Matterhorn reflection in Riffelsee
Things to Do

Best Mountain Excursions from Zermatt

January 7, 2020

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The Swiss mountain resort of Zermatt is well known for its iconic peak, the jagged Matterhorn. With its pyramid-shaped peak that reaches a height of 4,478 metres above sea level, the Matterhorn attracts thousands of tourists every year who come to witness its majestic beauty.

Whilst you can get great views of the Matterhorn in Zermatt village, many visitors take the opportunity to enjoy an excursion to one of the other nearby mountains that are even closer to the Matterhorn.

This guide covers the best mountain excursions from Zermatt so that you can experience the best views of the Matterhorn as well as providing details on prices, frequency of services and what you can do once you reach your destination. 

[This post may contain compensated links. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.]

Most popular Zermatt mountain excursions

Excursion to:TransportOperates
GornergratCog RailwayYear roundBUY TICKETS
Matterhorn Glacier ParadiseCablewayYear round*BUY TICKETS
RothornFunicular/cablewayYear round*BUY TICKETS

*Some closure dates apply for annual maintenance. See this article for further details.

Let’s cover these excursions in more detail.

Gornergrat

Gornergrat bahn with Matterhorn view
The Gornergrat Bahn with the Matterhorn’s iconic peak as a backdrop.

What is Gornergrat?

Located in southern Switzerland, Gornergrat is a ridge of the Pennine Alps and is situated at an impressive 3,135 metres above sea level. Meaning ‘Gorner Ridge’ in English, Gornergrat can be reached via the Gornergrat Railway – a historic rack railway.

How to get to Gornergrat from Zermatt village

Since 1898, people have been riding the rack (or cog) railway from the village of Zermatt – the Gornergrat Bahn, the oldest electrified cog railway in the world.

The Gornergrat station – a dedicated station for the Gornergrat bahn – is located across the street from the main Zermatt railway station.

Gornergrat Bahn timetable

Gornergrat to Zermatt train services run throughout the day, shuttling back and forth between the ridge and the town itself.  During winter, the Gornergrat bahn timetable has the first train departing Zermatt at 8am with the final descent from Gornergrat at 8.07pm.  In summer time, you can depart Zermatt as early as 7am.

The Zermatt Gornergrat train journey takes just 30 minutes and there are departures every 25 minutes.

There are four intermediate stops along the Gornergrat railway route.  They are: Findelbach, Riffelalp, Riffelberg and Rotenboden. You can disembark at any of the stops along the route and re-join a later service.


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How much does Gornergrat Bahn cost?

Prices for Gornergrat bahn tickets vary according to the season. From November to April, a return ticket from Zermatt to Gornergrat will cost you CHF 80; between September and October, a return fare is CHF 78.40; you’ll pay CHF 102 for travel in May and June, and in July and August, which is peak season, the price of a return ticket is CHF 118.  

Children aged 6 to 16, who hold a Junior Card or Family Travel Card, travel free of charge. 

Click here to buy your Gornergrat bahn tickets

TIP: Holders of a Swiss Travel Pass or Swiss Half-Fare Card receive a 50% reduction. 

The scenery en route to the Gornergrat is spectacular. © Swiss Travel System

Things to do on Gornergrat

There are things to do throughout the year on Gornergrat. Wildlife can be spotted, including chamois, free-roaming ibex, and cute marmots. But, without doubt, the most popular thing to do on Gornergrat is simply admire the view.

The mighty Matterhorn looks magnificent from the viewing deck at the top, as does the Gorner Glacier.

There’s a restaurant with both an indoor and outdoor dining area and ‘Europe’s highest shopping centre’, where you can find a range of Swiss souvenirs, chocolates, wines and spirits at 3,100 metres. 

Interestingly, there’s also a chapel on the Gornergrat, (called the Bernhard von Aosta Chapel), where you can light a candle inside. If that doesn’t interest you, it does still look charming with its mountain backdrop for great photo opportunities.

In the summer months, Gornergrat is the starting point for many hikes. One of the most popular is the hike from Rotenboden, past the Riffelsee – where, cloud permitting, you can see wonderful views of the Matterhorn reflected in the lake – and on to Riffelberg.

