Luxembourg is more than the banking paradise and “city state” that many people assume it is. For one, it’s much larger than only its namesake capital city of Luxembourg. In fact, the country of Luxembourg is a place made up of rolling fields, large forests, awe-inspiring rock formations and historic castles. Its countryside is nothing short of gorgeous and the best way to explore it is on foot, walking the Mullerthal Trail.
Luxembourg’s Little Switzerland is the name of a region in the northeast of the country, an area also known as the Müllerthal Region. Its name referring to its geographic similarities to the Swiss landscapes, Luxembourg’s Little Switzerland roughly corresponds to the Canton of Echternach—the town of Echternach, incidentally, is the country’s oldest town, a former pilgrim’s destination and a main attraction in Luxembourg as well.
The variety of the landscapes in Luxembourg’s Little Switzerland makes it a region that is attractive to all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts, from canoers and fishermen to mountain bikers and hikers.
Hiking the Müllerthal Trail
Hiking is one of the most popular things to do in this charming region. There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails, but the one star attraction when it comes to hiking is the Müllerthal Trail. This 70-mile-long trail winds its way across the region’s fields and meadows, past towering rock formations, along bubbling streams and through dense forests.
While there are many iconic long-distance hiking trails in Europe, such as the Camino de Santiago, Hadrian’s Wall Pathand the Tour du Mont Blanc, the Müllerthal Trail, just like the country it’s in, remains fairly unknown to and unexplored by foreigners. That’s a real shame—it’s a spectacular trail. In fact, it has been awarded the label of “Leading Quality Trails – Best of Europe” by the European Ramblers’ Association, which clearly indicates how wonderful this trail actually is.
The three routes of the Müllerthal Trail
The Müllerthal Trail is made up of three interconnecting loops that form somewhat of a double 8. Route 1 and Route 2 connect in Echternach, while Route 2 and Route 3 connect in the village of Müllerthal. Each of the three routes has its own distinct character.
Route 1 includes essentially all of the natural features that characterize Luxembourg’s Little Switzerland. There are undulating farmlands, but also thick woods. There are sheer rock cliffs and rivers dotted with moss-covered boulders.
Route 2 meanders through the very heart of this scenic region and takes hikers past imposing rock formations and crisscrosses countless trickling streams. This is arguably the most spectacular of the three routes.
Route 3, in its turn, also has its fair share of rock formations. In addition, though, there are medieval castles and wonderful valleys.
The beauty of the Müllerthal Trail is that hikers can organize and set up their hike as they please. There are no actual starting and finishing points; you can essentially commence the hike wherever you choose. Because of the “double 8” shape, there is also no set direction. You can, for example, start by completing Route 1 before moving on to the Route 2 and ending with Route 3, or you can opt to make it one big loop—and everything in between.
Luxembourg’s Little Switzerland is dotted with excellent accommodations, from B&Bs to hotels to campgrounds, the densest concentrations of which are found in and around the few towns in the region—Echternach most notably, but also Beaufort, Berdorf, Consdorf, and Larochette.
Of course, the greatest sense of adventure is had by hiking with a backpack and camping each night. There are campgrounds at convenient distances, basically one day hike removed from one another. Make sure to carry enough food, though, as some of the small villages the trails runs through do not have a grocery store.
If, however, you would like to base yourself in one place, you can do that as well. The region’s superb bus route network allows you to take the bus to and from various trailheads and sleep in the same bed every night. Seriously, that bus system is world-class—you will find brochures with the timetables at tourist information centers and at pretty much every accommodation.
Before you start your hike, it is recommended that you stop by the visitor center in Echternach, which sells fantastic maps of and information booklets about the Müllerthal Trail.
The average hiker will complete the Müllerthal Trail in six days—two days for each of the three routes. It is good to know that some sections are quite strenuous, particularly some sections of Route 2, and that some hiking experience and at least a basic level of fitness will make the hike much more comfortable.
So, if you are looking for a rather off-the-beaten-track hiking destination, here you have it: just go to Luxembourg and explore its Little Switzerland region on foot. It’s amazing.
Written by and photos by Bram Reusen for EuropeUpClose.com