The Oberland (Upper Country) of Liechtenstein was the former estate of the count of Vaduz. It consists of Vaduz and five parishes or communes: Planken, Schaan, Triesen, Triesenberg, and Balzers. Although the area is in the south of Liechtenstein, it's still known as the Upper Country because of topography. The Unterland (Lower Country), to the north, is filled with meadows and hills gently rising from the Rhine Valley, while the Oberland, from Planken on south, consists of higher country, reaching up to the Liechtenstein Alps.
In the shadow of the Drei Schwestern mountains, the Oberland abounds in woodlands and mountain trails, alpine flowers, and protected animal species. Settlements founded by Swiss immigrants some 700 years ago still retain their ancient traditions. There are plenty of opportunities for recreation throughout the region, but the alpine portion is the best place for winter sports.
All the villages and hamlets discussed below are reached by postal bus from Vaduz. Pick up a map at the tourist office in Vaduz, where you can also learn about possible routings and schedules.
Planken is the starting point for excursions to the Drei Schwestern (Three Sisters) area. From here, you'll have an outstanding panoramic view of the Rhine Valley and the Swiss mountains extending from Pizol to Lake Constance. A chapel here dedicated to St. Joseph contains copies of old masters and a bronze cross by Georg Malin.
Located on the Arlberg railway line, at the foot of the Drei Schwestern, 3km (2 miles) west of Vaduz, Schaan is the country's main communications center. The Carolingian land registry (ca. A.D. 831) lists Liechtenstein's second-largest parish under the name Scana. Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a Roman fort, two Roman legionnaires' helmets from the 1st century A.D., and an Alemannic decorative shield from the 6th or 7th century. The 12th-century Romanesque church is worth a visit.
There's a sports center (tel. 00423/233-35-25) near a forest, offering tennis courts, a health center, an indoor swimming pool, public baths, and a children's playground. You can also hike in the mountains.
Theater a Kirchplatz (tel. 00423/237-59-69) is one of the important cultural centers of the region. It presents international artists.
The largest parish of Liechtenstein has stretches of woodland, scrub, farmland, and pasture. High above the Rhine Valley is the village Triesenberg, containing about 2,000 inhabitants, reached by taking a hill road out of Vaduz. The road is filled with steep bends but offers extensive views. The farming community is developing into a center for light industry and tourism.
Triesenberg, like Planken, was settled in the late 13th century by Swiss immigrants from the Valais. Many of the parish residents wear colorful regional garb. Modern materials and methods are used to build the houses, but the style dates from the early 14th century. The influence of the Valais is evident. The restored town hall is elegant.
You can visit the Heimatmuseum (Valais Heritage Museum), which traces the culture of these immigrants. Artifacts, including tools, crafts, and furnishings, depict their life, that and a 20-minute slide show in English. The museum (tel. 00423/262-19-26) lies at Dorfzentrum, charging an admission of 2F ($1.65/85p). It's open June to August, Tuesday to Friday 1:30 to 5:30pm, Saturday 1:30 to 5pm, and Sunday 2 to 5pm; September to May, Tuesday to Friday 1:30 to 5:30pm, Saturday 1:30 to 5pm.
At 780m (2,558 ft.), Triesenberg is a good base for excursions to the Liechtenstein Alps. Excellent highways and well-tended hiking trails lead from Triesenberg to the alpine resorts: Masescha (1,230m/4,034 ft.), Silum (1,500m/4,920 ft.), Gaflei (1,500m/4,920 ft.), Malbun (1,575m/5,166 ft.), and Steg (1,380m/4,526 ft.). Steg is on the way to Malbun and features the Valuna-Lopp cross-country skiing center and a ski lift. The .8km (1/2-mile) Gnalp-Steg tunnel connects the valley with the alpine area.
Hikers and mountaineers prefer this small resort village 3km (2 miles) north of Triesenberg. The hamlet is perched high above the Rhine Valley. You can admire the cliffs, woods, lush meadows, and clear mountain brooks of this alpine world. In the village you should see Theodul's Chapel, a restored medieval church.
Fast rising as a winter ski area, Malbun, 15km (9 miles) north of Vaduz, is the center of winter sports in Liechtenstein, with ski lifts, chairlifts, a ski school, and hotels with indoor swimming pools. You can take the chairlift up to the Bettlerjoch Peak, at 2,070m (6,790 ft.). The Prince of Wales and Princess Anne learned to ski here many winters ago. In the summer this is an ideal starting point for mountain walks.