Hiking in Liechtenstein – trails of sisters and princes

Travel blogger Isa on the Drei-Schwestern-Steig

The Principality of Liechtenstein is a tiny independent country in the European Alps. So independent that it doesn’t even belong to the European Union! On an area of just 160 km2, Liechtenstein has over 30 mountains higher than 2000 m. And two long-distance hiking routes are leading through this small country! Rather difficult to believe, isn’t it? After hiking in the Aosta valley, we went hiking in Liechtenstein to check it out.

The Route 66 – the high Alpine hiking route through Liechtenstein

For our hiking adventure in Liechtenstein we chose the 48 km long high-Alpine panorama route. In three days it follows a ridge of high mountains along the spine of the small country. The route is marked as Hiking Trail No. 66 and therefore for marketing reasons called “Route 66”. As we had heard so many good things about the hiking possibilities in Liechtenstein (and about the food in the huts) we were curious to try it for ourselves.

Day 1: Hiking from Malbun to Steg (18 km, 900 m up, 1200 m down)

Liechtenstein Route 66 Malbun to Steg

Clouds are slowly rising up to the ridge, obscure the summit and then dissolve. Only the village of Malbun, where we started our hike in Liechtenstein, gets some sun. Its valley is high enough to have escaped the clouds. There’s a dense layer of clouds over Switzerland and the Rhine Valley to the west, and clouds coming up from Austria to the east.

Instead of taking the cable car up to the Sareiserjoch from the picturesque village of Malbun we hike up the valley in gentle serpentines. Soon we are walking along the ridge on the Princess Gina Trail towards the peak of the 2365 m high Augstenberg. The clouds drift dramatically over the ridge. One second we are hiking in a dense fog, the next we get spectacular views over the mountains and into the valleys.

Liechtenstein Route 66 /Princess Gina Trail

After a short rest under the summit cross we descend to the Pfälzer Hut, one of the few official mountain huts in Liechtenstein. The Swiss couple we met on the ridge are turning south from here, over the border into the Swiss region of Engadin. But we are turning north again, following the Route 66 to the village of Steg. On the sunny meadows we see numerous very relaxed marmots. However, the walk down along the valley towards Steg turns out rather long and a bit dull.

Marmots in Liechtenstein

Why we cut our long-distance hike through Liechtenstein short

The idea of a long-distance hiking route in a decidedly short-distance country seemed charming. We nevertheless discarded it for several reasons. Firstly, of the three or four mountain huts in Liechtenstein, one was closed and one was fully booked. And secondly, at around 60 € for half-pension the huts are quite expensive anyway. After all, Liechtenstein is a notorious tax haven and home to private banks and the super-rich.

Therefore, we had planned to do the three consecutive days as day hikes, shuttling to and from the campsite by bus. This makes Day 2 awkwardly long, however (because there’s no bus stop at the stage’s end at 1400 m). So we skipped a bit at the start of Day 2 to make it fit.

Hiking the Three Sisters Trail in Liechtenstein

And last but not least, after two days of marvellous hiking the weather forecast predicted a lot of rain. The third and last day of the Route 66 leads through Liechtenstein’s lower valleys and through villages. It did not seem as adventurous as the first two days. So in the end we skipped the whole third day.

Day 2: Hiking from Gaflei to Planken (12 km, 870 m up, 1550 m down)

About a dozen hikers are already waiting for the bus to Gaflei. But instead of the regular-sized public bus, a small van arrives at the scheduled time. The driver is beckoning us in. The large bus is broken, he explains. And so we all pile into the already cramped van. Gaflei is not really a village: it was originally a summer meadow for the farmers in the valley. Today there is a private hospital for patients with severe burn-out syndromes. By the time we arrive, there are already a lot of cars in the Gaflei parking lot. Everyone, it seems, is starting out for the Fürstensteig on one of the last beautiful summer days.

Hikers on the Fuerstensteig in Liechtenstein

The Fürstensteig, or Prince’s Trail, is one of the best-known Alpine Trails and indeed among the most spectacular hiking in Liechtenstein. It traverses the high rock wall of the mountains towering over the Rhine Valley just above Liechtenstein’s capital of Vaduz. Quite often, the path is cut into the rock, or attached to it as a balcony-style walkway. We don’t mind that there are always people walking in front or behind us, because they actually make for nice colourful spots in the grey stone wall.

Hiking between Liechtenstein and Austria: border sign

After about one hour, we reach the ridge of the mountains and continue along a more relaxed mountain path. It leads further up to the Kuhgrat, at 2122 m the highest point of today’s hike. But the rocky Garsellikopf a bit further on is more demanding, with a bit of easy climbing. After the Kuhgrat, we are walking on the border with Austria, which runs along the mountain ridge.

Where are the Sisters?

On the Three Sisters Rocks in Liechtenstein

The Alpine Trail here is called Dreischwesternsteig – Three Sisters Trail. According to a local legend, the sisters turned to stone because they were picking berries instead of going to church. Some of the rock formations do look like persons, but: “Which ones are the three sisters?” Nobody is sure. At the end of the ridge, the path leads us scrambling up to one of the rocky outcrops – Sister Number One, we assume. The other “two sisters” have a summit crosses but are inaccessible except for climbers.

Gafadura mountain hut in Liechtenstein

From there it’s down and further down – to the Gafadura Mountain Hut where we have a drink. And then it is a few hundred meters more downhill through the forest to the bus stop in Planken.

What else to do in Liechtenstein

Cattle drive in Vaduz

On our last day, we went to see the Liechtenstein Art Museum and the National Museum. In addition, there were several events taking place that day, starting with parades of the Princely Liechtenstein Tattoo (a music festival similar to the Royal Edinburgh Tattoo). Then there was the colourful cattle drive of cows coming down to Vaduz from the high Alpine Meadows. And the Gourmet Festival was a great opportunity to sample local food made by top chefs of the region. We only spent four days in the small country of Liechtenstein, but really liked our time there.