In the winter, there’s sledging, skiing, and a spot of winter hiking to get involved with.  

If you’re interested to know what the Gornergrat weather will be like when you reach the summit, there are numerous webcams showing live images in the Zermatt Tourist Information Centre, Gornergrat Bahn station and many hotels in the village.

The Gorner Glacier is the second largest in the Alps.

Hotels in Gornergrat

Surprisingly, there is actually a hotel located on Gornergrat. At an altitude of 3,100 metres, you can stay among the summits of the Alps in what is Europe’s highest hotel.

Kulmhotel Gornergrat was built around a hundred years ago and makes for a charming and unique place to stay on the mountain peak. Here you can see 29 mountains (on a clear day), breathe in the fresh mountain air, and enjoy your meals while gazing out at the stars.

The Gornergrat hotel boasts 22 warm, modern rooms, and there’s a restaurant on-site, too. Skiers, mountaineers, keen hikers, and those who just can’t get enough of mountain views, call this place home for a few days in their preferred season. 

Click here to check rates and book your stay at Kulmhotel Gornergrat 


Matterhorn Glacier Paradise

A cable car approaches Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. © Swiss Travel System

What is Matterhorn Glacier Paradise?

Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is, true to its name, a mountainous haven with utterly stunning scenery. It’s Europe’s highest altitude mountain station, at 3,883 metres above sea level.

One of the best things about this place is its 360-degree viewing platform, complete with unobstructed views of 38 jagged mountain peaks (all over 4,000 metres tall), as well as 14 glaciers. Needless to say, calling it ‘paradise’ definitely makes sense!

How to get to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise from Zermatt village

Located on the peak of Klein Matterhorn (or ‘Little Matterhorn’), Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is reached from the car-free village of Zermatt. From Zermatt railway station, you can take an electric bus to the gondola station, which will begin your journey to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.

Though it may seem complicated, we’ll run through how to get from Zermatt to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise to make life easier.

There are three legs of the Matterhorn cable car line. Firstly, take the cable car from Zermatt to Furi (1,867 metres). From here, you change gondolas and take the Furi-Trockener Steg cable car to Trockener Steg (the mid-station at 2,939 metres); change here a final time and ride the Trockener Steg-Matterhorn gondola to the peak of Klein Matterhorn at 3,883 metres.

For this final leg, there are two parallel routes you can take. The recommended option is the Matterhorn Glacier Ride; complete with a glass floor, it’s a little more luxurious than the other option.

Matterhorn Glacier Express cable car
A series of cableways whisk passengers from Zermatt to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.

The Matterhorn Glacier Paradise timetable operates 365 days a year with frequent departures.

The cableway operates from Zermatt from 6.30am (27 June to 6 September) and 8.30am the rest of the year.  The last descent from Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is at 4.30pm during high season and 4.15pm for the remainder of the year (except 12 to 31 October when the final descent is at 3.45pm).

How much does Matterhorn Glacier Paradise cost?

It’s actually relatively affordable to get to this incredible destination. A return ticket from Zermatt to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise (including all those cable cars) costs CHF 87. Children from the ages of 9 to 15 travel at half the price (CHF 43.50) if they hold a Junior Card or Family Card.

TIP: Holders of the Swiss Travel Pass and Swiss Half-Fare Card receive a 50% discount.

Click here to buy your Matterhorn Glacier Paradise tickets

Learn more about the benefits of the Swiss Travel Pass in this article.

Things to do on Matterhorn Glacier Paradise

You may be thinking that all you can do here is look at mountains. While that is amazing in itself, there’s a ton of things to do at Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. 

For one thing, there’s direct access to 21 kilometres of ski and snowboard slopes, and in summer, international ski teams train here! Why not join them? Matterhorn Glacier Paradise boasts year round skiing.

Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is also home to the aptly named Glacier Palace. Situated within an actual glacier, you can catch a lift that travels 15 metres down into the icy depths and enter a fairytale world of ice sculptures and ice crystals. There’s even an ice toboggan ride inside.

Elsewhere, there’s a cinema, a restaurant with a souvenir shop, and that all-important observation deck, as well as a snow park where you can enjoy activities like snow tubing (year round except 12 to 31 October, 2020).

