Explore the Alps in Style on the Gornergrat Railway

25 June, 2020 | Reccy Guide

The Pennine Alps, located along the Swiss and Italian border, draw millions of visitors each year. Boasting nearly 30 mountain peaks that reach heights of 4,000 meters or more, this portion of the countryside is magnificent. Skiing, mountaineering, and climbing are all popular ways to explore the area. 

Explore trip itineraries, accommodation, transport, required gear, fitness plan, insurance and more

Of course, not everyone has the desire or ability to brave hours or days in the cold terrain. If you’re searching for an exciting way to adventure through the Alps—without dedicating too much time, money, or energy—consider taking a train to Gornergrat from Zermatt. It’s an excellent option for anyone, regardless of age, ability, or group size. 

Gornergrat Railway from Zermatt

Zermatt is the springboard for exploration in Switzerland, offering easy access to the Pennine Alps. This town boasts a bustling population and robust tourism market. However, it never feels overwhelmingly busy. There are plenty of campsites and mountain lodges that aid in the disbursement of visitors throughout the Valais region. 

Even more impactfully, Zermatt is essentially a car-free town. There are a couple of exceptions. Emergency vehicles are allowed, some of which have combustion engines. There are also a handful of taxis, busses, and tour vans allowed within town limits, but these are all electric. As a result, there is minimal noise or environmental pollution, lending to an air of relaxation.

Zermatt is dedicated to limited modes of transportation and the use of electricity whenever possible. It should come as no surprise that it’s the starting point of the Gornergrat railway. The main train station is located centrally in town, providing access to this historic piece of transportation.

Gornergrat Railway – runs year round with advancement in snow clearance

The Gornergrat is an electric cog train, which was first built in 1898. It’s been running successfully for the last 120 years, and advancements in snow clearing allows it to run year-round. Even in the coldest depths of winter, passengers can still travel to the highest hotel in Europe.

There are five stops in total on the trip, which covers 9.3 kilometers of distance in each direction and rises to an altitude of 3,100 meters. The trip lasts a little over 30 minutes in total, although you’re welcome to depart at each stop to explore before hopping back on. Here are the five stops you’ll encounter on your trip.

Reaching Gornergrat

  1. Findelbach. Located at 1,770 meters, this station is toward the south of Zermatt and rests in the forest. It’s a popular starting point for several hikes—another thing the area is famous for. Passengers can also access several chalets located toward the base of the Matterhorn from this stop. 
  2. Riffelalp. At 2,211 meters, this is a popular stop for skiers. It allows easy access to the nearby Furl lift. If you’re interested in additional historic transportation, you can visit the Riffelalp tram. It was also established in 1898 and carries visitors to Hotel Riffelalp, built in 1884.
  3. Riffelberg. This station, resting at 2,582 meters, is a common stop for beginning skiers. The Girthittli chair and nearby slopes are some of the most famous in the world for their ease and beauty. The Riffelberg resort is also a destination for individuals seeking panoramic views of the Matterhorn.
  4. Rotenberg. At 2,185 meters, this station leads to two popular destinations. First is a nearby lake that provides a perfect reflection of the Matterhorn on a clear day. It’s an excellent choice for a photo op. The Zermatt Igloo Village is a unique treasure. Visitors can dine, drink, and sleep in this little village crafted from igloos.
  5. Gornergrat. The train’s destination lies at 3,089 meters in altitude. Views of 29 different 4,000-meter-high peaks surround this station. A short walk away is the Kulm Hotel. It’s the highest hotel in Europe and boasts an observatory perfect for viewing the stars that dance above the Alps.

Imposing Matterhorn and the Gornergrat Railway

When you’ve completed this magnificent railway exploration, there are still many more adventures available in the area. Zermatt is surrounded by hundreds of popular summer hikes and longer mountain treks. Whether you want to take a couple hours or several days, there are plenty of beautiful views in the region. Enjoy picnicking next to alpine lakes or searching the countryside for chamois and edelweiss. 

In town, you can stop by the Matterhorn museum. This local hotspot reveals additional history about the infamous summit and the attempts to climb it. Kids can enjoy learning more about ancient life in the region and view displays of stone-age artifacts. No matter where you travel around Zermatt, each moment is packed with history and wonder.

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