A lot of people are probably only familiar with Zermatt in the wintertime. But the idyllic village also has lot to offer in the summer, when the snow has melted away and its many hiking paths are no longer dominated by skiers and snowboarders. One thing, though, is still covered with snow in the summertime: the Matterhorn 😉
Getting there – by train, of course
Even if Zermatt is a car-free zone, we generally prefer to travel by train in Switzerland anyway. From Zurich, you can quickly and comfortably get to any corner of the country without having to concentrate on the road.
There are hourly trains from Zurich to Visp. From there, you take another train directly to Zermatt. Once you arrive in Zermatt, the electric cars sent by the hotels for the guests and their luggage will already be waiting for you. That was also how we got to the hotel. We learned that these cars are in very limited supply and that they’re exclusively reserved for hotels and businesses that really need them.
Mont Cervin Palace – where friendliness resides
Once arrived at the hotel, we were immediately escorted to our room. These are available in two different designs. Those looking for an authentic Swiss experience are better off choosing the Chalet Style. The decor is all wood, and even the bed looks like a Swiss chalet. Those looking for something more modern will get a modern room with the Alpine Style. My personal favorite is the Chalet room, but they were unfortunately all sold out.
After we had freshened up, we were treated to dinner at the in-house restaurant Grill Le Cervin. I should add that you definitely won’t go hungry at the Mont Cervin Palace. This hotel owns several restaurants all over Zermatt: from sushi and meat to raclette, they go out of their way to have everything ready for their guests. Since we enjoyed the food there so much, we decided to go back to the Grill Le Cervin on our second night as well.
At the Mont Cervin Palace, I learned what it means to be a five-star hotel. No, it’s not about the food or the wonderful bed or even the spa. It’s about the people. From the moment we were picked up at the station to the day that we unfortunately had to check out, we enjoyed the attentions of an extremely friendly, helpful, and organized staff on a level that is sadly all too rare. As a guest, you feel exceptionally welcome and cared for, no matter what outlandish request you confront them with.
Hiking to the Riffelsee at 2:30 a.m. to watch the sunrise
I have to admit that in planning our Zermatt trip, I actually wanted to sleep a bit closer to the Riffelsee rather than in the village. The reason for that had to do with several pictures I had repeatedly seen on Instagram. They all showed the sunrise and the Matterhorn. What was special about them was that you could see the Matterhorn reflected in the Riffelsee. Well, I wanted to take that picture, too, and when I want something, I organize it. So that was how it happened that I got up at 3 in the morning and packed my 7 things, all to just hike along the path to the Riffelsee before the sun came up.
Down at the reception desk, I got some funny looks, but the two gentlemen who were working their shifts at that time were very helpful, and along with water and fruit, they gave me several tips on the hiking trail, which I had never walked before.
Ten kilometers lay before me, and it was a race against the sun. Equipped with Google Maps and a flashlight, I ran up the hill part of the way to guarantee that I wouldn’t miss the sunrise. Since it was cloudy the day before, you unfortunately couldn’t see the Matterhorn. And so at 4 in the morning from the level of Riffelalp, for the first time in my life (the other times, it was always hidden by clouds), I caught sight of the Matterhorn surrounded by stars.
Sadly, the fact that I could see the Matterhorn did not bode well for me: it was getting lighter, and I still had several kilometers to go. And I have to admit that I was already beat. A good 50 minutes later, I arrived at my destination and was surprised to discover that I still had a few minutes left before the sun would kiss the top of the Matterhorn. Once I had my pictures of the Matterhorn, the Gorner Glacier, and the Blacknose sheep, it was back down to the hotel with the cable car. When I arrived, I was asked if I was the person who had embarked on a hike in the middle of the night. I was apparently the talk of the morning and night shifts.
A day in summery Zermatt
After I had a chance to catch up on my sleep a bit and enjoy breakfast at the hotel, we took a walk through the village and then rode the cable car back up to the Riffelsee. From there, we went back down by almost the identical route that I’d taken during the night on the way up. The goal was to photograph a bridge with a waterfall, which was located around the halfway point. After we arrived at the bottom, it was time for a cold beer and a bite to eat. Zermatt in the summer makes for great exploring on foot.
A night in a tent at 3030 meters above sea level
Anyone can take a boring trip, but on top of a nighttime hike, I wanted to do one other crazy thing. By the Gandegghütte at 3030 meters above sea level, there are aluminum tents that were left over from the renovation of the Hörnlihütte, the base camp for the Matterhorn, where they served as accommodations for those guests who didn’t want to sleep in a dorm-type setup. From Trockener Steg, an intermediary stop on the cable car from Zermatt to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, you can get to the Gandegghütte in about 30 minutes. The hut itself is pretty small, but in spite of that, it offers 45 sleeping accommodations in the summertime. From the hut, you have a perfect view out onto the Matterhorn, the Gorner Glacier, and the Dufourspitze, which at 4634 meters above sea level is the highest point in Switzerland. If you want, you can even walk down to the Gorner Glacier in about 40 minutes, since it lies practically at your feet. In the evenings, there’s supper together for everyone in the hut. Although it got really cold during the night, I was amazed at how warm the tent was. Using a couple of blankets, we were able to seal off the lower sides of the tent, which were open.
If I could plan this trip again, I would do the overnight stay in the tent before a visit to the Mont Cervin Palace so that I could have a chance to relax in the spa after that exciting adventure.