Hotels at Matterhorn Glacier Paradise

While there are options for accommodation in Zermatt and the nearby mountain village of Furi, there aren’t any hotels at the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.


Rothorn

Rothorn provides one of the best vantage points of the Matterhorn. © Zermatt Bergbahnen

What is Rothorn?

Rothorn, also known as Unterrothorn, is a mountain not all that far from the village of Zermatt. While not one of the tallest mountains of the Pennine Alps, measuring up at 3,104 metres above sea level, it is famous for being able to provide sublime views of its western neighbour – the spire of majestic Matterhorn.

How to get to Rothorn from Zermatt

Getting from Zermatt to Rothorn requires a few changes. Firstly, you have to take a funicular from Zermatt to Sunnegga. Then you board an eight-person gondola (or six-seater chairlift) to Blauherd. There’s then a cable car which runs from Blauherd to Rothorn.

While that may seem complicated, once you’re there, it will be pretty easy to figure out, since many people will be making their way to this lofty natural viewing platform. Not too many, however, since most tourists will go to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise above Rothorn.

To sum it up…

The Zermatt-Sunnegga funicular (operating between mid-May and October) departs between three and six times an hour (journey time eight minutes); there’s then the frequent, five-minute gondola ride to Blauherd, running between late-May and September; and lastly, there are upwards of three cable cars per hour from Blauherd to Rothorn (July through to early October).

From July to mid-September you can get to the summit from 8:00 a.m., the last ride to the Rothorn from Blauherd is 16:40, and the final descent from Rothorn is 16:50.

How much does getting to Rothorn cost?

The three parts of the funicular-gondola-cable car system from Zermatt to Rothorn costs CHF 74, but that’s during peak season (July and August). There are discounts available during spring and autumn. 

Children aged 9 to 15 years pay 50%.

Click here to book your tickets to Rothorn

Hiring mountain carts is just one of many fun things to do at Rothorn. © Zermatt Bergbahnen

Things to do on Rothorn

The Rothorn summit offers a few choices of things for you to do. In terms of food, while a fancy pizzeria will satisfy your hunger, there’s also the option for picnicking on the rocks with stunning views of Grunsee below, for those who are well prepared.

Most of all, however, it’s the view of the Matterhorn and the surrounding peaks that wins first place. Snap a picture of yourself at the photo point and admire the stunning scenery.

For the adventurous traveller, paragliding from the peaks around here can be organised – click here to check prices. You can hire a mountain cart or kick bike (also called a Trotti bike or Trotti scooter) to get the adrenaline pumping.

As with most Alpine destinations, hiking is readily available from Rothorn. The intermediate station, Blauherd, is the starting point for the popular Five Lakes Walk which passes Lake Stellisee, Zermatt’s most-photographed lake, and four other lakes en route to Sunnegga.

Hotels on Rothorn

There are no places to stay on Rothorn. The best option is to base yourself in Zermatt, which features a number of accommodation options – like the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof, the lovely Hotel Mirabeau and Spa, or the less expensive riverside hotel, Alfa.

Read my review of the Hotel Mirabeau, Zermatt here >>


How to get to Zermatt

Zermatt has a ‘car-free’ status, meaning all visitors must arrive by train. Zermatt is serviced by regular trains from all over Switzerland, including the famous panoramic train, the Glacier Express.

Read more about the Glacier Express in this article.

If you are travelling by car in Switzerland, you’ll need to leave your car at a designated car park in the village of Tasch. The are numerous car parks, including one right beside the train station. Parking costs CHF 16 per 24 hours.

From Tasch, there’s a shuttle train service to Zermatt which operates every 20 minutes with a journey time of 12 minutes.  Tickets cost around CHF 17 return per adult.

Most hotels in Zermatt provide transport from the Zermatt train station in their electric buses.  If your accommodation doesn’t provide transfers, there’s a taxi stop (electric taxis) outside the station.


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Click on the map below to see the location of the cable car and Gornergrat bahn stations in Zermatt.


Now that you have learnt all about the most popular excursions from Zermatt, I hope you have a fabulous day and enjoy the great Matterhorn views from whichever mountain you choose to visit.


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