We made a pact in January to see more places in Switzerland, but after our two-year Swissiversary came and went we realized we had not made good on our deal. Our list of “must-see Switzerland 2016” had barely been touched and Zermatt was at the top. So, on a Friday we booked train tickets for Saturday to try and soak up as much as we could over a weekend.
What we didn’t realize is that October is Zermatt’s low season. Its very lowest season. Most hotels I contacted were closed until December and many restaurants had signs that read “See you at Christmas!” The town is fueled by tourism and October is wedged between ski season and summer, so I understand why. Still, I’d highly recommend visiting in October.
If you ski and have only one chance to visit Zermatt, then wait. But if you are in town to hike, snap selfies with the Matterhorn and stay on a budget, October is a prime month. It is warm enough that you’re not likely to run into rain or fog. The high altitude hiking trails haven’t been closed yet and the fall colors are a dramatic juxtaposition to the snow-capped peaks.
Moreover, the hotels that are open offer their best rates of the year. We stayed in an adorable Alpine room with a Matterhorn view at the Hotel Bella Vista for half what it would run us during ski season–about $150 versus $300. The hotel has a spa open to all guests (with jacuzzis facing the Matterhorn!), a delicious complimentary breakfast and a romantic fireplace. We really enjoyed indulging in a luxury room on a mid-range budget.
Oh and we didn’t go hungry either. We enjoyed wood-fired pizzas and homemade tiramisu at Vieux-Valais. You can practically see Italy from Zermatt, so we had to try the local pizza.
On the advice of friends, we took the Sunnegga funicular up where we began the Five-Seenweg or Five-Lakes hike with a view of the Matterhorn. There seemed to be a surprise around every bend of the trail, be it wildflowers, birds singing in the pine trees or a new perspective of the Matterhorn that I had to snap 25 times on my camera.
But after spotting four lakes and missing lunch, I got cranky. I’ll admit it. I had hit my hiking quota for the day much to the chagrin of my boy scout husband, so I suggested we take the Gornergrat train up to the peak. Luckily, he acquiesced. Once on the train, the scenery quickly changed from autumn to winter and I was glad I had overdressed in my ski parka.
At the peak is an observation deck, two restaurants and a gift shop. We opted for the less expensive a la carte cafe and my husband was rewarded with some locally-brewed beer–which always tastes better with a view of the Matterhorn.
Another reason we made visiting Zermatt a priority is because apparently babies and high altitudes do not mix…and by next spring, we won’t be able to visit.
It’s true. We’re honored to announce we’re expecting a baby in March!
It is sure to be the biggest adventure we’ve ever embarked on and we could not be more thrilled. Meanwhile, I’m excited to share what I’ve already learned about traveling while pregnant and sometime next year, what traveling with a little one is like. Here’s wishing you all something to celebrate this week, the big and small!