More hiking in Liechtenstein

If you do not want to go on the high-alpine trails there is also the Liechtenstein trail. This is an easier route, which leads through all eleven municipalities of Liechtenstein in five days at a lower altitude. Apart from that there are numerous day hikes.

How to hike the Route 66 in Liechtenstein

The ideal itinerary for the Route 66 would be a 3-day hike with one night at the Alpe Sücka and another night at the Gafadura Hut. However, the Alpe Sücka was closed in summer 2022 when we hiked, and the Gafadura Hut was solidly booked. We stayed at the only campsite of the country in Triesenberg and went to the trail heads by public transport. Busses go every 30–60 minutes with the last bus running from smaller villages around 7 pm. Sometimes we had to change busses as well. Using public transport needed a little bit of planning, but was perfectly possible. The Route 66 had good signposting on most parts. However there were some stretches where we were glad that we had downloaded gps tracks beforehand from Liechtenstein Tourism.

Vaduz Castle

Combining the visit to Liechtenstein with some sightseeing in Bellinzona made for some nice stops in the Alps between Italy and Germany.

NB: We were not sponsored in any way for this blog article about hiking in Liechtenstein. We arranged our own travel plan and paid all expenses ourselves.

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23 Comments

  1. We are huge Rick Steves fans so I’ve seen some of these places before on his shows. I would love to hike the alps. It seems so amazing. I love all the small villages. They provide such a great way to absorb local culture.

    1. Dear Donna, I am sure you will enjoy hiking in the alps. However the weather can change very quickly and it is always advisable to check the weather forecast before heading into the mountains.

  2. I love to hear legends associated with destinations, so I’m fascinated by the tale of the sisters who turned to stone for eating berries. It’s unfortunate that no one knows exactly which structures represent them, but still, an ominous warning never to skip church! Such grand mountain vistas and experiences in tiny Liechtenstein! (And what a treat to happen upon the gourmet festival, as well — Looks so yummy!)

  3. Wow, that landscape looks so lush and green and then juxtaposed with all that rocky terrain is spectacular. I haven’t done any hiking in Liechtenstein and this really looks fabulous for an outdoor experienc.

  4. We passed through Liechtenstein on the train and really wanted to get off and at least get our passport stamped. But we did not think about stopping for a longer stay and hiking in the mountains. Although we would sadly not be up to a full 3 day hike. We would be happy to plan our visit around the Gourmet Festival and take in those lovely mountains from below.

    1. Dear Linda, the mountains in Liechtenstein are quite impressive. And even if you do not go for a multi-day hike, you can take the bus to one of the upper valleys and do some short hikes from there.

  5. My husband and I adore the mountains, and have Liechtenstein on our list due to its small size, close proximity to other countries – and yes being surrounded by the Alps. We would take advantage of an “easier” hike recognizing that they are all much more strenuous than here at home. And would time it around the food festival just as you have done. What a great experience!

    1. Dear Renee, I think this was the first time they had this kind of Gourmet festival with top chefs. But I guess it worked very well and I hope it will become an anual event!

  6. Your hiking route in Liechtenstein looks excellent. Pictures from the peaks and mountain treks are delightful. The place seems to be an excellent idea for hikes, especially if you can combine it with getting to know local flavors and culture. I love the legend about Three Sisters Trail. You had a great trip!

  7. The Fürstensteig, or Prince’s Trail sounds interesting, a must do kind of activity. Interesting to know about the legend of Three Sisters Trail. It makes the hike more interesting. The Gafadura Mountain Hut looks like an ideal place to rest after the long trail. Loved the pictures you have taken along the way

  8. I could have go to Lichtenstein last year, when I did a road trip through Europe, but I decided last minute to go through the South of Germany to save time, as the roads were faster and I had a limited time to get to Calais on a particular date for my channel crossing. After reading your article I know now what I missed. Those mountains look incredible! The scenery of this trail is indeed so impressive, especially the path that is carved in the mountain rock. So cute that you have seen marmots on your way, I have never seen them in real life. I can understand why you cut your 3 days hike to two, bad weather is never a good thing when you are so high in the mountains.

    1. Dear Joanna, there will be a next time! If you have the chance do spend two or three days in Liechtenstein and visit some places other than the capital Vaduz.

  9. Aw! It’s sad that you had to cut a bit of it short, but that’s totally understandable. It still looks like you had an amazing time, though!

  10. You seem to have had an amazing hiking experience in Liechtenstein one of the smallest and independent countries in Europe. It’s crazy how expensive the mountain hits cane due to tax and you had to avoid staying in one. But the view from the meadows and the top are picturesque and as also you got to enjoy the Liechtenstein art museum, the tattoo festival, the cattle show and the local cuisine.

    1. Dear Puloma, we were surprised how beautiful the mountains are in Liechtenstein. For such a small country there is an abundance of hikes and trails.

  11. Wow, amazing views! I would love to visit Liechtenstein and while reading this I realized I don’t know much about it. Hiking route 66 must of been a great experience. I have to keep that in mind for future. That sounds like something to do after our kids are bigger as for now we just hike easier trails.

    1. Dear Paula, most people visit only the capital Vaduz. But if you like hiking, it is really worth to spend one or two days more and head out for the trails.

  12. Wow! What a great adventure! The hike is definitely worth it with a view this magnificent. Thank you for the heads up about the costs. I agree with you that 60 € for a half-pension is quite steep. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    1. Dear Clarice, yes Liechtenstein was one of the most expensive countries we have been to. Probably even slightly more expensive than Switzerland.

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