Know in Italy as Monte Cervino, the Matterhorn is instantly recognisable by its pyramid shape. Monte Cervino is perhaps the most recognised mountain peak in the world. The mountain is in the form of a four-sided pyramid, with the sides conveniently facing the points of the compass.
Monte Cervino is located in the Pennine Alps above the Valtournenche Valley in the Aosta Valley region. The mountain forms the Italian border with the Zermatt region of Switzerland. At its peak the Matterhorn stands 4,478 metres tall. Although it is not the highest mountain in the Alps, its relative isolation from the surrounding mountain peaks make it one of the most impressive.
You can only reach the peak of the Matterhorn by climbing one of the technical routes. The first ascent of the Matterhorn was in 1865, an adventure where four out of the seven in the original group died during the return journey. There are still routes being explored today, but most of the direct routes were all climbing by 1931.
Most visitors are content to admire the view from the surrounding valleys and trails. The best way for the casual visitor to get a feel for the mountain is from Breuil, the large resort upper plateau . Cable cars will take you to almost 3,500 metres to enjoy some stunning views across the Matterhorn and surrounding landscape. Further options and views are found if approaching the Matterhorn from the Swiss side.
The area around Monte Cervino is primarily an outdoor region. You will find that mountain climbing, skiing and hiking are the most popular activities, and many of these will provide further opportunities to appreciate the size and drama of the mountain. If the time permits there is a trek that completes a circuit around the Matterhorn and takes about 10 days to complete. This route is a substantial challenge and experience and thorough preparation is required.
There are also various small villages to explore in pretty settings around and near the base of the Matterhorn, particularly Nus and the nearby Castello di Fnis.