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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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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