Walking and trekking
Due to its tiny size and relative obscurity, Liechtenstein will inevitably fall several places down your list of Alpine destinations, superseded in fame as it is by the countries which hem it in: Austria and Switzerland. Occupying part of the Rhine Valley in central Europe, it’s an odd little place of 160 km2. But given that it has within that area 400km of marked walking trails, has the Via Alpine trans-Europe walking route bisecting it and is absolutely rammed to the gills with mountains, its quirkiness and physical attributes make it worthy of a stamp in anyone’s passport. Kick off your trip with a trip to the unpleasantly-named Steg, which is an ideal base for the long-distance Ratikon tour trail, which takes in the dramatic mountains of the same name, lying along the borders of Liechtenstein, Austria and Switzerland.
Following that, you can head for Gaflei, and the Drei-Schwestern-Weg (Three Sisters’ track) and the Fürstensteig, a beautiful 12km route which is considered to be Lichtenstein’s most classically spectacular mountain route. Of moderate challenge and nudging over the 2000m mark, this route offers a varied experience of Liechtenstein’s mountains and superb views into the neighbouring countries.
Essential is a walk from capital Vaduz to get a look at the castle, where the prince of Lichtenstein still (occasionally) lives, best taken in on a walk to Triesenberg which will also wow you with views of the Rhine valley and the Swiss Alps.
For those who want a gentler but no less pretty walk should try the country’s most popular walk, the Sassweg, from Malbun, a slice of Alpine idyll featuring a quaint Peace Chapel and topping out at 1,725m. The Samina valley offers flowering meadows and views of the Ratikon mountains for those who don’t wish to climb them. Mountain cabins and refugios are conveniently located in the mountains
And so to the Grauspitz, which is where things get really interesting: it’s hard, and there are no official trails which lead to its top. It’s refreshing for such a little country to have such a tricky mountain as its highpoint, and as a result of this and the country’s relative obscurity, it sees very little foot traffic. Aesthetically, the mountain is spellbinding: a razor’s edge wedge of rock in the Ratikon mountains with a sheer east ridge forming its only realistic approach, via the subsidiary peak of the Schwarzhorn (2,574m). Achieving the Schwartzhorn is the toughest part of the route, but even then you still have the precipitous east ridge of the Grauspitz to deal with. It’s an unexpectedly ambitious mountaineering challenge around the VDiff grade, but once up there, it is one of the few places where the summit panorama literally spans the entire country – and way beyond. If Grauspitz is a bit extreme, consider just climbing the Schwarzhorn - or the Naafkopf (2,570m) is nearby, isn’t far off height-wise and has some well-maintained trails to its top.
Despite its size, there’s plenty to do in Liechtenstein. Good thermals in this part of the Alps make it an especially good place to paraglide, so there’s plenty of that going on. It’s also a fine location for winter sports such as tobogganning and downhill skiing as it gets a decent dump of snow most winters. There’s also a lot of climbing on offer, with a facility on the Ellhorn near Balzers offering 20 pitched routes. A nearby indoor facility has a further 50 routes on offer if the weather closes in. There are tennis courts in most towns, and Liechtenstein also has something of a preoccupation with golf, and there are several installations where you can sample variants of the sport. Liechtenstein also has famously good wine, and you can experience it by taking a wine- tasting excursion in Vaduz, where the ruler of Liechtenstein – Prince Hans-Adam II – owns some of the finest vineyards in the Rhine valley. The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are especially recommended.
There are just 140km of land boundaries in Liechtenstein; FALSE. There is actually only 76 km: 35km with Austria, 41km with Switzerland.
Liechtenstein is a tax haven: TRUE.
Must see and do
- Eat kasknopfle (a cheese-laden dumpling concoction).
- Sample the wines of Vaduz
- Climb the Schwarzhorn to get a look at the Grauspitz Check out pictures at www.summitpost.org