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City & Country: Falling in love with Zermatt

It is easy to fall in love with Zermatt. There’s something to do in this quaint Alpine village, even for a non-skier or someone not into hiking or mountaineering, that will make for a memorable holiday.

To discover the beauty of the Alps, hop onto the Gornergrat Bahn or the Matterhorn railway to the Gornergrat. Surrounded by 29 peaks rising some 4,000m, the ride offers a spectacular mountain panorama. The Gornergrat Bahn has been making the ascent for more than a decade now. From Zermatt, Europe’s highest open-air cogwheel railway departs every 24 minutes to the Gornergrat, crossing bridges, galleries and tunnels. Depending on the time of the year, idyllic forests and alpine meadows can be spotted beyond rocky gorges, tarns and, of course, the majestic Matterhorn.

At the end of the ride, you are greeted with views so stunning they leave you intoxicated. Also awaiting you is the Hotel Kulm Gornergrat — the highest hotel in the Swiss Alps. Here, the rooms have no number; instead, they are referred to by the altitudes of popular mountain peaks.

For those interested, go walking, hiking, nordic walking, trekking or biking. Or you can just take it easy and feast your eyes on the sparkling ice crystals and, when the darkness sets in, the stars glittering in the skies.

The Matterhorn Glacier Paradise promises a unique visit. At 3,883m above sea level, it is Europe’s highest observation deck that can be reached effortlessly — via cable car.

The breathtaking 360-degree panoramic view of 38 alpine peaks leaves an unforgettable impression. Of course, one has to be appropriately attired and be prepared for the unexpected. In mid-October last year, for example, the temperature dipped to -18º Celcius overnight. The air, understandably, was thin.

Also at the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is Europe’s highest and largest summer snow sports area. Depending on the snow conditions, there are over 21km of slopes available for skiing. There’s also the Gravity Park, designed to attract snowboarders and free-skiers.

Don’t miss the world’s highest glacier palace, located 15m or more below the surface of a glacier. Open all year round, this ice wonder can be reached directly from the cable car station. Once inside, you will appreciate the clever use of lighting that adds a new dimension to the display of frozen blooms and ice-crafted figurines.

For those who like a different kind of adventure, head for Zermatt’s Forest Fun Park, where tree-to-tree adventures await.

Check out the flying-fox trails for adults and relatively simpler ones for children. The park is open every day from March to October. Subject to change, entry to the adult’s trail costs 31 Swiss francs and to the children’s, 15 Swiss francs. If this does not give you a kick, try paragliding.

Last but not least, go shopping in Zermatt. The main street, the Bahnhofstrasse, is lined with shops filled with with trinkets, the mandatory souvenirs for friends and family, branded watches and an assortment of knick-knacks. These are housed in quaint buildings which, on their own, are a sight to behold. 

For more information on Zermatt, go to www.zermatt.ch


The writer's trip was sponsored by Switzerland Tourism and Etihad Airways, which flies daily from Kuala Lumpur to Geneva via Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi - based Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, is said to be the fastest-growing airline




This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 791, Feb 1-7, 2010.

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