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Mattertal (Nikolaital / Vallée de Saint-Nicolas / Vallée de Zermatt)
View from the left (western) valley flank in south direction to St. Niklaus and the rear (upper) Mattertal, in the background the snow-capped peaks of the main Alpine ridge

View from the left (western) valley flank in south direction to St. Niklaus and the rear (upper) Mattertal, in the background the snow-capped peaks of the main Alpine ridge

location Canton of Valais
Waters Mattervispa
Mountains western Valais Alps (including Monte Rosa , Mischabel and Weisshorn groups )
Geographical location 628.25 thousand  /  113939 coordinates: 46 ° 11 '  N , 7 ° 48'  O ; CH1903:  six hundred twenty-eight thousand two hundred fifty  /  113939
Topo map National map of Switzerland 1: 25,000 (LK25), sheet 1308, St. Niklaus
Mattertal (Switzerland)
Type Vorderes Mattertal between Stalden and St. Niklaus : V valley ; rear Mattertal between St. Niklaus and Zermatt : U-Tal
height 723.5 to  3400  m above sea level M.
length 25 km
climate In relation to altitude and geographical latitude, the climate is relatively mild and low in precipitation.
flora The tree line is at an altitude of 2200  m above sea level. M. to 2300  u m. M. and thus in the Central and Southern European top range.
use Winter and summer tourism, agriculture and alpine farming , hydropower
particularities • Greatest height difference between the lowest point of the valley floor and the highest mountain in the valley edge in the entire Alpine region (“deepest valley of the Alps”)
• Greatest concentration of four-thousand-meter peaks in the valley edge
Template: Infobox Glacier / Maintenance / Image description missing

The Mattertal (also called Nikolaital , French Vallée de Saint-Nicolas or Vallée de Zermatt ) is one of the left (southern) side valleys of the Rhone Valley in Valais , Switzerland . It is one of the valleys that cut deep into the Valais Alps to the south , as far as the main Alpine ridge (there at the same time the border ridge between Switzerland and Italy ) and to the north to the Rhone ( Valais-German Rotten), the geographic main axis of the Valais to open. Three of the four highest mountain massifs in the Alps lie in the edge of the valley.


Mattertal (“Nicolaithal”) and “Saasthal” on a map in the Baedeker travel guide from 1905. The uppermost (rearmost) section of the Mattertal south of Täsch is missing.

General topography

The Mattertal, which runs approximately in a north-south direction, is located in the German-speaking Upper Valais . As the western branch of the Vispertal (or western of the two upper / rear Vispertäler) it extends over a good 25 kilometers from Stalden to just above Zermatt , where it divides into two short high valleys running in an east-west direction. The upper end of the western high valley is bounded by the front of the Zmutt glacier on the northern flank of the Matterhorn , the eastern by the front of the Findel glacier on the northwest flank of Monte Rosa . The valley is drained by the Mattervispa , which joins the Saas Vispa at Stalden from the neighboring Saas valley to the east to form the Vispa , which flows into the Rhone at Visp .

The lowest point of the Mattertal is 723.5  m above sea level. M. at the lower end of the valley near Stalden. Several peaks of the mountains, which surround the valley on three sides, rise to over 4500  m . Of these, the cathedral in the east and the Weisshorn in the west are the only ones that are not on the main Alpine ridge . The cathedral is also the main peak of the Mischabel massif , the third highest mountain massif in the Alps, and the Weisshorn is the main peak of the fourth highest mountain massif in the Alps. The much better known Matterhorn is located on the main ridge, but at 4478  m it remains just below the 4500 mark. The highest point above the valley is the Dufourspitze at 4634  m , the main peak of Monte Rosa and at the same time the highest peak in Switzerland. Thus, the Mattertal cuts itself into the highest mountain massifs in the Alpine arc after the Mont Blanc massif , which is expressed in a difference in altitude of 3910 m. With this record value, the Mattertal is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the “deepest valley in the Alps” and therefore also the “deepest valley in Switzerland”. During Christmas 1998, the 36.8 meter high medieval was the church tower of St. Nicholas under the slogan " the largest Nicholas the world in the deepest valley in Switzerland " as Nicholas dressed.

Mountain peaks in the valley edge

Of the total of 82 four-thousand-meter peaks in the Alps , the following 33 surround the Mattertal. It has the highest concentration of four-thousand-meter peaks in the Alps. Monte Rosa alone in the southeastern edge of the valley has a total of nine peaks over four thousand meters, three of which, however, are beyond the main ridge on the Italian side. The following list starts with the highest peak, the Dufourspitze, and ends with the lowest, the Allalinhorn.

View from the east of the Weisshorn group with (from left to right) Ober Gabelhorn ( 4063  m ), Zinalrothorn ( 4221  m ) and Weisshorn ( 4505  m )

The Mattertal in 3D

View from the south (left) and east side of the Meier Tower, which is now home to the mountain guide museum that opened in 2000 .

On the two computer stations of the mountain guide museum in St. Niklaus Dorf you can move freely between the mountains of the Mattertal or choose one of the suggested panoramas. The location-relevant information is linked to the list of first ascents. This part of the program is a novelty and was created in collaboration with specialists from the Institute for Cartography at ETH Zurich and the Federal Office for Topography . The multimedia production of the mountain guide museum integrates the panorama part of the “3D-Topography” module of the Institute for Cartography at ETH Zurich, with hyperlinks underlaying the panorama views, which ensure navigation between the 3D and 2D parts.


The following municipalities have a share in the Mattertal (from north to south):

St. Niklaus Dorf is the main town in the valley. Nikolaus von Myra is the patron saint and namesake of both the Mattertal (hence also Nikolaital ) and St. Niklaus.

The historic core of the village of Täsch ( 1449  m ) lies directly on the valley floor. The town centers of Zermatt ( 1608  m ), Randa ( 1406  m ), St. Niklaus ( 1120  m ) and Stalden ( 795  m ) are each slightly above the bottom. Grächen ( 1619  m ), Embd ( 1356  m ) and Törbel ( 1502  m ) lie well above the valley floor on plateau-like steps on the valley flank or on a relatively steep slope.

Oldest building and first known hotel

At the end of the 13th century, the Meier Tower , which still exists today, was built in St. Niklaus Dorf . The dendrochronological examination of the central girder of the cellar ceiling resulted in the year 1273. The old stone tower is the oldest surviving building in Mattertal, probably in the whole region. Today it houses the world's first mountain guide museum .

Felix Platter reports in 1563 about the visit to the inn in St. Niklaus. This is the Hotel Kreuz / Croix.



  • Christian Imboden: Mountains: job, calling, fate . Rotten Verlag , Visp 2013, ISBN 3-907624-48-3 . (two chapters The Alps and the valley of the Matterhorn (the Nikolaital) and the early first ascents around the Nikolaital ).

Web links

Commons : Mattertal  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Journal: Vermessung, Photogrammetrie, Kulturtechnik ; Volume (year): 98 (2000); Issue 10: 75 years of the Institute for Cartography at ETH Zurich, page 606 and William Cartwright, Michael P. Peterson and Georg Gartner (eds.): Multimedia Cartography. Springer 2007, page 162.
  2. Christian Imboden, Berge: Beruf, Berufung, Schicksal , Rotten Verlag, Visp, 2013, page 36 f.