• Danik Bates

Matterhorn Glacier Paradise: an excellent day trip whilst in Zermatt

Updated: Nov 2

One of the top things to do and see is to take a trip on the cable car to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise whilst in Zermatt, Switzerland. It may cost an arm and leg to travel on but the views from the highest cable car station in Europe is to die for but it is just not the views to come and see, there are other things up there also. Let us tell you.

Early start needed


The best time to go is as early as possible. This is because there are less clouds and you are more likely to get a view of the most famous mountain in the area, the Matterhorn (the one which looks like a wizard’s hat) which is also known as Klein Matterhorn. In fact, so readers are not getting confused, Klein Matterhorn and the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise are exactly the same place. I always say start early especially in the summer months before the droves of tour companies bringing in hundreds of sightseers with their cameras. One tip, bring lots of cash for this attraction as I came away suffering from open wallet surgery, but the whole experience was definitely worth spending money on.

The Cable Car ride


The cable car station is easy to get to from anywhere in Zermatt, located at the southern side of the resort and it is signposted. The cable car ride and the buildings on route are wheelchair friendly and step-free access which is great, just don’t expect the mountains to be friendly mind you. The journey itself takes a while but the views are amazing, to which the Matterhorn is in view all the time and further up you go, there is more rocky treeless landscape to take in before the snowy peaks.

However the journey is done in two parts. The Matterhorn Express gondolas take visitors to Trockener Steg at 2939m. From here there is a connecting cable car (known as the Matterhorn Glacier Ride) which does the steepest part of the journey to the summit of Klein Matterhorn at 3883m (the highest cable car station in Europe). Here is where the snow peaks come into play and gets a little bit colder due to the thin air and elevation gained since traveling up from Zermatt (which is 1620m above sea level). I say the journey time including the waiting can be around, say, forty-five minutes to an hour going up and slightly quicker going down.

The cable car ride is open 365 days a year, so great for hikers and sightseeing in the summer months and skiers in the winter months. Just remember, there will always be snow on the peaks so remember to wear the right clothes and keep warm.

At the summit, now what?


The way we do this trip is to let all the visitors from the cable car go to the viewing platform and we head into the Glacier Paradise. Here we took a lift to go inside the mountain and walk down a tunnel into an ice cave full of amazing ice sculptures which are probably changed every year. It is colder here than outside so bring a jacket. The ice sculptures are located 15 meters deep into the mountainside and are easily accessible, as there is a slope path or an elevator to take.

Now our top tip here, as already mentioned, takes the right clothes. It can be colder here than outside on the peak of the mountain. Sensible footwear is needed but for the photographers out there, make sure the camera battery is fully charged. Using cameras in the cold drains the battery. Just in case, take some spare batteries also. Check out some of the amazing sculptures we saw in these photos.

Next to the viewing platform there is an exit to check out sporting activities and to see the border of Italy/Switzerland further down the slope. Even from here there is a cable car to take visitors to Italy but we haven’t done this. Inside the building there is a restaurant (buffet bar style) and a small cinema with all the history of the Matterhorn to check out.

The Viewing Platform


There is a lift to take visitors to the platform on top of the building (one wonders how the Swiss build these buildings on mountain summits and shove a cable car system into them). Visitors will get 360 degree views and when visiting on a clear day, the views are truly amazing. From here there are thirty-eight mountain peaks which are over 4000 meters above sea level and fourteen glaciers as well as taking in views of nearby France and Italy. If one is lucky, the Mediterranean Sea can be seen. We just about saw it as it is over 200 miles away. We simply took our time here to relax and enjoy these amazing views. One view we loved is looking down into the Zermatt valley; however the view of Matterhorn, which is still amazing, is not as great up here compared to, say, looking at it from Zermatt. It doesn’t look so much like a wizard's hat.

Whilst looking around, we could see the peak of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe which is located in France and the peaks of Jungfrau, Eiger and Mönch which are the highest peaks in Central Switzerland.

