*Collaboration with Switzerland Tourism
My mind still keeps going back to Zermatt, back to that short 3-day adventure around The Alps which turned out to be more adventurous than I even expected. But if there’s one thing it thought me, it’s that every little adventure is worth embracing and every yes you say brings memories to last a lifetime.
I won a trip to Zermatt, Switzerland at a travel blogger event in Stockholm couple of months back. For personal reasons, I was almost not able to join the trip at all but eventually ended up joining the group for half the trip. So while everyone else flew from Stockholm to Zurich on Monday, I caught up with them in the hypnotically beautiful town of Zermatt by Wednesday.
Zermatt is a small town in The Alps in Switzerland and probably most famous for the Matterhorn mountain, which happens to be the mountain on the Toblerone chocolate bar. Zermatt offers about 300 days of sunshine in a year, but because luck hasn’t been on my side much lately, we happened to be in town for the rare rainy days in town and never really saw the Matterhorn – but a reason to return hey!
But I must say, there was still some magic in this town and the rain didn’t really bother us after all. Zermatt looked almost enchanted in the rain.
Swiss Travel Pass & the astonishing window views
I guess I spent most of my three days on trains, which in Switzerland is as good as train travel gets. My destination Zermatt was 3-hours by train from Zurich airport to the Valais region, which is located in the southern part of the country. The window views from the train were so dazzling I couldn’t help but close my laptop and glue myself to the window – after which I later learned that in most trains you can actually open the window and really enjoy the ride!
Travelling by train in Switzerland is as easy as train travel comes, thanks to Swiss Travel Pass. Swiss Travel Pass can be purchased for unlimited use for 3, 4, 8 and 15 days. There’s no need to book seats in advance, just keep your passport and the Travel Pass on hand for when you get on the train. The Swiss Travel Pass also grants other offers useful for tourists, such as the entrance to over 100 museums around the country.
Chic Alp bungalows & romantic traditional hotels
On this trip, we stayed at Hotel National, which is a four-star hotel in the heart of Zermatt, only five minutes away from the train station. The hotel has been built in a traditional Swiss style and made us all feel cozy and fabulous. The balcony also offered a breathtaking view over The Alps. The hotel also has a spa, but I didn’t have enough time to try it out!
If you are looking for something even fancier for your stay, I couldn’t recommend CERVO Mountain Boutique Resort enough. We had a rather Raclette-cheese-filled dinner at the hotel restaurant and the manager was kind enough to show us around their luxurious bungalows. I even tried to hide in one of the bathrooms, but unfortunately got caught and had to leave. What a shame, next time I’m definitely checking myself in here just to enjoy the most amazing looking bath tub. One has to dream.
From a hopeless city girl to a future mountain badass
I’ve always thought of myself as a hopeless city girl, with a hint of country when it comes to Australia and my horse farm life. But I was never the mountains and hiking kind of a girl – not before this trip to Switzerland that is. I was just always more in my element sipping cappuccinos or martinis on the street side cafes of cities like New York or Tokyo. But there I was, standing in the rainy and foggy weather after pretty much no sleep the night before, walking up a hill and suddenly feeling more excited than I expected. Like I enjoyed it. Me. Hiking. How did that happen? Was I still tipsy from last night?
I was supposed to feel at home only among the big skyscrapers and sandy beaches. But there is a different kind of a feeling of freedom among the mountains. Among the exquisite nature of Switzerland. That fresh mountain air and my new hiking boots made me want to go on for days on end.
One of the biggest reasons I haven’t enjoyed trips like this in the past years is due to my injured leg from a serious horse riding accident in 2008. But it was right here when I decided that I’ve had it and that in a year, I will hike these mountains like it was my job. I will return, healed. And nothing can stop me this time. Nothing. The gym has already become my best buddy again.
Zermatt is an outdoor destination, perfect for a visit all year around, but perhaps most popular in winter with all of its snowboarding and skiing opportunities. Summer season is perfect for hiking. Five Lakes Walk is perhaps the most famous hike in the region, which we were going to do but cut it a tad short due to mother nature wanting to show us how to make it rain.
The day before the weather was a little better, so our tour leader from the tourism board took me and my blogger colleague Helena up to the Gornergrat to admire the outrageously breathtaking panorama view over the mountains. The best way to get up to Gornergrat is on Europe’s highest open-air cog railway, with views to die for – obviously.
The photos below are from Gornergrat.
Zermatt & the world’s best cheese
If there’s one thing I’ll never forget about our trip to Switzerland, it would have to be the Raclette cheese. There’s a slight chance Raclette was all we talked about and all we’ll ever talk about in case we reunite somewhere in the world again – perhaps over some Raclette cheese one day. We enjoyed a lovely Raclette dinner at restaurant Ferdinand, which is the restaurant of the above mentioned CERVO Mountain Boutique Resort. Raclette cheese is usually served with potatoes, meat, and some vegetables and cooked by yourself on the table in little grills.
The food and water in Switzerland are so clean and organic, that you’ll feel like every bite brings you more vitality than any meal you’ve ever enjoyed before.
But obviously, the best thing in Switzerland is still the wine (and if you know me, this might not come as a surprise). I’ve become a big fan of Central European wines in the recent years and Switzerland is no exception when it comes to my love affair with wine. Also worth mentioning, Switzerland is not too bad when it comes to beer either. I’ve never liked beer but must admit I actually enjoyed a glass of Zermatt Bier during our visit to their beer brewery.
On top of the marvelous cheese, wine and beer, Switzerland rocks your socks off what comes to chocolate. While Zermatt is famous for being home to the Toblerone mountain, Toblerone ain’t got nothing to do with the actual magic of Swiss chocolate. We were lucky enough to visit a local bakery and see how chocolate got made and enjoyed a good bite of the local Matterhorn chocolate, which I literally inhaled within seconds. Oopsie. But yum.
Swiss hospitality & the strangers you meet along the way
The last time I visited Switzerland had been 11 years ago on my interrail when all of this blogging was still new to me, but I do remember snapping the same cliche blogger hat photos already back then (perhaps I started a trend without knowing?). All I remembered of the country was its magnificent nature. But what surprised me this time was the hospitality and friendliness of all the people I met along the way. The customer service on the train was so on point that the conductor even proudly talked his best Finnish to me, ordering a beer and saying thank you.
On the train to Zermatt, an older lady sat next to me. She started to chat but I was trying my best to make her understand I was busy working on my computer. She did not give me a break the next two hours. She kept going on and on about how beautiful this life is. How Switzerland is the world’s safest country to live in. And oh how she gave me advice on how to be a respectful woman. But there was this one thing she said that I had to write down;
“In the end, all we are left with is a luggage of experiences. A luggage of unconditional love that we’ve been nourished with. You see, life is beautiful and worth waking up to every single day no matter the hardships. As long as we focus on the present moment and sacrifice our time and compassion for the people around us, we can be truly happy.”
And I guess that does somehow sum up the beauty of solo travel and being open to your environment. You’ll have these small encounters with strangers that you’ll never forget.
This trip to Switzerland was organized together with Switzerland Tourism, but the opinions are always my own. Make sure to check out my Swedish travel blogger colleagues who were also on the trip: Northbound Journeys, Freedomtravel, Oh darling, Sanna Rosell, Instagram guru Milana & her boyfriend Niklas.
Photos of me on the train: Northbound Journeys / Photos of me on the mountain: Oh darling!