You know what is the most interesting thing for me in outdoor hikes? Views discovered a bit by accident, casually, the ones you’re not expecting and those which in their own lazy way emerge from the horizon and are like a feast for your eyes and souls.
How many of such views you discover as a coincidence, even though your goal was somewhere else. I had such an experience with Klein Matterhorn (Matterhorn Glacier Paradise) in the Swiss region of Zermatt. My goal was to get to the peak and see its icy landscape. But before I reached it, I had to make at least two stops at cable car stations. I spontaneously got off the cable cars with a cry of awe, because every time I had a feeling that I just saw the most beautiful view in the whole world and I have to take a closer look. Before I reached the last station, my camera was full of mountain landscape photos. I was in the Switzerland three times but I have to admit that the Zermatt region brought me to my knees with its views and wonders of nature.
Visit in Klein Matterhorn
I have to explain at the very beginning that the famous Matterhorn is available only for mountaineers. No cable car leads there. But in the whole Zermatt there are few awesome viewpoints, from which you can see the Matterhorn really well. One of them is the Klein Matterhorn, which literally means “The Little Matterhorn”. It’s a ridge at 3883 m altitude, situated between Matterhorn and the Monte Rosa ridge. Its official name is Klein Matterhorn but in tourism it’s often called the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.
The most often photographed landscape, usually for postcards and brochures, is the look on the mountain from the north-eastern side. If you want to see it on your own eyes, you should visit Gornergrat or Sunnegga viewpoints. In Klein Matterhorn you’ll see the peak from the south-east end, which gives you a totally different perspective. Nevertheless, visiting this unique place is absolutely worth it! Even the cable car ride is impressive. All the details covered below!
Route to Klein Matterhorn
First, you have to reach Zermatt city. Within the city there’s a complete ban for using cars, making this place even more quiet, unique and closer to the nature. In Zermatt you should go to the cable car station. It’s not a huge town, so going there by foot takes only about 20 minutes. Or you can take an electric bus, as they are the public transport in there.
The real trip to Klein Matterhorn begins in the station still in the valley, at 1640 m. First, you take a cable car to the middle station – Furi, at 1867 m. This route runs through forests and meadows around Zermatt. In Furi you have to change to another cable car. The higher you are, the more the landscape changes from the forested one to rough, rocky and alpine. It’s an amazing aspect, because during only one ride you can satisfy your eyes with the variety of the Swiss nature. Another point is reaching the middle station, Trockener Steg, at 2939 m. Then you begin the final stage of your trip – the cable car climbs to Klein Matterhorn, at 3883 m. In this place you can choose between two types of cable cars. Matterhorn Glacier Ride is the one I recommend – it has a couple of additional, luxurious cabins, called “Crystal ride”, with glass floor covered with Svarovski crystals, which during the ride turns into fully transparent. Since 2018 it has been the highest situated cable car in the world. But the older version of it is still available. At this moment you should feel the air getting thinner, while temperature drops significantly. You just reached the line of eternal snow in the Alps. The whole ride from Zermatt takes about 45 minutes. The whole ride from Zermatt takes about 45 minutes. You can book tickets online HERE
Why it's worth to stop at the middle station - Trockener Steg
The station before Klein Matterhorn is Trockener Steg, one of the places I wrote about at the beginning. The moment I saw these views moving closer towards me, I didn’t even think twice, I jumped out the cable car on this station and I spend almost an hour in the area. The views are simply magnificent! The rough mountain ridges join the green meadows and the whole landscape reflects in the perfect surface of the nearby lake. It is incredible and I can easily say that I liked this place the most.
Except for the views, which will take your breath away, during the winter this place serves as the starting point for many skiing routes, while in the summer – of trekking trails. You can even drop by Gandegg hut, in which there’s a small restaurant and basic accommodation. A very nice place to eat lunch.
Matterhorn Glacier Paradise - overwhelming power of nature and views on 14 glaciers
You just landed in one of the most exquisite places in the Switzerland. This is where mountaineers and travelers set off accompanied by mountain guides towards Breithorn (4164 m) – a two and a half hour long route among the eternal snow. For many tourists it’s the first climb on a peak higher than 4000 meters. The view of these mountaineer groups seen from afar makes you reflect on how small one human is against the nature and in the same time how courageous and resolve we are to push the boundaries. When I saw this picture, standing on the watching platform, I stood there hypnotized for long minutes, admiring this moving scene.
Platform with view over 38 four-thousand peaks and 14 glaciers
On some days, the views from the 360º observation platform are so clear that you can see the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Mont Blanc (4810 m) in France, the highest peak in the Alps, towers over its neighbors. Gran Paradiso (4061 m), the highest one in the Italy, is often also visible from here. From the platform you can see amazing 38 four-thousand peaks and 14 glaciers. Matterhorn Glacier Paradise gives you a unique chance to see simultaneously the French, the Italian and the Swiss Alps. You are on the top of the Europe. Only this view is worth dedicating a couple of longer whiles, because I guarantee you that this is a snowy wonder of nature.
Klein Matterhorn is also an international skiing center, open 365 days in a year and a gate to the biggest summer skiing area in Europe. In the summer almost all the national teams train on the glacier and every sportsman has to go through the final station in order to reach their summer trails.
Glacier Palace – icy palace cut in the ice 15 meters below the glacier’s surface
A huge attraction is also the Glacier Palace, to which you have to descend by a lift 15 meters below the glacier’s surface. This icy palace, completely carved and cut in the ice, takes you to a fairy-tale world. An icy tunnel leads through the glacier to such places like a crevasse or an icy toboggan track. Cozy furs cover the icy benches and all the chambers are embellished by ice sculptures, made by artists who constantly create new works of art. It’s absolutely worth to visit this place! The palace is open seven days a week, from 9:25 AM to 15:45 PM.
If you’re one of those, who’re looking for winter sports all year round – this is the place for you! In the winter the snowpark is situated nearby the last station of the chairlift, Furggsattel, to which you can get through the middle station you already know – Trockener Steg. In the summer the park is moved to the Rosa Plateau, from which you can reach the upper station of Klein Matterhorn.
How to prepare for this trip
First of all, check the weather forecast carefully. It’s no use to climb all the way up if the sky is cloudy, because it obstructs the view. And it is worth waiting for the right weather. Second of all, prepare a multi-layer outfit (beginning from thin ones up to the thick layers for low temperatures). You should definitely take gloves, sunglasses and a cap. Don’t forget about using a sun blocker with high filter. At such altitudes the sun is very strong and can burn like hell.
You should also plan at least an hour for being at Klein Matterhorn but realistically speaking, I would plan two (even to have spare time to visit The Glacier Palace). I would plan half a day for the whole Matterhorn Glacier Paradise trip. Believe me, you’ll get off the cable cars with the same awe as I did and enjoy the most beautiful side of the Switzerland.
Klein Matterhorn is situated at 3883 m altitude. Everyone can develop a (light) altitude sickness, which can begin at about 2000 m. If you start feeling vertigo, fatigue or nausea, the most usual ways to soften the symptoms is slowing the tempo, walking slowly or sitting in one place and drinking lots of water. Special precautions against altitude sickness apply to children younger than 2, pregnant women and people with diseases – before visiting areas above 2500 meters, you should consult a doctor. However in most cases being only a few hours high in the mountains is usually not a threat.