Liechtenstein is a hidden gem in the heart of the Western Alps. The nation of Liechtenstein is primarily composed of a brilliant green valley floor that is bound by towering mountains. Along the floor of the mountainous valley is a collection of quaint villages and gothic castles. Ryder-Walker’s The Liechtenstein Trail trek follows the nation’s eponymous trail which runs through all 11 of Liechtenstein’s Municipalities, connecting the country’s most charming villages, beautiful alpine lakes, and most awe-inspiring mountain views.
Geography & Location
Liechtenstein itself is tucked away in the mountains; a hidden valley that sits high above the foothills that roll towards Zurich in Switzerland. Bordered to the east by the Austrian Alps and west by the Swiss Alps, Liechtenstein is one of only two nations in the world that is entirely landlocked and bordered by two separate nations. Just over the eastern ridgeline that composes Liechtenstein’s border is the Prättigau Valley which winds between Switzerland and Austria. Further south, mountain trekking enthusiasts will immediately recognize the Engadine Valley as one of the most charming and beautiful valleys in the entirety of the Alps, and with Liechtenstein sitting only a handful of ridgelines over, it is no surprise that Liechtenstein itself is equally charming and gorgeous. Liechtenstein shares many of the key characteristics of its mountainous neighbors, one of the highest gross domestic products of any nation in the world, an incredibly high quality of life for its citizens, and an outdoors and health culture that has led to the development of a stunning system of trails across the nation’s entire breadth.
Liechtenstein’s countryside is rich with outdoor beauty and a diversity of sights to take in. From the rolling hills surrounding the city of Vaduz, the peated marshlands of the Rugeller Riet, and the imposing 12th century Gutenberg Castle which looks to have fallen straight out of a fairy tale. The primary outdoor draw of Liechtenstein is the stunning Liechtenstein Trail which crosses the entire nation yet remains an accessible and charming hike. Other than the Liechtenstein Trail, the citizenry loves to explore the nation’s mountain roads by bike, and during the winter a large network of cross-country ski trails open across the valley floor.
Liechtenstein shares its culinary culture with its Germanic neighbors. Many of the classic culinary delights that can be experienced in Liechtenstein are variations on the Swiss-German and Austrian cuisines available just over the mountainous border. Some highlights include:
Spätzle: These tiny dumplings are almost akin to pasta. Similar in essence to gnocchi, Spätzle can come in a variety of delicious sauces and gravies, with the most decadent being a mountain berry gravy.
Käsknöpfle: Similar to Spätzle, Käsknöpfle is another decadent alpine pasta, this time covered in local cheeses, often fried with local ham, or baked in a deep ceramic dish.
Knödel: Knödel are the lifeblood of Germanic mountain cuisine. These large potato dumplings come in a variety of forms. Whether filled with spinach, meats, or cheese, a single Knödel feels like it can keep you going for an entire week. A delicious variation on the Knödel is a cheese-Knödel soup, which takes the cheese-filled dumpling and submerges it in a rich beef consommé.
Liechtenstein is a young country, having celebrated its 300th birthday in 2019. Despite this, the country has a deep medieval history. The relics of this history are Liechtenstein’s 12th-century castles, such as the Gutenberg Castle in Balzers and Vaduz Castle, home to Liechtenstein’s royal family.
Perhaps the most fascinating part of Liechtenstein’s past is an element that is shared with the nation’s alpine neighbors – the presence of the Walser people. The Walser’s were a 12th-century people, defined largely by their speaking of the Walser German dialect, that were among the earliest permanent inhabitants of the highest mountain regions of Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and Liechtenstein. Today’s mountain culture is an inheritance of the Walser people, and their high mountain habitations can be seen to this day!
Learn more about Ryder-Walker’s self-guided Liechtenstein Trail trek.