Home » 2017 European Vacation

Zermatt and the Matterhorn, Switzerland

Sunday, June 11, 2017 - 4:00pm by Lolo
86 miles and 2 hours from our last stop - 2 night stay


Day 1 - Arriving in Tasch and Hiking to Matterhorn Views

Simplon PassSimplon PassI’m not sure why the Matterhorn hadn’t made it to our original itinerary, but after speaking to fellow travelers along the way, we added it. That is the beauty of not being locked into a fixed itinerary.

Our drive between Lake Maggiore and Zermatt was very scenic, but reinforced for us why Europeans have smaller motorhomes than the U.S. The roads leading from Italy to Switzerland were so incredibly narrow, steep, and twisty that our trusty Lazy Daze, or at least its driver, would not have been happy navigating them.

When we came to the border, we had to stop to buy a vignette to drive on Switzerland’s highways. All the countries in Europe, except for Germany, which is free, have some form of charging people for driving on its roads. In Austria it had been a 10-day vignette for 8.90 euros, but in Italy it had been a pay-as-you-go toll system, which added up to something like 80 euros for us. In Switzerland you have to buy an annual vignette for 40 euro, which seems like a waste when you are only going to be in the country for a week, but still cheaper than driving the Italian roads.

First peak of the MatterhornFirst peak of the MatterhornWe also had to exchange some euros for Swiss francs because we now were leaving the European Union. It was exciting to be in Switzerland!

Our drive took us over beautiful Simplon Pass, where we stopped to admire the incredible view. We were back in the Alps, and after the heat spell we had been experiencing the past few weeks, I felt like making a snow angel.

We continued on to the town of Tasch, Switzerland, literally, the end of the road to the Matterhorn. Since Zermatt is a car-free town, visitors have to park their cars in Tasch, 5 km away, and take the train in.

Fortunately for us, there was Camping Alphubel located right near the Tasch train station, which we would use as our base camp for exploring the area over the next two days.

Matterhorn from the AHV-WegMatterhorn from the AHV-WegThe campground was nice and the woman working the reception desk was really helpful in giving us information as to how to get a good view of the Matterhorn in Zermatt. Apparently it wasn’t that easy.

Herb and I really like to keep physically active, but with our busy itinerary, we hadn’t had much time for running, our primary form of exercise. To make up for it, we were pretty much hiking and walking everywhere. Who needs trains and buses when you have feet?

So, rather than take the train to Zermatt, we chose to walk the 3.5-mile Bahnweg path instead. It started right by the campground, and followed the train tracks most of the way, leading us through forests, meadows, and pastures. There were no big views along this trail. Instead, the main attraction was watching the fancy red Swiss trains zip by. Unfortunately, we don’t have trains this fast and beautiful in the States.

Finally, we passed the Zermatt heliport and descended into town near the train station (bahnhof).

Zermatt is a very popular and glitzy ski resort town, and it felt very much like ski resorts in the States, such as Aspen or Vail - right down to the expensive food. I looked at a menu and saw that burgers and pizzas cost over 20 francs - no more 6 euro pizzas like we had found in Germany and Italy. Switzerland is very, very expensive.

We followed our campground host’s very specific directions and headed across town along the Untere Mattenstrasse towards the Vispa River. We crossed the river and arrived at our destination, the Sunnegga-Rothorn station, the starting point for several scenic train trips up into the surrounding glaciers and mountains, such as the one to Gornergrat.

Zermatt at the foot of the MatterhornZermatt at the foot of the MatterhornNow here comes the tricky, secret part we learned from our campground friend. She told us to walk through the station, but to make a left just before the turnstiles for the trains. There, as promised, we found an elevator (funicular), which we took for free up to the starting point of the AHV-Weg trail that would lead us to fabulous views of the Matterhorn.

She was right!! There it was - the iconic, pyramid-shaped mountain. What an amazingly unique rock formation!

We had a long trek home ahead of us, so to increase morale we stopped at a COOP supermarket near the train station and bought 2 beers to enjoy along the trail.