Other things to do


A list of other things to do (which we haven’t tried yet but we are hoping to do a third visit up here at some point in the near future with the children), there are two main hikes which can be done in the summer, one is the Breithorn ascent, which takes hikers up the Mount Breithorn, 4164 meters above sea level. The route is around 5.4km long and takes about three to four hours to complete as there is a lot of ascent and descent on the path. Just remember there will be snow on this mountain during the summer months and is not ideal for children. The other hike I will mention shortly.

Breithorn

There is a cinema lounge located in the Breithorn tunnel which has several cozy seats and shows a film of the area which lasts several minutes. It's just something to do if one needs to give their feet a rest for a few minutes. For dining, Europe’s highest restaurant is located here and called En Guete. Whilst eating here, just look out of the window and take in those views. There is also shopping to be had for anyone wanting souvenirs.


Heading back down


After a while up here we got a bit peckish so instead of going to the restaurant here from a buffet (sorry En Guete), I wanted ‘proper’ cooked alpine food. We noticed on the way up there is a small hotel-restaurant at the second cable car station stop called Schwarzsee (at 2583m). It is called Restaurant Schwarzsee. Here we got great service whilst sitting outside on a terrace and had the Matterhorn and the other surrounding mountains to look at whilst mountain sheeps and goats wander around. I have to admit, I always choose a ‘rosti and a beer’ whilst in the Swiss Alps and that satisfies me to the max. Can’t beat a bit of old fried egg on top of potatoes.

After a meal and before heading back down to Zermatt, I took a very short five minute walk to the nearby lake (also called Schwarzsee) to check out the small chapel here, take in the mountains from different angles, jumped into the lake with the fish (do NOT do this if you DO not know what you are doing, its deep, very cold and still at high altitude - I am trained for these situations so I am a crazy nutter if you didn't know already!) and smell the fresh alpine air. This area is simply perfect.

Other hiking trails


There are several stops on the way up to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise and after each stop there are hiking routes (as well as ski slopes) to check out. We didn’t do any hiking on this side of Zermatt but if anyone wants information on the routes etc then visit the tourist information centre next to the train station in Zermatt. One of the other main hiking trails for visitors starts at the Trockener Steg which is one stop down from the summit on the gondola. The trail is called the Matterhorn Glacier Trail, 6.6 km long and takes around three hours to do. Here is a great chance to get closer views of the Matterhorn whilst taking in lakes and the other nearby mountain peaks and finishes at Schwarzsee. Again, I haven’t done the trail in full but have done the Schwarzsee area. Fingers crossed for our next visit to do this.

After thoughts and some tips


As a visitor to the area many times, despite the price, this is still one of the best cable car journeys we have been on to take in some of the amazing alpine mountain summit views in Europe. This place is truly amazing and we recommend you guys to go and check it out. We have done the journey twice and always come back feeling great. However, we always take lots of money (I can’t express this enough, it is Switzerland of course) and a light jacket for the summer. Make sure you are dressed properly and have the right footwear in case you go onto the snow or onto the hiking trails. The air is thin up there so you may feel dizzy, cold and out of breath for a while. If this carries on, stay in the restaurant area to warm up and if it gets worse get a member of staff. Worse case scenario is that you are whizzed off back down the cable car to thicker air. Don’t let this put you off, it’s very rare visitors will spend five minutes here and go back down. It is a case of getting the body adjusted to the altitude.


Is the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise worth it? Of course it is. If visitors are already in Zermatt, then this should be on their list. The price might put visitors off but it is a once in a lifetime experience and the views are priceless. For further information on the prices, check out the official website here. We loved our time here and spent around four to five hours. However, if doing the hiking trails or other activities (which we hope to update this post on in our next visit very soon), then allow a full day, take the right clothes and plenty of food and water if not using the restaurants in the area.

Check out our other Zermatt blog posts:

Things to do and see in Zermatt for those who do not ski.

Matterhorn Glacier Paradise: an excellent day trip whilst in Zermatt.

Hiking the Five Lakes Trail in Zermatt.


Have you been to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise? We would love to hear what you think. Please leave a comment. Have a great day guys.

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