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The Matterhorn Railway

Gornergrat Railway Scenic Train photoIt doesn’t take you to the Matterhorn but riding the 45 minute trip up the steep slopes from the backdoor of Zermatt affords some of the best views of the world’s most famous mountain peak from the warm confines inside a rail coach or open air in summer. The Gornergrat Bahn was the first cog system rack railway run by electricity to be built in Switzerland and served to make Zermatt and this area of the Swiss Alps one of the best Swiss mountain destinations. First operating in 1898 as an Matterhorn from Gornergrat photoinnovation in mountain view railways the Gornergrat-Monte Rosa Bahnen now simply known as the Gornergrat Bahn runs on a winding path from Zermatt to the Gornergrat mountain summit at 3089 meters. The view from the top takes in 29 magnificent rocky snow covered mountain peaks and 7 glaciers feeding into the second longest glacier in the Swiss Alps which flows by increments below the peak cliff where the historic Gornergrat Klum Hotel built in 1905 and renovated in 2005 sits with its characteristic observatory domes.

Scenic Railway from Zermatt photoAs you depart Zermatt the unique alpine town drops away below you as the cog wheels under the carriage pull up the grade, as the track winds through thick trees, with occasional glimpses of the famous mountain peak of solid bare stone that has fascinated climbers and tourists alike. Soon the Matterhorn appears - looming out the windows and for much of the slow and steady rise up the hill stays in view like a guiding sentinel Matterhorn Views from Gornergrat Summit photoexcept for the portion of the trip when the railway passes through an enclosed arbor to protect it from winter avalanches. The Matterhorn seems to maintain its own weather system, sometimes clouds clinging to it like cotton candy, or cool gray fire smoke. As with any mountain train views will very with the weather. Mornings are usually better than afternoons, but when the sky is clear and the sun envelops the peak it is one of the most impressive scenic views the world has to offer.

Gornergrat Glacier from Station View photoThe Gornergrat Bahn departure station is located directly next to the main rail station in Zermatt. Passengers preboard in the station house until the railway cars arrive and disembark returning passengers. While waiting for the next train which departs every 24 minutes a movie plays illustration the possibilities on the mountain top, which in summer affords mountain biking and hiking and in winter provides access to the 250 miles of ski runs which course through the the magnificent mountains. If you Scenic View photodon’t have skis, toboggans can be rented from the railway at the Rotenboden station. The Gornergrat Bahn stops at five stations on the way up or down. Ticket prices depend on how far up you go, but a full ride to the top and back down is 76 Swiss Francs (chf) for an adult. Tickets are half-price if you have a rail pass. Children under 9 years are free and 9 to 16 are half price. The Gornergrat Railway has an electronic ticket system. You can purchase a ticket at any rail station is Switzerland, but it must be exchanged at the ticket window at the Gornergrat station. Multi-ride passes for skiers are available in Zermatt.

Klum Hotel Observatory photoTo stay on the mountain tops, the Riffelalp Resort can be reached from the Riffelalp station and the Klum Hotel Gornergrat with 23 rooms at 10,000 feet is the highest hotel in the Swiss Alps (see 3100 Kulm Hotel Gornergrat), with views of the Matterhorn to the west and Monte Rosa to the east, with air so clear, observatories were built on it for Italian and German astronomers. © Bargain Travel Europe

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