Credit: Liechtenstein Marketing

Hiking Through the World’s Sixth-Smallest Nation Was a Fairy Tale With Family-Run Restaurants and Lush Views of the Rhine Valley

A Journey Through This 46.6-Mile Trail in Liechtenstein

Imagine walking the entire length of a country in just a few days. The 46.6-mile Liechtenstein Trail was launched in 2019 for Liechtenstein’s 300th anniversary and criss-crosses a stunning setting of snow-capped Alps and the lush Rhine River valley. There are no flights into Liechtenstein (Zurich Airport is a one-hour drive) along with no trains or subways—just you, your feet and an excellent network of trails and buses. Along the route, you’ll see five castles, 11 villages (municipalities), riotous wildflowers and inspiring gothic cathedrals. You’ll also see how this democratic hereditary monarchy integrates an estimated 4,700 companies—many of them tech-based—into its otherwise rural environs.

The best way to prepare for the Liechtenstein Trail is to tune-up in neighboring Switzerland first. Flying into Zurich, purchase the Swiss Travel Pass and grab the uber-scenic 90-minute rail trip along Lake Zurich to the spa region of Bad Ragaz. The ultimate overnight stay—one that will up your wellness game—is the Grand Hotel Quellenhof, the newly remodeled hotel that’s part of the five-star Grand Resort Bad Ragaz. The property’s healing thermal waters from the Tamina Gorge were discovered in 1242 and are part of the Grand Resort’s signature wellness packages that combine bathing and sauna rituals, diet, exercise and best sleep practices.

Credit: Grand Resort Bad Ragaz

Start with an exhilarating ride on one of the resort’s fleet of e-bikes with a cycling dine-around that takes you through the storied Heidiland holiday region. This picturesque countryside was the inspiration for the “Heidi” storybooks and films.

Once you’ve rested and rejuvenated at the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, use your Swiss Travel Pass for the short rail/bus connection to Liechtenstein and the Swiss border town of Balzers. Don’t forget to download the free, interactive Liechtenstein Trail app, LIstory. You can also arrange for luggage transport between hotels and boxed lunches for the trail, which you’ll be thankful for once you begin your trek.

Liechtenstein Trail
Credit: Grand Resort Bad Ragaz

In Balzers, it’s not unusual to meet Americans in this southernmost municipality. The family-run inn, Hofbalzers, and its on-site Restaurant Höfle are a welcoming launch point for the Liechtenstein Trail and close to the Gutenberg Castle. One of Liechtenstein’s two intact castles, this hilltop fortress dates back to the 12th century. Much of the charm of Liechtenstein is how it holds close to tradition. Signage and menus are in its national language of German, and the local greeting is Hoi! (Use the Google Translate app to turn German to English in seconds.) The country’s religion is Catholic and church bells ring every 15 minutes. Cowbells can still be heard in the countryside, especially on the Brown Swiss cattle grazing on open alpine mountainsides. Much like Switzerland, you’ll find good internet connectivity and fresh drinking water in outdoor fountains throughout the country.

Credit: Liechtenstein Marketing

You can take the Liechtenstein Trail at your own pace, but there’s a suggested schedule on the Liechtenstein Trail website. You’ll start with the section from Balzers to Triesenberg, taking you from the bucolic border with Switzerland up to the old settlement of Mäls. To this day, residents of Mäls and Balzers compete to see who makes the highest bonfire for the Funkensonntag winter celebrations. Past Gutenberg Castle, the walking path intersects with the old Roman Road (a long-distance transit route until the end of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation in 1806) past rough meadows and Christian shrines.

Credit: Tom Jutzler

The municipality of Triesen is a good place to unlock several interactive sites on the LIstory app before a more challenging ascent to the high-country hamlet of Triesenberg. An overnight stay at the Hotel Oberland gives you a balcony with sweeping views of the Rhine Valley. You can soak in the charm of Liechtenstein by having dinner at Restaurant Kainer, a go-to place for local celebrations. Triesenberg has a fascinating history that you’ll want to absorb in the Walser Museum, highlighting how a neighboring region of Walser people migrated to this area in the 13th and 14th centuries. Residents still celebrate traditions like the autumn Triesenberger Wochen food festival.

Day two takes you high above the Rhine Valley through the historic Prufatscheng settlement, a remote and protected hamlet dating back to the end of the 14th century. The trail has an almost storybook quality as you pass wood-carved figurines telling sagas passed down through the centuries by the Walser people. The last section of trail is a narrow descent through deep forest (40% of Liechtenstein is forest) to the ruins of Schalun Castle before entering the country’s capital of Vaduz.

Sitting stately above this modern municipality is Vaduz Castle, a 12th century fortress that is home to Liechtenstein’s Princely Family. A self-check-in hotel in the central plaza is the Vaduzerhof, which is within walking distance of the Parliament building, The Prince of Liechtenstein Winery and new gothic Cathedral St. Florin. Citytrain tours let you see the sites in English with a lively rendition of the Liechtenstein Polka.

On day three of this schedule, you walk past the ruins of Schaan Castle (built in the second half of the fourth century) in the municipality of Schaan. You can grab a freshly ground and brewed cup of coffee nearby at Demmel Kaffee before climbing the forested path to sweeping views from the village of Planken and downhill to the village of Nendeln. If you’re feeling energetic, you can continue to the Historical Eschnerberg Trail, past Bendern Church (with history dating back to the sixth century) and then along the Rhine and through the forest to the northernmost municipality of Ruggell. An overnight option is the ultra-modern Kommod Hotel and its chef-driven Tenn restaurant. The celebrated restaurant Frederick is also nearby.

Liechtenstein Trail
Credit: Zürich Tourism

Day four takes you over a dam to the Ruggeller Riet nature reserve. Purple moor grass and Siberian iris carpet this wetland area. Soon, you begin the steep climb past two sets of castle ruins in Schellenberg and then continuing to Hinterschellenberg near the Austrian border. A forested trail along the Gantenstein mountain lets you take in sweeping views of the border town of Feldkirch, Austria. The path then heads down to the village of Mauren and a beautiful example of medieval architecture from the 18th century—St. Peter & Paul Parish Church. A final section of wetlands remain before you’ll be able to walk across the border into Austria. Congratulations—you have officially walked the length of Liechtenstein!



Bragging rights aside, there’s plenty to celebrate after trekking the Liechtenstein Trail. Before you fly out of Zurich, plan an overnight stay at the stylish Sorell Hotel Seefeld with time for an English-language e-bike tour led by Zurich Tourism. The Zurich Card adds even more activities, including boat rides on Lake Zurich. Save time for a soak and spa ritual in the historic Hürlimannbad & Spa Zurich, a former brewery with thermal pools amid century-old stone vaults. Finish off with a meal at Haus Hiltl, the world’s oldest vegetarian restaurant, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Finally, raise a glass of Zurich wine to toast your success. You’ve finished a week of fun, fitness and fairy tale adventures in Switzerland and its charming principality of Liechtenstein.

Ginny Prior is a longtime travel writer and broadcaster based in the San Francisco Bay Area. A former major-market radio newscaster, Ginny's radio travel vignettes can be heard on Sports Byline USA. When Ginny isn't hiking, skiing or open-water swimming, she's running one of the largest and oldest regional travel writers groups in the country - the Bay Area Travel Writers.




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