Gornergrat, Riffelsee and the trek to Riffelberg – Swiss Sojourn , Part 4

This post is a continuation of a by now ridiculously delayed series documenting our travels to a small corner of the beautiful country of Switzerland. We were now in Zermatt where we had enjoyed the Rothorn cable car and the small hike to 2 of the 5 lakes trail on our first day (First taste of Zermatt & the Matterhorn – Up the Rothorn – Swiss Sojourns, Part 3 ). It had been a great introduction to the beautiful resort town and the unmistakable Matterhorn peak. The weather had been great on our first day which was totally opposite to the predicted weather which included rain.

We were hoping that our luck with the weather would continue. As I woke up the next day just before dawn and gingerly opened the blinds of our Matterhorn view room hoping and praying that I could see the peak itself and not a sky full of clouds. It seemed that the weather gods were pleased with us and the Matterhorn was visible in all its glory. The golden colour of the early morning sun on the snow covered peak was what I wanted to capture with my camera and the clear skies gave me the perfect opportunity to do so. My trusty 300mm did the rest and gave me photos which I will remember for a long time.

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The Matterhorn peak visible from our room balcony at the Hotel Jagerhof

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Waiting for the first sun rays to make the peak look all golden is worth it

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The peak from our room after the Sun is high in the sky

After we witnessed the beautiful colour changing of the peak from the comfort of our room we got ready and went down for breakfast. A beautiful sunny day in the Swiss Alps is not meant to be wasted in a hotel room. So we had our delicious breakfast and started our walk to the railway station opposite which was the station where the Gornergrat cog wheel train up the mountains started.

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The beautifully done lobby and common area of the Hotel Jagerhof

It was a beautiful day and we just had to stop and get a few photos with the river and the Matterhorn in the background on the way to the station.

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The customary photo with the Matterhorn in the background

We then passed the poignant town cemetery on the way to the station where we bought our half priced tickets for the Cog Wheel train thanks to the Swiss Travel Pass that we had bought for the duration of our trip.

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The Zermatt Cemetery on the way to the Gornergrat Railway station

We wanted to see the Riffelsee lake that gave opportunities for beautiful photos. Since it was still early morning and most people seemed to be going straight up to the top of Gornergrat we decided that we would get down at the Riffelsee station on the way up too and take some photos before it became crowded.

Our decision proved to be absolutely correct as there were only a handful of people that got down and we took the short trail down to the lake itself.

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The short trail down from the Riffelsee station to the lake

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The Matterhorn in the background with a dog waiting for its owner to get down the trail

The lake was still in the morning and gave me the photo I wanted, the matterhorn in the background with its perfect reflection in the lake. A perfect start to the day!

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The Matterhorn and it’s reflection in the Riffelsee

I had lugged my Peakdesign travel tripod on this trip just for places like this and I used it for taking photos of both of us in this beautiful location. Such locales make you take a gazillion photos and that’s what happened to me at the Riffelsee. So here are just a few of them. If these don’t make you want to see the place yourself, nothing will!

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A few of the photos taken with and without the tripod at the Riffelsee

After sitting at the lake side for some time and taking in the views we went back to the train station and rode the train up to the Gornergrat observatory.

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Waiting for the train at the Riffelsee railway station

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The Gornergrat Railway station at the top

Switzerland had a very poor winter in 2021 and that meant that the snow on the peaks was lesser than other years and the glacier had retreated lot. It still was a pretty sight, but I hope that we as humans are able to correct ourselves in time and stop these glaciers from disappearing completely.

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The Gorner Glacier which has retreated a lot due to the poor winter

We then took a walking loop around the station at the top which has views of the peaks we had seen from Rothorn albeit from a different perspective. Switzerland has managed to make such great infrastructure to enjoy these beautiful views without having to trek uphill for long distances, now I understand why it’s so expensive.

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The Gornergrat Observatory on the left with the peaks on the right

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Every few metres there is a photo opportunity and a view that takes your breath away.

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Circling around back to the Glacier side again

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The stark contrast between the green on the observatory side and the glacier beyond

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Another photo of the Matterhorn with the Gornergrat observatory

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A view of a part of the walking trail around the top of Gornergrat

We spent an hour roaming around the trails on the top and enjoying the 360 degrees spectacular views. As the morning progressed the crowds increased and a big cloud threatened to block the view of the Matterhorn.We were happy that we had started earlier and enjoyed the Gornergrat top when it was relatively empty. We stopped for some drinks with a view in the restaurant at the observatory which had a great viewing deck with surprisingly few people (not that I was complaining!)

