base at the north of Zermatt. The 20-minute option takes in the Weisshorn, Matterhorn and Monte Rosa, with the longer tour also taking in the Breithorn, Dufour, Weissmies, Lagginhorn, Dom and Täschhorn before returning to Zermatt. Zermatt's heliport is ten minutes walk to the north of Zermatt's main train station (down the valley). T: +41 (0)27 966 86 86. Air Zermatt flights depart all year round, weather permitting. Air Zermatt flights cost CHF220, 320 and 420 per person for the 20, 30 and 40 minute flights. Though expensive, this is one of the best ways to see Zermatt's most famous attractions.

(2) Alpine Adventures Zermatt offers various paragliding packages, for which there is no age limit and no experience requirement, from Sunnegga (2,300 m, 10 mins, CHF120), Blauherd (2,600 m, 15 mins, CHF150), Riffelberg (2,600 m, 15 mins, CHF150), Rothorn (3,100 m, 20 mins, CHF190), and the Klein Matterhorn (3,800 m, 35 mins, CHF280). Their office is found in the Co-op centre close to the main railway station.

(3) Zermatt's Forest Fun Park is a great attraction for kids. It offers 350 metres of bridges, ladders and zip-lines carefully built amongst the pine forest at the south end of Zermatt. Its Kids, Discovery, Adventure and Extreme trails offer various levels of difficulty for children aged four and over and adults. The Forest Fun Park is at the south end of Zermatt (up the valley), five minutes past the Matterhorn Express cable car station. The Forest Fun Park is open in spring, summer and autumn; check the website for times. The Forest Fun Park charge CHF13 for young children (4-7 years); CHF22 for children aged 8 to 13; CHF27 for children aged 14 to 17; and CHF32 for adults.

(4) Another adrenaline rush is provided by hiring a dirt scooter. Take the cable car up to Schwarzee and speed back down to Zermatt on safe gravel paths, descending about 900 metres. Two and five hour packages are available between mid-June and early October. Not suitable for children under nine. Similar kick-bike packages are available for a descent from Sunnegga. Book at the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise cable car station.

(5) Learn how cheese is made and about mountain life at the Stafel Alpine Dairy (the only dairy in Zermatt), to which trips run every day from mid July to the end of August. Two packages are offered, taking visitors via Furi or Schwarzee. Book three days in advance at the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise cable car station. An educational day out for children. During the winter months, an alternative trip to the Horu cheesemakers is offered.

(6) For something more civilised, visit the Zermatt Golf Club which offers a well-maintained 2939 metre 9-hole par 36 course in the valley between Zermatt and Visp. The Zermatt Golf Club is located about 8 kilometres to the north of Zermatt (down the valley), between the villages of Randa and Täsch. T. +41 (0)27 967 7000. Open during the warmer months, the Zermatt Golf Club charges CHF60 for nine holes for adults and CHF40 for juniors.

(7) An entertaining diversion is the 30 minute walk from Zermatt to Blatten to visit the Ricola Herb Garden. Cultivated by over 100 Swiss mountain farmers, the herbs used in Ricola's drops an teas are planted in this garden. They include Horehound, Burnet, Cowslip, Speedwell, Plantain, Yarrow, Mallow, Lady's mantle, Marshmellow, Elder, Peppermint, Sage and Thyme. Blatten is also home to a small chapel and mountain restaurant.