This post is a continuation of a snail paced series describing our travels to a small corner of the beautiful country of Switzerland in the summer of 2022. We had enjoyed our first day of the vacation on the shores of the lake Geneva at the beautiful city of Lausanne. (Lausanne Old Town , a pleasant surprise – Swiss Sojourn, Part 1 ) After that brief stay in the foothills of the alps we were ready for the main attraction of this trip – the Alps and the Alpine resort towns of Zermatt & Murren.
We first headed to Zermatt & the Matterhorn. Zermatt has been on my list of places to travel to ever since I saw the Matterhorn on the packets of the Toblerone Chocolate as a child. My grandfather used to bring me some without fail whenever he travelled abroad for work and the image of the unmistakable peak has stayed with me since then. ( I continue to eat toblerones once in a while till date!) In fact I kept postponing travelling to Switzerland but always tried to include Zermatt in my itineraries to neighbouring France and Italy only to find out that it was far too much of an hassle just to get there.
To reach Zermatt which is a “car free” town (more on that later) you have to change trains at Visp and travel by the narrow gauge Matterhorn railway which trundles along the valley at a leisurely pace as compared to the super fast & efficient Swiss rail system before reaching Zermatt. We had bought the Swiss travel pass which gave us the flexibility to board any train in the duration of validity which meant we didn’t have to stick to a particular time. So we left Lausanne earlier than planned and got an earlier connection to Visp. We had booked the hotel Jagerhof at the far end of Zermatt and they were supposed to pick us up at a predecided time using the electric cars allowed in Zermatt. Taking an earlier connection meant we would be reaching earlier so we reached out to the hotel and they responded with Swiss efficiency and the hotel driver was ready for us when we reached Zermatt.
The definition of ” Car free” apparently doesn’t include these electric cars which I found zooming along the streets and made a mental note to be wary while walking on the streets of Zermatt, lest we be run over by these silent electric cars. We reached the Hotel Jagerhof and quickly checked in to the Matterhorn view room that we had booked. I had spent the 15 days preceding the trip checking weather predictions for Zermatt and it showed rain on all days. Luckily for us weather prediction is still a lousy science & it was a beautiful sunny afternoon that day in Zermatt. So we decided not to waste any time in the unexpectedly good weather and started immediately to explore what Zermatt had to offer.
Zermatt has three main Cable car / Mountain cog wheel train attractions – the Rothorn, the Matterhorn glacier paradise & the Gornergrat, each provide great views of the Matterhorn and also trekking opportunities from the intermediate stations which allow you to do a Alpine trek while avoiding a steep uphill climb. We decided to go to the Rothorn that day since we wanted to do longer treks and start early for the other 2.
The hotel very kindly provided us with detailed map of the town and we used it to walk down to the Sunnega funicular station which was the start point for the Rothorn cable car. We walked right through town just clicking photos as we walked wanting to get up the mountain just in case the weather actually decided to follow the predictions!.
The church at Zermatt seen from anywhere in town
The Matter Vispa river flowing through Zermatt with the ever present Matterhorn in the background
Posing with the river and the mountain of a sunny afternoon in Zermatt
We reached the bottom station where we used the travel pass to get 50% off on our cable car tickets and took the funicular and then a series of 2 cable cars to reach the top of Rothorn.
The first cable car up from Sunnega up the Rothorn
We reached the top to find it surprisingly devoid of crowds. The Rothorn is the farthest away from the Matterhorn of the 3 before mentioned rides up the mountain, but it provides the classic Matterhorn view that I had nostalgia for.
The Classic Matterhorn view from the top of Rothorn Paradise
We then walked around the top taking it the views of the snow covered peaks and glaciers around us. According to the hotel people it had been a very uncharacteristic winter the past year with very little snowfall. That added to the heat wave we had just fortunately missed meant that only the top of the peaks remained under snow cover. It was still a spectacular view and the beautiful skies made the photos pop.