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Drinks with a view of the Matterhorn at the cafe at the top of Gornergrat

After finishing our drinks at a leisurely pace we went to the small Chapel at the base of the observatory and sat in the pews for a few minutes.

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Inside the small Chapel at the top of Gornergrat

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The Small Chapel exterior at Gornergrat

We then returned to the station took the train back down to Riffelsee from where we were going to hike down to the next station Riffelberg.

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A cloud threatens to cover the Matterhorn while a helicopter ride passes by

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A view of the Riffelsee from a point up in the trail from the station

We didn’t intend to stop at the Riffelsee again but we did. That lake is just too pretty to just pass on by without stopping and ogling at the views around.

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More photos of us at the Riffelsee

I took the chance to put on the 300mm and take photos of a common sandpiper that was on the far edge of the Riffelsee.

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A Common Sandpiper naps on the far end of the Riffelsee

Since the 300mm was already on the camera it gave me the opportunity to take photos of the Alpine Wild flowers around the lake itself.

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Some photos of the flora & fauna around the Riffelsee

I also used the 300 mm to take photos of the Hornli hut which is a place to stay half way up the Matterhorn, used by hikers as an overnight halt before attempting the summit climb.

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The Hornli hut – Half way up the Matterhorn

You will be surprised at the number of people travelling with their canine friends in Switzerland. There were dogs of all shapes and sizes on the trails and Switzerland does a great thing by allowing all pets to ride free in all cable cars.

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Yet another pet canine on the trails around Zermatt

It was finally time to say goodbye to the Riffelsee and start our hike down to Riffelberg. It was a gradual downhill hike with some short uphill part but nothing that was even remotely strenuous. We were in no hurry anyway so we meandered along the trail, took photos every few minutes and in an hour we were at Riffelberg. ( the trail marker said 30 minutes at Riffelsee – but that is for people who race down without enjoying the view)

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One last view of the glacier before starting on our way down to Riffelberg

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The trail down to Riffelberg is well marked and a pleasant experience

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Great views all around on the trail down

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The Riffelberg station in the distance – where our hike ended

We then went to the Bruder Klaus Chapel which is on a mound facing the Matterhorn. Another small church built in 1961 at a great location with superb views all around. As an added bonus there was a small flock of the black faced sheep that are a mascot of the town near the chapel.

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So we walked around the chapel and took a few photos of the church which looks tailor made for taking photos.

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Some photos of the Bruder Klaus Chapel at Riffelberg

There were people taking photos with the Sheep and I got a great chance to get some photos of people with these seemingly gentle giant sheep.

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A kid poses with a black faced sheep bigger than him

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A huge Sheep nuzzles a lady who just fed it some fruits

The black faced sheep with the Matterhorn in the background and beautiful blue skies overhead was a perfect way to end our time on the trail.

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Black faced sheep graze on the trail near Riffelberg

It was way past lunch time and in our excitement of being in such a magical place we had ignored the grumblings of our stomach. So we now went to the restaurant at the Riffelberg station and had a filling lunch of sausage with onion sauce and fries for me and penne pasta with red sauce for the better half.

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Lunch at the restaurant at Riffelberg station

What I also found surprising was that it wasn’t more expensive to eat at the restaurants on the top as compared to the restaurants in town. In fact most times it ended up cheaper and we made it a point to enjoy our meals while up in the mountains throughout our trip.

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Our lunch at a table with a view of the Chapel and the Matterhorn

We then went to the train station and waited for our train back down to Zermatt. We also got a chance to see the new cable car which connects the Furi station on the way up to Matterhorn glacier paradise to Riffelberg for tourists who intend to do both the Gornergrat and the Glacier Paradise in one day. We were in no such hurry and would be doing the Glacier paradise on the next day early in the morning.

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The Riffelberg Express station which connects the Gornergrat Railway and the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise

We went back down to Zermatt and got ourselves a packed meal to have in the comfort of our room as we had no intention of returning to town for dinner. It had been yet another great day in the resort town of Zermatt.

The next day was a milestone birthday for the better half and we hoped to spend a part of it up in Matterhorn glacier paradise. Whether the weather would continue to cooperate with us and allow us to bring our plans to fruition is topic for another post some other time, some other day!

Leaving you with yet another photo of us with the beautiful Gorner glacier.

Bye!

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