One of the world's most beautiful mountains with its unique near-symmetrical pyramidal shape rises above the village of Zermatt in the southern part of Switzerland. Matterhorn itself actually straddles both the countries of Switzerland and Italy from the other side (known as Cervino on the Italian side).
The only place from which the mountain can be seen in its full beauty is the car-free village of Zermatt. The drive from the nearest large city, Visp, winds up curving roads with beautiful views but Matterhorn remains hidden until one gets to Zermatt, either by train or on one of the many hiking trails that lead to it.
The first night we got to Täsch, the village right before Zermatt where we stayed, I went for a run on the hiking trail that connects these two places. Almost as if waiting for me to arrive, when I came around that curve right before Zermatt where I could finally spot her beauty, the Matterhorn was unobstructed by clouds with the last bits of the evening sun shining on its curved north face. I stood in awe, feeling the presence of my dad, filled with gratitude for being alive...and being right here on this planet in this moment in time. It didn't take long before the clouds started to hug the mountain and I needed to make my way back to Täsch before it was completely dark.
We enjoyed exploring the area over the next few days. The day before my UltraK Matterhorn race, we took the train to Zermatt to pick up my bib and walk around the village. The day of the race I got to Zermatt early enough to see the Matterhorn unobstructed by clouds and then had it in my sight during the whole seven hours of the race. You can read more about the race here.
Tips for visiting Zermatt
Where to Stay Switzerland is known for being expensive and Zermatt is certainly not an exception, likely being one of the most expensive villages in Europe.
Therefore if you wish to visit the area on a budget, I suggest staying outside of Zermatt and loading up on groceries in another country (no joke!).
The next village is Täsch where you can find affordable Airbnbs if you search way in advance (I booked our place about five months before our trip since I was planning for the race). We haven't looked at places in St. Niklaus or Grächen (the other two villages nearby) but it might be worth looking at those as well since they are a bit further away.
Food This is one area where it is worth getting something with a small kitchen because cooking your own meals versus eating out could literally save you hundreds of franks that you could then use for the expensive Swiss trains. Most lunch menus start around 25 franks (currently nearly the same as 25 dollars) and that is for a very simple and basic meal like a salad and pasta. Dinner meals are closer to 35 - 60 franks per person (not including side dishes or drinks). We have learned to love the grocery store chain Coop that can be found in many European countries. Although it can be found in both Zermatt and Tasch as well as the nearest large city of Visp, even groceries in Switzerland aren't really on par with a Workawayer's budget. If you happen to be going to Zermatt from Italy, I highly recommend loading up on groceries there.
Other nearby places to explore
There are more than enough hiking trails and cable cars in the Zermatt area to keep one occupied for days but if you wish to venture out to other places in the area:
St. Niklaus: We wanted to venture out one day and explore the village of St. Niklaus that we drove through one the way to Zermatt. A very small but cozy little village that surprisingly was not very Christmas-themed as one would expect, although I am sure it comes alive in the winter season.
Grächen: Looking at the map, we found a village that looked like it was high up in the mountains based on the winding roads that led up there. We found a beautiful hidden treasure indeed. A magnificent mountain view awaits literally everywhere you look when you are in Grächen. It is full of traditional Swiss houses with blooming flowers in the spring and it is much less touristy than Zermatt. This is where I would definitely stay the next time we are in the area, even despite the 20 minute drive to Täsch from where you can take the train to Zermatt.
Simplon Pass: if you are driving to Zermatt from Milan, you will be going through Simplon Pass. At 2005 meters above sea level, it offers great views of the Alps all around. It is about an hour from Zermatt.
"It Is Not the Mountain We Conquer, But Ourselves." - Edmund Hillary
Our lives lived are a message. We choose what that message is in each moment. Is our life a message of hope, of possibility, of adventure, of fulfillment no matter what the outside circumstances present? Or is our life a message of lack, fear, and inability to move past memorized emotions that have become a habit? No matter what the message has been, it be changed now, in this instant moment..with one small decision. Life is nowhere but now & here. Let's live it out loud.