Small but mighty… a huge cliché, but one that really applies to Liechtenstein. Nestled between Switzerland and Austria, this microstate measures just 24 kilometers at its longest, so it takes less than half an hour to drive across the country. Yet this tiny principality on the edge of the Alps has everything you need to have a blast in the snowy mountains. Not only did we go winter hiking, but we also indulged in cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, and even snowshoeing.
- In this article
- 1. Winter hike towards Drei Schwestern
- 2. Cross-country skiing from Steg
- 3. Skiing at the Bergbahnen Malbun
- 4. Snowshoe hike to the Augstenberg.
- Tips for your visit to Liechtenstein
1. Winter hike towards Drei Schwestern
For this challenging winter hike, it’s best to park just above the village of Planken. There’s a small parking lot for the adventurous near a waterfall. For the first few kilometers, you’ll follow a winding forest trail to the Gafadura Hut (1428m). On some sections, there was a slippery layer of ice, and we regretted not strapping on our microspikes. Although the Gafadura hut is closed during the winter, you can still use the benches. Sheltered from the wind and bathed in the afternoon sun, it’s a wonderful place for a picnic.
Behind the hut, the trail enters the forest known as Sattelwald. After crossing it, you’ll reach an open area at the Austrian border. You’ll cross over – yes, this is becoming an international adventure! – and then begin the steepest climb of the day. This final climb is called the “Alpiner Steig” and is recommended for experienced hikers who aren’t afraid of heights.
With sweat and heavy breathing we reached the highest point at 1904 meters… But what a view! Our efforts were generously rewarded with a 360° panorama of all of Liechtenstein and mountains as far as the eye can reach. The actual blue-and-white marked mountain trail continues a few dozen meters further to the top of the Drei Schwestern, but it’s not accessible in winter. Enjoy the breathtaking view and be careful. The return follows the same route.
2. Cross-country skiing from Steg
The mountain village of Steg is quite small and doesn’t offer much to see, but it’s the place to be for cross-country skiers. We rented a set of skis at the sports shop in Malbun, just a few minutes away. For CHF 25 each, we were able to go skiing for half a day using brand new equipment. In addition, there’s a 10 CHF fee to use the trail – at least when the ticket office is manned… We were able to get through without any problems.
The cross-country trail starts at the Stausee, but you can enter at any point. From Steg (1300m) the trail climbs gradually to Valüna-Sass (1415m). Along the way you’ll follow a white-water stream and admire towering peaks. On the way back, you’ll follow the same river, but from the opposite bank, so the route is mostly downhill. We recommend that any novice cross-country skier take a moment to learn how to brake with these massive skis. This knowledge would have saved us a few bruises!
Cross-country skiing in Steg
3. Skiing at the Bergbahnen Malbun
Have you really had a winter vacation if you haven’t been on skis? We don’t think so! So we spent a day on the slopes of Malbun, the only ski resort in the country. A one-day ski pass costs CHF 52, and you can rent skis for CHF 38 at Malbun Sport. If you also need boots and poles, that adds another CHF 26. Yes, Liechtenstein is not a budget friendly destination!
We should also make an important note here: for advanced skiers, this area is a bit boring. There are only 23 kilometers of slopes. On the other hand, beginners and intermediates will certainly have a great time. For Robin, it was his first day on real snow, so we thought it was ideal!
4. Snowshoe hike to the Augstenberg.
This wonderful hike was one of the most amazing mountain experiences we’ve ever had and should not be missed on this list! We went back to Malbun Sport to rent snowshoes, which cost 20 CHF per person for the whole day. Granted, the store made a good profit on our visit, but the service was impeccable and the equipment looked almost brand new to us.
From the center of town, we hiked up the toboggan run, which we followed for 2.5 kilometers. This was a great way to become accustomed to walking in snowshoes, as it did take some getting used to. Then we made a short but steeper climb up narrow mountain trails, zigzagging through the bushes before reaching the ridge. WOW! From here you have panoramic views in every direction.
The rest of the trail is along the ridge, taking in the spectacular views. What a rugged trail! Soon you’ll reach the first cross at 2100m. Here you can enjoy a picnic with a view of the whole valley in which Malbun is nestled. But hold on tight, because the real challenge starts after that. The path gets steeper and steeper and you have to watch out for narrow ledges. Walking sticks are a godsend in this section!
And then, out of breath, you reach the ultimate goal: a big cross with an even bigger panorama behind it. At 2359 meters! You have to experience it to understand how exhilarating it is!
On the way down you can make a little detour to the mountain restaurant Sareis, which has a nice terrace. You’ve certainly earned a beer! It’s also possible to take the chairlift down from here for free. After all, ski passes are only checked in the other direction. A nice bonus, don’t you think?
Snowshoe hike Augstenberg
Tips for your visit to Liechtenstein
In Liechtenstein, Swiss francs are the currency of choice, but they also accept euros. Keep an eye on the exchange rate as this can help you save a bit. Liechtensteiners are often willing to exchange 1 to 1, but in reality the CHF is slightly less valuable. So it’s better to pay in CHF!
Saving money across the border
Liechtenstein is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, which means that the cost of living is quite high. We noticed this especially with the prices of food and drinks in restaurants and equipment rentals. Here’s a tip: look across the border. Austrian restaurants are cheaper. By the way, we rented our skis at SportXX in Buchs, just over the border in Switzerland.
Avoid toll roads
To reach Liechtenstein by car from Belgium or the Netherlands, you have to drive through Austria. And that means paying a toll! But did you know that there are some roads for which you don’t need a vignette? This applies, for example, to the section of the A14 between the border at Hörbranz and the Hohenems junction, which is not far from Liechtenstein. So take the Hohenems exit and take the scenic route for the last 20 kilometers. That’s another 10 Euros saved!
On our way back home, we made a nice stop in the south of Germany. There is a fairytale castle, Schloss Lichtenstein. In fact, with a short “i” sound and no direct connection to the country of Liechtenstein, but still in the theme! If you have the time, we definitely recommend making a stop here and perhaps going for a short walk. We found it well worth the detour!
Staying in Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein is an expensive country, and you’ll notice this in the cost of accommodations. We stayed at the Hotel Kommod, which is located in a small business district on the outskirts of the country. Due to its less central location, you can find more affordable accommodations there. Liechtenstein is quite small, so you won’t spend more than half an hour in the car to reach your daily destination! Nearby you’ll find the Italian restaurant Kokon, where you can enjoy delicious pizzas and pasta at a reasonable price.
Spacious, modern rooms with delicious breakfast. Located in an office district. Free parking.
Simple but clean rooms. Good breakfast. Centrally located with free parking.