All in all, we hiked 12 miles with about a 2,000-foot elevation change. Not a bad day’s work.

Day 2 - Explore Tasch

Herb relaxing on tiny SchaliseeHerb relaxing on tiny SchaliseeWe briefly considered moving on to Grindelwald, because we had already done our hike to see the Matterhorn, but decided to hang out another day and explore the village of Tasch.

Once again, we consulted Trip Advisor for a suggestion of things to do in Tasch. I have to admit that the list was pretty short, but long enough for our purposes today.

One of the Top Things to Do in Tasch is waterskiing in the Schalisee, a tiny little lake located about a 20 minute walk from our campground in the opposite direction from Zermatt. We were intrigued, but skeptical. However, it was another hot day, so the prospect of dipping into a refreshing mountain lake sounded inviting.

The Hohenweg above TaschThe Hohenweg above TaschSo, we put on our bathing suits, packed towels and a lunch, and walked to the Schalisee. It was quite pretty, surrounded by larch trees and grassy meadows, with a grassy beach on its shore.

As for the water skiing, now we understood. These Swiss are so ingenious. The lake itself is only a little more than 100 meters long, but instead of using a boat to pull a skier, which would be impossible, they have built an electrically-powered waterskiing lift that pulls skiiers from the shoreline. There is even a jumping ramp in the middle of the lake. I would have loved to have seen this in action, but unfortunately it wasn’t opening for another week.

After a refreshing dip, we continued our exploration. We crossed the main road which goes to Zermatt, and hiked up a steep hill to the Hohenweg (High Path), which led us along the hills above the village of Tasch for about 2 miles before descending into the town.

Cemetary Roemisch-katholische Kirche CemeteryCemetary Roemisch-katholische Kirche CemeteryUnlike Zermatt, this is not a glitzy resort town, but a real down-to-earth village where everyday, hardworking people live - in fact, the workers that make Zermatt the successful resort it is. It was quite charming and quiet.

The next (and last 2) things to do in Tasch according to Trip Advisor were both churches. The first one was the Roemisch-katholische Kirche (Roman Catholic Church). The interior was much simpler than the Catholic Churches we had visited so far in Munich and Venice, as you would expect in the parish of a small village.

The most interesting thing about this church is the beautiful cemetery in front of it. Rather than tombstones, each grave has a wooden-carved cross, topped by two more pieces of wood, forming a triangle - kind of like the roof of a chalet. They were beautiful. Each marker had the deceased’s name and dates and was surrounded by personalized items - photographs, flowers, candles, memorabilia, etc. There was no status-seeking here - all the markers were of the same wood and height. What a lovely, peaceful setting to come visit one’s loved ones.

Fuxstein ChapelFuxstein ChapelThe second church on the Things to Do list was very different from the first, and a bit hard to find, because it is so well camouflaged - a rather unique characteristic for a church. The Fuxstein Chapel is not a free standing building, but rather a room hollowed out of a large boulder that sits on the valley floor, surrounded by meadows and pastures.

The interior is quite small - just a few wooden pews set before a small golden altar. Rather than the usual cross representing the crucifixion, the bottom of the altar contained a glass, coffin-like box containing a replica of the body of Christ.

I couldn’t believe this chapel was only about a 100 yards from our campsite, and we never even knew it was here!

Tomorrow we would move on to Grindelwald and begin our exploration of the Bernese Oberland.


ZermattZermattZermatt, Switzerland’s glitziest resort since the mid-19th century, is a popular mountaineering and skiing village that lies below the iconic, pyramid-shaped Matterhorn. It is surrounded by mountains and has fabulous views.

In summer, ski lifts transport hikers into the mountains to many excellent hiking trails. There is a cog railway from Zermatt to Gornergrat that is the highest in Europe and brings passengers to even greater views of the Matterhorn.

The main street through town is the Bahnhofstrasse where visitors will find upscale (and expensive, especially compared to Germany and Italy) restaurants, boutique shops, and hotels.

The town is essentially traffic free, so visitors must park 5 km away in the village of Tasch and take the train into town.

Zermatt and the Matterhorn location map in "high definition"

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