Switzerland train system is one of the most impressive and efficient integrated system in the world. They really run like clockwork and most importantly, they are convenient to use even for international visitors. Visit any Swiss Federal railway office (SBB CFF FFS), you will likely be greeted by attentive and helpful staff that is willing to answer any of your questions, even in some cases, will give you tips on how to get the best train deal.
The Swiss train system kind of reminded me of Japan Railways (JR) not only in terms of efficiency and punctuality, but more on the different rail passes that they offer for visitors who wanted to explore the country by train. Like what I used to do in Japan when I was residing there and if I ever will reside in Switzerland in the future, I am sure that some of my free time will be spent at SBB office trying to check all passes that I can best use, though nowadays, train tickets and passes can be bought online, usually at the lower cost if bought a month or so in advance.
It only takes 3h 12min to be exact, to travel from Zurich to Zermatt and taking the first train (6am) out Zurich somehow guarantees that I can see the Matterhorn on my DIY day trip. All I wanted is to see the Matterhorn and no plans to go for skiing, and as advised by SBB staff, a whole day is enough to fulfill my objective. With a train transfer at Brig station, by 9:20am I already arrived at the town of Zermatt.
The town of Zermatt, located in the municipal district of Visp, is the entry point of the hiking and skiing region surrounding the magnificent Matterhorn. A laid-back, car free town that offers everything any explorer needed to properly explore the mountainous region, there are hotels, restaurants, travel agents, outdoor gear shops. But despite the cozy wine bar, in Zermatt, no matter where you look, all gaze towards the hypnotizing Matterhorn.
From Zermatt, there are various options to see the Matterhorn, and the best thing is visitors don’t have to be a mountaineer to do so, meaning anyone and everyone can see the mesmerizing “Toblerone” mountain.
There is the popular Matterhorn Glacial Paradise, taking visitors via Europe’s highest cable car to the Klein Matterhorn station situated at 3,883m elevation, and there is the Sunnegga Express that takes visitors to Rothorn, where at 3,103m provides an outstanding panoramic view of the mountain.
Taking the Gornergrat Bahn to see the Matterhorn, I would say is one of the best decision I made on this entire Euro-trip. The 33 minutes travel time from Zermatt to Gornergrat, as the train made its way on a sharp incline to the top is truly a one for the books kind of experience, there is the overwhelming sense of anticipation from everyone on-board and the collective gasps of excitement whenever the Matterhorn appears on the right-side of the train.
Taking the Gornergrat Bhan to see the Matterhorn means having the options to stop along the railway station of your choice for different viewing point of the mountain. I recommend to start at the topmost, the Gornergrat which offers not only the view of the shark’s fin like mountain, but it is where you will see the equally impressive panorama view of the other alpine peaks, together with the hotel and the observatory of 3100 Kumhotel.
Another recommended stop is the Rotenboden, located at 2,815m above sea level, is where you will experience one of the most impressive views of the Matterhorn and perhaps a chance to really see it as close as you can. It only takes a few minute semi-hike from the train station to the alpine lake of Riffelsee, for the famous reflection of the Matterhorn on the calm waters of the lake.
There are various hiking trails available, including the easy Riffelseeweg hike that takes visitors from the Rotenboden station to the Riffelberg station passing by Riffelsee, I was tempted to do this walk, but my limited time does not permit me to do so. I would say, there is no day until now that I do not think of going back to Zermatt, to see the Matterhorn again and hike the many available trails.
Nothing will prepare anyone from seeing the Matterhorn and for my case, I am a 37 year old woman who, upon arriving at Gornergrat excitedly exit the train, threw caution to the wind, ran like a careless child towards the far end of the viewing platform, slip on a thawing snow and hurt my hips. I almost cried seeing the monolith mountain I once dream of, it is beautiful beyond words and truly a dream come true.
Matterhorn rises at 4,478m high, bordering the country of Switzerland and Italy, with its cragged rock “tooth” distinct feature is indeed mystical and majestic. With its four faces nearly facing the four compass points, with the North, East, West on the Swiss side and South on the Italian side, the Matterhorn with its near symmetrical pyramid peaks is the crown jewel of the Pennine Alps.
I doubt anyone who will say that they are not smitten by the mountain, no matter which side and which vantage point you view the mountain, it is simply hard not to stop looking at the Matterhorn. What’s magical about it, is every time you gaze upon it, you can’t help but be fascinated, and perhaps realize that it is way, way better than you ever imagined it will be.