There's so much to discover in Luxembourg that one issue of Wonderfilled couldn't do it justice. That's why we're so excited to introduce Echternach, one of our favorite Luxembourgish villages. Writer Olivia Braude tells us why it's worth a detour out of the city - and why Little Switzerland is an apt nickname.
Venture an hour outside of metropolitan Luxembourg City and you’ll ask yourself if you’ve entered another country. The skyscrapers have been replaced by pine trees and the roads have turned to dirt paths. Instead of briefcases and suits, people carry backpacks and don hiking boots.
The Mullerthal region of northern Luxembourg, known as “Little Switzerland,” is a refreshing retreat from the hustle and bustle of Luxembourg’s capital city. The region is dotted with quaint villages surrounding the capital and oldest city in the region, Echternach. From Echternach, advanced and novice hikers have their choice of three routes varying in length and level of difficulty, or they may venture on one of the paths belonging to an extensive network of local trails.
Long-time hikers lace-up their cumbersome boots and head to route E1. No need for maps, the trail is extremely well-marked, including the estimated time it will take to reach the next checkpoint. From the starting point, E1 will take these hikers 4 hours through 11.7 kilometers of wooded trails, including through the Gorge du Loup, or wolves’ canyon, created by a split in a rock formation allowing visitors to walk through the massive stone structure.
The path is quiet, almost desolate, a cool fog hovering among austere treetops. Rain, a common occurrence in all of Luxembourg, hangs heavy in the clouds – only those truly dedicated to hiking appear on the trails today, not deterred from the majestic natural beauty by the threat of a little rain. A woman stops to readjust the straps on her purple hiking pack. She has reached the peak of the hike, and the view of Germany across the Alzette River to the left, and the town of Echternach lying far below, are her reward.
If hiking doesn’t strike your fancy, Little Switzerland offers a variety of other outdoor activities for nature-lovers and those looking for a break from city life. Biking, climbing on the Wanterbaach rocks in nearby Berdorf, golfing at the country club in Christnach and horseback riding at the Equestrian Centre in Kobenbour are just a few of the alternatives.
Little Switzerland’s natural beauty can be appreciated in a more relaxed environment from the Lake of Echternach, where you’ll see canoes and pedal boats dotting the water, and fishermen waiting patiently for their lines to tug.
Whether after a lazy day at the lake, or a strenuous hike in the mountains, visitors will have no trouble filling their stomachs. Gastronomy choices range from regional specialty shops serving meats, cheeses and wines from the famous wine region, to burger restaurants and quaint cafés. End the night on a sweet note by grabbing gelato and heading back to one of the busses that run every hour from the Luxembourg City Central Station. To turn a day trip into a weekend getaway, several types of accommodation exist, including a youth adventure hostel featuring an indoor rock climbing wall, and campsites for those who wish to experience the great outdoors fully.
Life in one of the European Union’s capital cities can be stressful, but just an hour outside of the commotion of everyday life, Luxembourgers and tourists breathe in the crisp mountain air and relax under tall pines. One of the most beautiful natural spots in Luxembourg has the ability to make you feel as if you’re not even in the country at all.
This article is part of our collaboration with the Miami University John E. Dolibois Center, a study abroad program for American students based in Luxembourg.