Valais Travel Guide

Valais Sights


  • Mountain–Sight
  • Fodor's Choice

Published 04/20/2014

Fodor's Review

At 14,685 feet, the Matterhorn's peculiar snaggletooth form rears up over the village of Zermatt, larger than life and genuinely awe inspiring. As you weave through crowds along Bahnhofstrasse, the town's main street, you're assaulted on all sides by Matterhorn images—on postcards, sweatshirts, calendars, beer steins, and candy wrappers—though not by the original, which is obscured by resort buildings (except from the windows of pricier hotel rooms). But break past the shops and hotels onto the main road into the hills, and you'll reach a slightly elevated spot where you'll probably stop dead in your tracks. There it is at last, its twist of snowy rock blinding in the sun. Surely more pictures are taken from this spot than from anywhere else in Switzerland. It was Edward Whymper's spectacular—and catastrophic—conquest of the Matterhorn, on July 14, 1865, that made Zermatt a household word. After reaching the mountain's summit, his climbing party began its descent, tying themselves

together and moving one man at a time. One of the climbers slipped, dragging the others down with him. Though Whymper and one of his companions braced themselves to stop the fall, the rope between climbers snapped and four mountaineers fell nearly 4,000 feet to their deaths. One body was never recovered, but the others lie in modest graves behind the park near the village church, surrounded by scores of other failed mountaineers. In summer the streets of Zermatt fill with sturdy, weathered climbers. They continue to tackle the peaks, and climbers have mastered the Matterhorn thousands of times since Whymper's disastrous victory.

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Sight Information


Zermatt, Valais, Switzerland

Published 04/20/2014


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