As the most iconic mountain in all of Switzerland, the Matterhorn is undoubtedly one of the must-see sights of the Alps. At 4,478m high it is one of the highest peaks in the mountain range, and its distinctive shape is probably one of the most recognisable of any mountain in the world.
Sitting high above the town of Zermatt, it has one of the deadliest climbs in the Alps and was its last great peak to summited in 1931. So let’s assume you don’t fancy trying to reach it on foot, what’s the next best way to get a good close up view of the most famous peak in Europe?
Fortunately getting close to the Matterhorn could not be much easier thanks to the excellent system of gondolas traversing the ground between the town of Zermatt and the Klein Matterhorn, the highest viewing platform in Europe.
To prevent air pollution and therefore protect its incredible view of the Matterhorn, Zermatt is a car free zone. This means you’re likely to be arriving by train. From there you’ll have a 15 minute walk to the first lift station. It’s a lovely walk through the picturesque mountain town. As you get closer to the first gondola you’ll see the often photographed view of the Matterhorn, its peak towering above the tree lined valley.
Upon reaching the lift station you can begin the three stage gondola journey, reaching the Klein Matterhorn summit in a total of 50 minutes. The journey is a marvel in itself, with the gondolas seemingly going on forever.
The first gondola will take you as far as the small village of Furi. As an alternative for the more active traveller, there are well sign posted walking routes from Zermatt to Furi with a gradual incline totaling about 240m. If you’re in Furi around lunch time or just in need of some light refreshment there are a few restaurants in the village. After you’ve quenched your thirst you can make an easy switch to the second gondola taking you to the next checkpoint at Trockener Steg.
At the Trockener Steg station you’ll get some of the best views of the Matterhorn. It’s definitely worth spending some time here to take a walk and admire the majestic mountain from as close as you’re probably going to get. It really is a colossal sight that you’re unlikely to forget in a hurry. When you’ve had enough of peering up at the pointy peak it’s time for the final leg of the journey – an aerial cableway from Trockener Steg to the Klein Matterhorn station at 3883m.
The views from the summit of the Klein Matterhorn are simply spectacular. It’s said that on a clear day you can see as far as the Mediterranean. I don’t know if that’s true, but even with some cloud and hazy skies you won’t be disappointed. The rugged, desolate landscape all around you is a constant reminder of the hostile environment at the top of one of Europe’s greatest peaks.
Whichever way your turn, it’s impossible not to feel in awe of our incredible planet. With the Alps of France and Mont Blanc to the west, the Italian Alps to the south and the Swiss Alps in every other direction you really feel like you’re on top of the world, a mountain paradise.
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