The snow covered tips of the mountains from Rothorn
The receding glacier at Rothorn
Every rock is a photo opportunity at the Rothorn
Inventive photo ops – seen everywhere in Switzerland
More posing at another perfectly placed photo point up on the Rothorn
We had planned to do part of the 5 lakes hike that is accessible from the Blauherd station half way up the Rothorn. So we descended from the top and decided to have lunch at the cafe just outside the cable car station since it was well past lunch time.We ordered panini sandwiches and a side order of fries. We were surprised to see the huge size of the sandwiches and plentiful delicious salads as side dishes. We relished the food with a great view to boot before starting on our planned hike.
Our plentiful and tasty sandwiches and sides at the Blauherd station cafe
Great food and an even better view – Bliss!
We wanted to do 2 of the 5 lakes in the 5 lakes trail since in my research I had found the other 3 lakes to be little more than small ponds with no great views to speak of. The first lake was Stellisee which according to the signs was a 15 minute walk from Blauherd. It’s always wise to multiply the times written on these hiking trails by two as we planned to stop , enjoy the view and take photos along the way and not just walk fast to and from the lake!
The hike itself is a gently undulating and well marked rocky path with Matterhorn views all the way. We walked at a leisurely pace and enjoyed the pleasant weather. Soon the Stellisee came into view and it was right out of a picture postcard!
The rocky path from Blauherd station to Stellisee
The Stellisee in the corner with the glacier and the Fluhalp hotel standing alone in the background
The birder in me noticed a redstart flying around and I immediately put on the 300mm lens. Since I had the telephoto lens on, I took the opportunity to take photos of the wildflowers that lined the path and the bees & butterflies collecting nectar in the summer sun.
Bees enjoying the nectar in the wild flowers
A butterfly basks in the sun on the way to Stellisee
The redstart though was still not willing to give me a break and sit in one place for a few seconds for me to get a good photo. We almost reached the lake and I was about to give up and put the ultra wide lens back on when the redstart came and sat on a rock right beside the path giving me the photo I wanted.
A redstart poses for the 300mm at Stellisee
I thanked the bird for finally justifying me bringing the lens all the way up here and put the ultra wide back on and took photos of the picturesque lake. There were even fewer people here than up on the Rothorn which always surprises me. This hike was a simple walk and not difficult at all and certainly worth the time,
The better half poses at the Stelliseee with the Matterhorn in the background
The picturesque Stellisee lake – A short hike away from Blathered station
More adventurous people provide me with a great photo at the Stellisee
Happy us at the Stellisee
We then walked the way back taking more photos along the conveniently placed benches and photo points that make Switzerland a dream travel destination.
Conveniently placed benches give you a place to rest as well as take more pictures
People have made their own Matterhorn miniatures all along the path
A beautiful evening ao the trail from Blathered to Stellisee
The memorable landscape up on the 5 lakes trail
Yet another photo point at Blauherd
We then took the cable car down to Sunnega ever mindful of the closing times of each stage of the cable car lest we get stranded and have to trek all the way down. From Sunnega we walked down to the Leisee lake which is the last lake on the 5 lakes trail and closest to Sunnega. Here too the Matterhorn was ever present in view and the lower altitude meant more alpine meadows and flowers.
Meadows on the way from Sunnega to Leisee
This lake being more approachable from the Sunnega funicular had more people and kids enjoying the small raft that can be pulled across the lake. We just enjoyed ourselves sitting on the lake edge and at the bench overlooking the lake itself.
The Leisee with families enjoying the raft
On the banks of the Leisee with the Matterhorn in the background
Enjoying yet another conveniently placed bench on the trail to Leisee
Alpine meadows with cows enjoying the view
We then took the funicular down and walked back through town. It was nearly 6.30 pm but it was still bright and pleasant to walk. We decided to have an early dinner before returning to the hotel. So we stopped at a Italian restaurant in town and enjoyed a great pasta dinner.
Spätzle for the better half
Spaghetti with ham for me
Enjoying a great pasta dinner at Zermatt
It had been a great first day in Zermatt and we were glad that we had gotten the sun instead of the predicted rain. We hoped that it would stay that way for the remainder of our stay in Zermatt. We had a trip planned up the cog wheel train to Gornergrat if the weather stayed good the next morning.
A black faced sheep in Zermatt
In our comfortable room at Hotel Jagerhof
Whether our luck would hold or not is topic for another post , some other time, some other day.