August 2010
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Zermatt – the base for the Matterhorn (Switzerland)

The name “Zermatt” is a contraction of the local dialect words “zer”, which means “to”, and “matta”, which means “field” or “meadow”. Therefore: “to the field”, although many of the fields have since had hotels of apartment houses built on them. Zermatt is a car-free village in the upper Valais, one of the alpine cantons of Switzerland. It’s probably best known as a platform for skiing and mountaineering, especially on the mountain which towers above the village, the Matterhorn. Accommodation in Zermatt is among the most expensive in Switzerland.
Zermatt is surrounded by a range of fabulous mountains, among which the highest of Switzerland: Monte Rosa, but it is famous for the Matterhorn. It was one of the last alpine mountains to be conquered (in 1865), and the first expedition that reached the top ended dramatically (only 3 of the 7 climbers survived). This city is special as it is a car-free city and Zermatt could be a bit of a surprise as during the high season nearly 20,000 people living in a town with only 5 or 6 streets and more significantly almost no internal combustion vehicles except very occasional outside delivery and specialist services.
Almost all vehicles in Zermatt are battery driven and almost completely silent. Its special in Horse drawn vehicles that are equipped with bells and many startled pedestrians might well wish taxis were similarly provided. You can cycle or stroll in complete safety.
Incidentally there is a version of the standard Zermatt skimap/summer walking map in English and the map is free and can be found in Tourist Information centre.

Things to do in Zermatt are
• Breithorn The “Breithorn” (4150 m) is the easiest 4000er of the Alps. Using the lifts “Furri” (1700 m), “Trockener Steg”(2800 m), “kleines Matterhorn” (3883 m) you reach the top of the little Matterhorn.The top of the Breithorn can be reached after 2 h walking.
• Matterhorn (4478 m) can be climbed by experienced mountaineers. The usual pattern of ascent is to take the Schwarzsee cable car up from Zermatt, hike up to the Hörnli Hut elev. 3,260 m (10,700 ft), a large stone building at the base of the main ridge, and spend the night.
• Monte Rosa “Monte Rosa” (Dufourspitze) (4634 m) is the culminating point of Switzerland. The starting point is Monte Rosa hut at 2795m. The climb requires excellent physical condition, experience in climbing with crampons and prior acclimatisation to the altitude. The cost is approx. 700 CHF with a guide from Zermatt.

The climate is mild, even in the winter, so if you know a bit about camping you should be able to stay warm and dry at pretty much any altitude lower than about 500m above the village pretty much any time of year. For beginner campers there is a camping area open in Zermatt during the summer months. It’s to the left of the train station’s main exit.

How to get there:
Probably the best way to reach Zermatt is by train. Around half of the trains are operated by a private company, but the tickets are available through the Swiss Federal Railway. A Swiss Transfer Ticket is the cheapest mode of travel. In general rail passes are valid on the train, but there is a surcharge.
Private cars can only drive as far as Täsch. The last 7 km must be travelled by train or by taxi. In winter it is necessary to reserve your parking space well in advance. Air Zermatt will fly you in from major airports around.
It’s also possible to book an airport transfer by limousine or van to get to Zermatt.

Transport inside Zermatt:
• On foot: The village of Zermatt has three main streets which run along the banks of the river Vispa. In general one can walk as there is no motor traffic to worry about. During the summer there are roads and hiking trails leading up to a number of year-round restaurants in the direction of the Matterhorn.
• Taxi: There are small electric car/trucks to higher-end hotels. There are some horse-drawn carriages.
• By bus: There is a small fleet of electric or solar powered buses that go from one end of town to the other and to all the ski stations every 8 to 10 minutes.
• Cable Car: There are a series of cable car runs leading all the way to the summit of the Klein Matterhorn (3883m), presenting the highest scenic outlook platform in Europe.
• By train: A railway to the top of Mount Gornergrat is the Gornergrat Railway.
• By Bike: Zermatt is a great place to mountain bike although it doesn’t appear to have really become popular there yet. Bikes can be hired from several shops around Zermatt from about 35CHF You can also buy area passes on a daily basis that include the lifts on one particular peak (either Rothorn or Schwarzsee). These passes are available in mountain bike versions for not much extra.

Best time to visit / climate:
Zermatt is best during the warm summer days and offers a variety of hikes and walks for the tourists. The best time to visit the city for sports enthusiasts is mid July to mid September. The best time is also early May if one is not skiing. At the time of March and April, the days are warmer and longer. Zermatt is popular for summer skiing and for winter ski season which lasts from late November to early May.

Location on Google Maps:

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Driving directions from Zurich to Zermatt on Google Maps:

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Places to stay (hotels / restaurants along with website / contact numbers):

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Blogs / Sites about Zermatt


Images and photos of Zermatt

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