We almost canceled this trip. The weather looked crappy and the week was beating us down. On top of that, we spent two nights in Colmar the weekend before. The last thing we wanted to do was spend five hours driving for an overnight trip! We knew if we didn’t fit Liechtenstein in now, then we probably never would.
Have you ever taken a trip, fully expecting to be underwhelmed, but it turned out to be a mind-blowing event? That was Liechtenstein for us. We figured that we’d see the tiny country, get a hike in, and flex about how we checked off another country. I simply was not prepared to be amazed and captivated by so much natural beauty! Liechtenstein is a relatively untouched and natural wonder, and I hope this post encourages you to visit the tiny principality.
What We Did
We left Kaiserslautern about 4am on a Saturday morning and, after a couple of potty and snack breaks, pulled into our hotel parking lot just before 10am. Bad weather was supposed to roll in sometime in the afternoon, so we wanted to see and do all the things before it started raining.
We couldn’t check-in early, but the hotel host was kind enough to let us park at the hotel. Our hotel was in quaint and adorable Malbun, tucked away in the southwest corner along the border of Austria. Much of our hike was probably a stone’s throw away from being in the neighboring country.
Malbun is about 5200 feet above sea level, and via the Sareis chairlift, we started our hike at 6268 feet. We paid CHF 9 (Swiss Francs) to take the lift up, not paying for a round-trip since our plan was to hike down the mountain.
At the top of the lift is a restaurant some people visit before making the trek up and down the mountain. We bought a small lunch at a store right before we got onto the chairlift, as we planned to picnic midway through the hike.
When we researched best hiking trails in Liechtenstein, the undisputed champ of them all was the 12km Fürstin-Gina-Weg. The trail starts at the top of the Sareis chairlift and goes along mountain ridges as it descents into Malbun. The best part of the trail is that all hikers can modify the trail based off of capability. Beginners or those with young children could take the trail to Saiserjoch, which still makes way for amazing views. From there you can either take the chairlift or an easy walk down to Malbun.
In normal circumstances, the 12km Fürstin-Gina-Weg takes 5 to 6 hours to complete, but we had our own plan in mind. We figured that we would cut the time in half by following a shorter, but labeled “difficult,” route we found in Komoot. Despite adequate warning, we went along with it.
After passing Saiserjoch, the route progressively became more difficult, and many times, outright scary. We followed a skinny trail, barely a foot wide, along side of the mountain until we eventually hiked 1500 feet to the mountain peak Augstenberg (7739 feet). It is important to know that at this height, you are above the treeline and vertigo is a real thing. I only recommend it for expert hikers.
The hike to Augstenberg was kind of scary, but it was only the preview for what came next. We seriously couldn’t find the trailhead for our descent, until we saw a couple of daring 20-somethings make a bold move.
They scooted down on their butts on what had a semblance of a trail. Always up for a challenge, we immediately followed, using a variety of techniques (sliding, scooting, bracing, crawling, and praying) until we made it to the next peak. After a steep 700 feet descent and a few near-death moments, we made it to Silberhorn at 7053 feet. From there, even though 1800 feet lower, the walk to Malbun wasn’t that bad. Altogether, even though I tried to save time by short-cutting the trail, we still ended up taking 5 hours to make it 8km. We should have stuck with the 12km route!
Before going home, we decided to spend a little time checking out the capital city of Valduz, right on the border of Switzerland. Our first stop was Stausee Steg, a popular lake among the locals for fishing and swimming. The lake was stunning in the early and foggy morning.
We admired Valduz Castle as we made our way down the mountain. The Royal Family’s Palace was built in the 12th Century, and has housed the Princely Family of Liechtenstein for the past 500 years. Tours aren’t offered to tourists since it is still a residence, but we did learn that citizens of Liechtenstein are invited to visit on their 18th birthday.
In town, our first stop was the tourist center to grab a city map. We bought a few souvenirs and got our passports stamped (for a small fee).
We walked to the Alt Rhein Brucke (Old Rhine Bridge), which spans the rushing Rhine River that borders Liechtenstein and Switzerland. There’s only pedestrian and bicycle traffic allowed on the quaint and covered wooden bridge, and of course we stopped to take pics on both side of the border.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at Galina Hotel Falknerei (Falconry), & Restaurant in the heart of Malbun. The hotel hosts were exceptionally nice and spoke perfect English. Even though we arrived early, they allowed us to use the hotel’s parking so we could get started on our hike. We paid €125 for our one night on Booking.com, but some rooms are cheaper, if you are willing to share a bathroom. At the desk, we paid €13 per person for a great breakfast on Sunday morning.
The hotel had a small family-run feel to it, but the downside is that it was very basic. The beds weren’t the most comfortable, and it’s a good thing we always travel with a few extra pillows. The walls were also thin, so we could hear kids running around the hotel into late hours.
What We Ate
The hotel reception offered to make us a dinner reservation, which they did at Hotel Walserhof. It’s a good thing that the restaurant was only a 3-minute walk from our hotel, since it was pouring rain by the time we made it out. We were greeted by a super friendly staff at Hotel Walserhof that seemed excited to serve American tourists. We both ordered Schnitzel, Pommes, and a few adult drinks for CHF 78. The food was decent, although we both were unpleasantly surprised by the cordon bleu stuffed into the Schnitzel.
Why You Should Visit
Liechtenstein is possibly the overall friendliest country we’ve visited in Europe. Everyone we talked to spoke English and were overly eager to help and serve. You could tell that the residents take pride in their bucket-list country, and give you plenty of reason to come back. While the country is a German-speaking country, its over-friendliness and customer service does not give it a German feel (I say that with so much love and reverence for my host country).
There’s so much hiking in Liechtenstein and trails for all skill levels. Whether you hike off the grid or just admire the scenery at the end of a chairlift, you’ll be stunned by the mountains rising from Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Austria. When we visited, the area felt pretty low-key and not overrun by tourists. I kept saying it was like “Wakanda”… no one thinks much about it, but the people living there are in pure bliss. I hope you’ll have the opportunity to check out Liechtenstein soon!