Flying Through the Air: Up at the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise

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Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, Zermatt, Switzerland

If you’re into hiking and skiing, the area around Zermatt is a paradise, with just so many options it’s incredible.  If you’re not so into those sorts of things, then you have the exciting option of going up Europe’s highest aerial cableway to the mountain station in the Alps.

Now, I’ve never been up a mountain before, so the whole thing was a bit baffling prior to the visit.  What were gondolas doing up a mountain, and what was this Matterhorn Glacier Paradise that was so lauded?  Was it on the Matterhorn?  Is it really a glacier?  Is it Paradise?

Answers are: no, yes, and ish.  The Matterhorn can, on a decent weather day, be seen across the way from the viewing platform.  What you are travelling to is the mountain station on the Little Matterhorn.

How The Hell Do We Get There?

When you’re looking at the all the gondola routes and all the lines and the names, it can get super confusing.  But the fact is, if you want to go as high as you can, with no effort, then you want the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise (MGP).  And that’s pretty straight-forward.

The quickest way up is by taking three separate gondolas.  The first stage involves jumping into little gondolas, which take you from Zermatt to Furi.

Then at Furi, you can continue in the little gondolas up to the MGP, which is a longer route, going via Schwarsee before the station at Trockener Steg.  So, what you want is the fast cable car from Furi to Trockener Steg.  It’s manned by a ‘driver’, and the views were atmospheric, travelling through the cloud as we did.  The only disadvantage was the fact that there were lots of people to share the views with.

The last stretch of the journey is the newest part of the journey.  The route between Trockener Steg and the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise was only completed in autumn 2018, which explains the very new-smelling cabins.  It’s incredible, but the whole thing was built in only three summers.  And it’s an amazing experience – in 9 minutes you get whisked over the Theodul Glacier and take in some incredible views of the surrounding area.

For me, just seeing the Glacier was really exciting.  Having only ever seen glaciers on television (along with the depressing commentary that they are all shrinking), it was really cool flying over one and looking down at this magnificent, almost lunar landscape.

If you are blessed with better nerves than me (not difficult), then you may consider splashing out on this leg of the journey and do the ‘Crystal Ride’ to get a gondola bedecked with Swarovski crystals.  That’s not why you need good nerves: you’ll need them three minutes into the journey when the floor beneath your feet opens up.  Well, not literally, but the opaque glass floor de-opaques so you can see all 170 metres down.  Fun, huh?  Only if you’re a crazy son-of-a-gun.

What Is There To Do Up There?

So, on your ride up, you’ll probably notice a fair amount of skiers around you.  They are all going to this top level to ski, even in the summer.  You can also go snow tubing, which is free.

But if, like me, you think the gondola ride is adventure enough, you have a few options.  We went to the Cinema Lounge first, basically because we felt quite light-headed and thought we’d better sit down for a bit.  Actually, there are a few signs that say you should take it easy up there, because if you’re not used to the altitude, it can make you feel unwell, and that is definitely something to take seriously.

Cinema Lounge

We watched some nice nature videos about the area, which showed just how diverse and beautiful the Zermatt region is in all seasons.  If you like animals, then the film on the local wildlife was cute.

Viewing Platform

Then, you can go into a lift, which whisks you up to the Viewing Platform.  At this point you are at 3,883 meters above sea-level.  Now, on a good day, you can see 38 ‘Alpine Giants’ as far as Mont Blanc, but when I visited, cloud prevented our even seeing the Matterhorn.  Strangely, this wasn’t as disappointing as I’d have thought.  Actually, for me, the dense clouds were atmospheric and led to an eerie but magical experience – and anyway, I think it’s awesome to actually be in the clouds.

But we did see briefly see the Breithorn.

Glacier Paradise

Next is the Glacier Paradise.  This time you take a lift which takes you 15 metres down, into a strange ice land.  There isn’t really much to it, but they’ve done a nice job of adding some interest in the icy caves by including ice-sculptures on the route, and if you’re into taking selfies, there are plenty of areas where you can take some interesting shots.

Restaurant and Shop

There is also a restaurant up there, which looked quite nice, though the prices, naturally, were almost as high as the Matterhorn.  The adjacent shop was also expensive, but had products that seemed, at almost 4,000m, worth the price.  A Matterhorn cookie cutter, Matterhorn ice-cube maker and special Matterhorn pen by Caran d’Ache seemed like bargains.

And yes, Matterhorn shaped ice-cubes do make a gin and tonic taste better.

Journey Down to Zermatt

For various reasons, we decided to take the longer way down to Zermatt, by sticking to the small gondolas from Trockener Steg.  The advantage of this is that once you’re settled, you don’t have to move till you get to your destination, as opposed to the other route, where you have to change.  It also meant that we got to see some more of the landscape, which was rather lovely.  We even saw some Blacknosed Sheep in their natural habitat, grazing on the steep hills.

So In Summary

I have to admit that I wasn’t sure that it was a very good idea for me to go to the MGP.  There didn’t seem much to do, and it was quite expensive.  However, I’m so glad that I did it – and actually would love to go back on a sunnier day to see the mountains in all their glory.  If you are there on a day when the weather isn’t great, and you’re not sure whether to bother with the trip, I would say that if you’re the type that enjoys journeys for their own sake, it is worth it.  If all you want to see are the views from the top, then don’t bother.  The guys selling the tickets will tell you what the visibility is like, and there are information boards scattered around, so maybe heed their advice.

It’s worth pointing out that we visited in October, when the weather wasn’t great and there were not so many visitors.  In summer, and during peak skiing season, doubtless there will be queues, crowds and a fair amount of waiting.

Further Information

To find out more about the gondola and things to do around the MGP, there is a website in English:

The tickets up to the Glacier are quite expensive, but you can get reduced tickets after 1.30pm.  Also, if you have a 1/2 price Swiss transport card, you naturally get the tickets half price.  In the summer, joint tickets with Gornergrat are available – from there you apparently get a particularly picturesque view of the Matterhorn.

Be aware that you have to pay to use the toilet up at MGP, so try and use the free (and clean) facilities in one of the lower stations on your way up.

How to Get There

The station for the gondolas is on the edge of Zermatt town, a little walk away from the main shopping street.  The excellent website can give you transport information.


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