Luxembourg: European Hiking Hideaway
If you're like most travelers, the first thing you learned about Luxembourg is that it's the place you land when you take a cheap Iceland Air flight to Europe. And then, you move on to somewhere elseParis, maybe, or Alsace-Lorraine. The French Alps or the German Rhineland. Luxembourg isn't, let's just say, one of those travel-poster destinations you see when you walk into a travel agency. And it hasn't been on the cover of any outdoor magazines I've seen lately.
So it comes as some surprise to learn that this conveniently located duchy in the heart of Europe boasts not only some first class hiking, but the densest network of hiking trails and hostels in the world.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that I never exactly sat down and put"hike across Luxembourg" on my list of must-do trips. Patagonia, yes. New Zealand, okay. Antarctica's got a place on there somewhere. Heck, the last time I went to a travel journalists conference, I even met with the tourist officer from Uzbekistan. But Luxembourg just seemed too tame.
Tame and civilized it may beyou won't find looming Alpine peaks or miles of untrammeled wilderness. What you will find is a compressed country with an astonishing variety of European landscapes, from World War II battle sites, medieval castles, and sunny vineyards to bucolic farms, limestone cliffs, and ravines that have earned the name Little Switzerland. I found a country with well-maintained and marked trails, cozy little towns, interesting side trips to museums and monuments, and a cuisine that combines French flair with German heartiness.
Luxembourg is on the route of the cross-continental GR-5, which runs from Hoek of Holland on the North Sea to the French Mediterranean resort of Nice. I was hiking the whole 1600-mile trail, and Luxembourg's 130 miles came with the package.
The trail winds along the eastern border with German, zigging and zagging along the river valleys of the Our, Sure, and Moselle Rivers before heading west just north of the French border. (In a straight line, the length of the country is only about 50 miles, but as anyone who's ever hiked a long-distance trail knows, crow-flying miles and hiker-walking miles are two entirely different things.) Figure about nine days to walk the length of the country, and add on a couple to explore lovely Luxembourg Ville, the capital.
Luxembourg's GR-5 offers an opportunity to walk across an entire country (small though it is), but it also offers wonderful day hikes. If you've been doing the city-to-city thing and need to stretch your legs for a bit, this is a convenient place to do it. Closely spaced hotels means you don't have to carry hiking gearjust find the trail and walk. And the country is small enough, with good enough public transportation, that almost anywhere on the trail is reasonably accessible to Luxembourg Ville via buses or trains.
Unlike the rest of the GR-5, which is marked in France's signature red-and-white blazing (which has been adopted in some other neighboring countries), the Luxembourg GR-5 is independently marked in yellow circles, yellow rectangles, yellow trianglesand the occasional (just to keep things interesting) green triangle.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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