It’s no coincidence that the Valais - Matterhorn Region in southern Switzerland has, over the years, become one of the world’s most beloved alpine destinations. While the pyramidal mountain itself has long since enjoyed an iconic status, with its striking quasi-symmetrical configuration looming over the Pennine Alps it has been an emblem of the range since climbers first started tackling its 4,478-metre summit. It also spawned tourism in the nearby carfree town of Zermatt, Europe’s highest ski resort and a focal point for visitors to the region. Matterhorn, which forms part of the border between Switzerland and Italy, has passed into popular folklore since the first ascent in 1865 ultimately ended in tragedy when four of the seven climbers perished on the descent.
The touristic area covers a broad section of the country’s south-west, roughly equivalent to the Valais canton, and offers visitors multiple areas for exploring, each with its own particular identity. There might be no better place to start than Brig, whose historic old quarter is highlighted by the 17th-century Stockalper Palace, the largest private building in Switzerland, nestling at the foot of the Simplon Pass. The residents of Brig are rightly proud of this centrepiece of their local heritage, but the tourist industry also benefits greatly from this area’s strategic location. For starters, the Pass is a gateway to Italy, lying just an hour from the city of Domodossola; it’s also a perfect starting point for excursions, situated close to hiking and skiing areas, as well as sporting its own thermal baths (Brigerbad). The city of Milan and its airport are also 1.5 to 2 hours from Brig. More conveniently, a direct train is available from Milano Centrale to Brig, with a journey time of 1 hour and 45 minutes The pick of Brig’s hotels is the four-star Hotel Stockalperhof, whose interior design is modelled on the eponymous palace.
A short distance south from Brig, Saas-Fee is another diverse area with much to offer the visitor. Primarily known for its skiing and glacier trekking, which here reaches its highest point in the Matterhorn region, it also has the world’s largest ice pavillion and highest revolving restaurant, Allalin, which spins around 360 degrees at an elevation of 3,500 metres above sea level to showcase dazzling panoramas of the Alps. The area is famed for nocturnal fun as much as diurnal experiences, with night sledging and torchlight walks in the village or forest – complete with tastings of the local molten-cheese speciality, raclette. Directly accessible by a private shuttle bus or taxi to Zermatt village, Saas-Fee is one of the most convenient locations in the region where you can also book a first-time ski experience. Two preeminent hotels here are the five-star Walliserhof Grand-Hotel & Spa and the chalet-like The Capra, both guaranteeing a supremely comfortable stay.
BATHING IN BEAUTY
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