Know in Italy as Monte Cervino, the Matterhorn is instantly recognisable by its pyramid shape - it is perhaps the most recognised mountain peak in the world - you have certainly seen photos of the Matterhorn even if you didn't know what you were seeing!
The mountain is in the form of a four-sided pyramid, with the sides conveniently facing the points of the compass.
It is situated in the Pennine Alps above the Valtournenche Valley of northern Piedmont (Italy) and stands on 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 perhaps won't casually ascend to the peak of the Matterhorn during your visit! Most visitors are content to admire the view from the surrounding valleys and trails.
The first ascent of the Matterhorn didn't take place until 1865, an adventure during which four out of the seven in the original group died during the return journey, and the most difficult north face was not climbed until 1931.
Although it has now been climbed many times it is still a substantial challenge to reach the top of the Matterhorn although local guides lead regular climbs of the mountain, and ropes are in place on the more challenging parts of the ascent.
Climbers today usually follow the ridge on the north-east of the matterhorn, the 'easiest' way to reach the summit, or one of the other ridges - the main faces are especially dangerous with a high risk of rockfall.
The best way for the casual visitor to get a feel for the mountain is from Breuil, the large resort in the valley below. Cable cars from heer will get 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 is, of course, primarily an outdoor region - 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 time permits there is a trek that completes a circuit around the Matterhorn and takes about 10 days to complete - this is still 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 - see particularly Nus and the nearby Castello di Fnis.
Map of Matterhorn and places nearby
Matterhorn places to visit
See more places nearby in the Aosta valley guide