Catching the Sunrise at Gornergrat, Switzerland
When I first started planning my trip to Switzerland, I had no idea that Zermatt was home to the famous “Toblerone mountain” – the majestic mountain peak depicted on the iconic yellow Toblerone chocolate packaging. Indeed, how could I pass up the chance to see this mountain in the flesh?
This mountain is known as the Matterhorn, which can be seen from the quaint town of Zermatt. Take it up a notch, however, and enhance your experience by catching the sunrise up at Riffelsee on Gornergrat.
To do this, you’d have to take the first train from Zermatt up Gornergrat. The first train departs at 7am in summer and 8am in winter. Buy a ticket from the Gornergrat Bahn – otherwise known as the Matterhorn railway – located right opposite Zermatt’s main train station. A one-way ticket will cost you around CHF23 (~SGD16).
Tip: We recommend just buying a one-way ticket up to Gornergrat and hiking down back to Zermatt. More on this later!
There are a few stations between Zermatt and Gornergrat – in order of Zermatt, Findelbach, Riffelalp, Riffelberg, Rotenboden and Gornergrat. Going up all the way to Gornergrat will take you a total of 33 minutes; to catch the sunrise at Riffelsee, take the train from Zermatt to Rotenboden. This will take you approximately 28 minutes.
Fun fact: the Gornergrat Bahn is the world’s first fully electrified cog railway!
Watch as the sun slowly starts casting its light over the horizon as you climb higher and higher into the clouds. Join in the elated cheering as the Matterhorn first comes into sight!
Alight at Rotenboden, which offers splendid views of the Matterhorn. Hike down a short slope to reach the Riffelsee lake for a unique view!
Marvel at the beauty of Mother Nature as the first rays of the sun touch down on the tip of the Matterhorn. The atmosphere is hushed, punctuated only by soft intakes of awe. Close your eyes for a moment as the world starts to wake around you – what a time to feel, and be, alive.
Take your time here; the world will feel as if it belongs to you, and you alone.
The pink in the skies will slowly start giving way to a sheer azure blue. Catch a glimpse of two Matterhorns – one in real life and one mirrored on the surface of the lake. This is one reflection shot that you simply can’t miss!
Tip: To catch this view, it’s best to visit in the morning as the ripples on the lake tend to intensify in the afternoon, blurring the reflection.
Once you’ve had enough, take the train up to Gornergrat. It will only take you about 5 minutes to reach the peak.
Standing at 3, 089 metres, Gornergrat naturally offers great views of the Matterhorn as well. It’s home to a large viewing platform, restaurant, astronomical observatory and the Kulmhotel Gornergrat, the world’s highest-altitude hotel.
Feast your eyes on magnificent views of the surroundings.
Tip: Do check the live webcam to assess the weather conditions to make the best out of your trip by visiting on a day with clear blue skies.
From Gornergrat, you can choose to take the train down to Zermatt. Alternatively, I recommend hiking down all – if not, part – of the way! The hike is along flat terrain and you’ll be able to enjoy beautiful views of the Matterhorn and the surrounding landscape.
Hiking from Gornergrat to Zermatt will take you around 4 hours; you can also choose to hike some of the way and take the train down the rest. The hike from Gornergrat peak to Rotenboden will take about an hour, and the hike from Rotenboden to Riffelberg will take you another hour. From Rotenboden or Riffelberg, you can simply buy a one-way train ticket down to Zermatt. You can also continue hiking down from Riffelberg to Riffelalp for another 1.5 hours and take a train from Riffelalp. It’s entirely up to you!
Don’t worry about getting lost on the trail – the route is well marked by these red stripes imposed on white patches of paint. You’ll find these every 5 to 10 metres or so!
From Gornergrat to Rotenboden, all you have to do is to follow the train tracks. The trail will run parallel to the tracks.
You know you’ve reached Rotenboden when you come upon the Riffelsee lake! This is where you would have watched the sunrise before going up to Gornergrat.
You’ll also find these yellow signboards along the way. These will tell you which direction to take, and how long you’d need to get there.
These are just some of the views that you’ll encounter along the way. Just look at that!
As promised, you’ll be able to hike alongside the Matterhorn.
Should you get tired, simply hop onto a one-way train back to Zermatt from any of the stations.
The last stretch from Findelbach to Zermatt, however, will bring you through a change of landscape. Instead of hiking along mountain cliffs, you’ll be going through a lush forest.
Simply follow these pink poles, which can be found every 10 metres or so. Along this forest stretch, these will replace the previous red-stripe-on-a-white-rectangles as route markers.
You’ll slowly be able to see Zermatt in this distance – simply continue towards that and you’ll be back at the town! The entire hike took me an approximate total of 4 hours.
Catching the sunrise at Riffelsee then hiking down Gornergrat was truly one of my favourite experiences in Switzerland. Don’t forget to bring a bar of Toblerone chocolate with you – the shot may be cheesy but it’s definitely one for the history books.