After a good night’s rest, we were all set for our day’s agenda- to Rifflesee and Gornergrat.
Had a quick breakfast and walked down the street, enjoying the light warm and bright Sun to Gornergrat Bahn mountain train station, closer to the Zermatt train station. The weather was just cool and perfect!
Since we had a 14-day Swiss Pass, we got 50% discount on the Gornergrat train – Europe’s highest open-air cog railway. Hopped on to the train- a helpful attendant told us to grab a seat on the right side to get better views. The journey from Zermatt at 1600 meters to Gornergrat at 3100 meters is anything but spectacular that you can’t take your eyes off!
As the red-coloured, four-carriage cog-wheel train started its 45 minutes’ uphill journey chugging through the Alpine woods, meadows, gorges, tarns, bridges, tunnels and the vast, open glacier mountains taking sharp turns. We were in awe every time when we saw the iconic Matterhorn rising majestically above the surrounding glaciers with its impressively monolithic, near-symmetric pyramidal peak.
As planned, we got down at the small Rotenboden station, two stations before the last stop, to begin our short hike to Rifflesee lake. This stopover has gained its importance during last few years as you get to see a perfectly inverted mirror-image of the Matterhorn on the unruffled lake’s surface on a clear day. A 15 minutes’ downhill hike on unpaved, rugged terrain took us near the lake’s edge!
Lo and behold…. the majestic Matterhorn reflection was on the placid lake! Unfortunately, we could only get a partial reflection of the peak as it was mid-morning and the lake was just melting its icy sheet. Peak summer months say July – August would be ideal to see a perfectly clear mirror image. Also a perfect time for a picnic by the lake! Nevertheless, we walked around the lake, took lots of photos and returned to the station to reach our destination, Gornergrat station. Hiking back was a bit strenuous as it was steep and there is no paved path or steps.
A short walk from the Gornergrat station and a lift took us to the main building perched at the top of a hill. One of the oldest in Europe – built in 1898 – the building is also home to Europe’s highest hotel: 3100 Kulmhotel with rooms to stay, an indoor restaurant and a panoramic terrace to enjoy meals!
When we reached, it was cold and windy; nevertheless, we walked around the terrace taking in the sweeping views of the Swiss Alps and 29 surrounding peaks and clicking photos! By this time, we were hungry, so we headed straight to the restaurant. A nice spread of hot buffet offering Valais region’s specialities awaited us. We settled for garlic soup with a Valais bread roll and Zermatt cheese, raclette-potato chips and, Lamb shoulder confit with potato gratin and wild broccoli and a dessert – Apple strudel with vanilla sauce. I also spotted the locally brewed whisky aptly named ‘3100’, which I grabbed.
Located a table by the large window from where we could see the Matterhorn! It was literally a meal with a million-dollar view! After a stomach full and hearty lunch, we walked around the souvenir shop, bought a few and slowly made our way back to the station. The last train was at 5.18 pm but we were able to catch 4.48 pm train back to Zermatt. We were feeling sleepy so walked into the town’s Bahnhofstrasse and spotted a nice little café called XXX, had a steaming, rich hot Swiss chocolate and ambled our way back to our apartment!
A day to remember forever!
Skip the populist and crowded towns and peaks if you are visiting Switzerland; head straight to Zermatt and make a trip to Gornergrat for a Zen-like experience!