The Matterhorn, at 14,692 feet, is not Switzerland's tallest peak (it comes in fifth), but with its dramatic profile and its steep, sheer faces presenting a unique challenge to climbers, it has long been an icon of Switzerland and the Alps. Most travelers will pass on scaling the peak, and instead take one Zermatt's cable cars to Europe's highest mountain station and the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, with a new restaurant and views of the Matterhorn's south face.
At the base of the peak, Zermatt is a car-free town and an ideal base while exploring the area. The Omnia Mountain Lodge sits high on a rock overlooking the town while the Romantik Hotel Julen, with its spruce-paneled rooms, combines traditional chalet style with contemporary touches.
Zermatt has an abundance of restaurants that will sate your appetite after a day of hiking, biking, or simply sight-seeing. Northern Italian and Alpine dishes are the focus of the menu at CERVO Puro, a restaurant at the Cervo Zermatt resort that has been awarded 14 Gault Millau points. The home of Restaurant 1818 was built two centuries ago (hence the name) and serves traditional dishes cooked over a charcoal grill in an inviting dining room.
For six itineraries covering the best of the Alps, visit AFAR Journeys.