How can I get from Zermatt to Matterhorn?
The Matterhorn is, without doubt, one of the most iconic peaks on Earth. Instantly recognisable from any angle thanks to that uniquely dramatic shark’s tooth peak, it’s a towering colossus that straddles the Swiss-Italian border.
For visitors travelling to Zermatt - be it for skiing, sightseeing, or just to relax in a pristine Alpine haven - getting up close and personal with the mighty Matterhorn is usually somewhere near the top of their to-do list.
Getting to the top of the mountain, on the other hand, isn’t on very many people’s itinerary at all. At nearly 4,500m (15,000ft) above sea level, the peak remains a daunting climb for even the most experienced mountaineer teams. Happily, a number of less taxing options are available for those seeking to experience this Alpine giant from a rather more comfortable perspective.
Matterhorn glacier paradise
Most tourist travel from Zermatt to Matterhorn typically involves a stop at the aptly named Matterhorn glacier paradise. Featuring a newly built fine dining restaurant commanding spectacular views of the Matter Valley, this is the highest altitude cable car station in Europe (3,883m).
The full Zermatt to Matterhorn cable car ride takes around 45 minutes to ascend gently into the clouds, offering riders a stunning 360-degree panorama as it passes among many of the most picturesque and imposing crags in the entire Alps range. Visitors who feel like soaking it all up in even more luxurious surroundings can opt for the full Matterhorn glacier ride experience, developed as a roughly 9-minute addition to the existing aerial tramway, with world-class gondolas created by the globally renowned Pininfarina design team.
Upon alighting at the station, you’ll have a varied choice of next steps and downward routes to pick from. For many, it’s thrilling enough just to sit back and take in those postcard-worthy vistas across the dazzling peaks and valleys of Switzerland, Italy and France.
Others may prefer to strap on the skis or snowboard and tackle one of the many exciting runs in the vicinity of the station, including those of the Theodul Glacier (open year-round). If you’re more interested in exploring further up the slopes, you can join a mountain guide for a 2.5-hour hike that brings you to 4,164m and the snow-capped summit of the south-facing Breithorn. From this vantage point, on clearer days, your reward is a tableau stretching all the way to the Mediterranean.
Gornergrat - the ‘Matterhorn train’
Another popular way to achieve a fabulous Matterhorn view from Zermatt is to ride the historic cog railway, reaching the 3,089m Gornergrat station in just over 30 minutes. Zermatt travel guides are unanimous in recommending this short trip as a quintessential local experience, and with good reason.
Not only is the tranquil route utterly breathtaking as it winds slowly upward through lush forests and across sweeping Alpine meadows, but the infrastructure itself is a true marvel of 19th-century engineering: the world’s first fully-electric cog railway.
Again, on reaching your destination at Gornergrat, you’ll be treated to a viewing platform with perspectives on no less than 29 different 4,000m+ peaks - not to mention an environment teeming with local wildlife - before an equally enjoyable return leg deposits you back at the Bahnhofplatz base station in the very heart of Zermatt town centre.
Rothorn and Schwarzsee
When visitors ask how to get to Matterhorn from Zermatt, two other favourite answers for less direct routes include the Rothorn and Schwarzsee cable car rides.
Rothorn is a neighbouring summit, and thus not a direct route up - in fact, the aerial tramway actually heads away from Matterhorn itself. However, it affords a wonderful aspect on the iconic mountain from the Skiline Photopoint at Unterrothorn, in addition to various beautiful hikes in summer, and direct access to numerous pistes in winter.
The placid lake at Schwarzsee, on the other hand, is a starting point for many more direct excursions on Matterhorn. It only takes about 12 minutes to ride the gondolas to reach this picturesque Alpine tarn (complete with small chapel) from Zermatt. On arrival, many hikers head on to the two-hour Matterhorn trail, rising 3,260m to Hörnli hut. Others prefer the nearby Larch Walk theme trail, skirting the base of the mountain and offering countless opportunities for keen photographers to snap local flora and fauna on the Mischabel massif - as well as the Matterhorn itself, of course.
The available year-round routes from Zermatt to Matterhorn are many and varied, with several modes of transport typically operating 365 days per year - meaning there’s seldom much waiting or queuing involved. In short, a trip to this most iconic of rock formations is an absolute must for anyone lucky enough to be passing through this staggeringly beautiful part of Switzerland.