The trails and tribulations of Luxembourg

walking across Luxembourg, what is luxembourg like, small countries in europe, trekking

The trails and tribulations of Luxembourg

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This is the website of travel writer, Michael Turtle. After working in broadcast journalism for a decade in Australia, Michael left Sydney to travel the world indefinitely and write about his discoveries.

Walking across Luxembourg

The truck rushes past and the gust almost throws me off balance. It was a bit too close, that one. Highways are designed for vehicles at speed, not hikers on feet. The two fit uncomfortably on the same stretch of road and I’m anxious to get away from the heavy traffic.

Thankfully Luxembourg is generally kind to those who like to walk and there are plenty of options to avoid the highway. It’s lucky because for six days, this was my home… the road, I mean.

The mission was to walk the entire length of the country, with a few deviations to see some of the more interesting parts. My friend Meredith had joined me for the trip and we calculated it would be about 140 kilometres from top to bottom. Achievable, we thought, especially if we pared back what we were prepared to carry on our backs.

walking across Luxembourg, what is luxembourg like, small countries in europe, trekking

We had picked out some interesting places to stop each evening although, if I’m to be completely honest, we’d picked ones that meant we didn’t have to walk too far on any given day. Each of the towns was going to give us a sense of Luxembourg… not that we knew what to expect.

walking across Luxembourg, what is luxembourg like, small countries in europe, trekking

You know what they say, though, the journey is about more than the destination. Over the six days we trekked through the country we saw some beautiful landscapes. We met some interesting people. And we got a real sense of what this country was like – its splendour, its hospitality and its quirks.

Luxembourg isn’t a big country – it’s the seventh smallest in Europe and would only take a couple of hours to drive across. And that’s where the idea to walk the whole thing came from. It seemed like a good way to see a bit of the local culture… with a fun challenge thrown in.

walking across Luxembourg, what is luxembourg like, small countries in europe, trekking

In the end, it was much easier than expected. Luxembourg has a well-established system of walking trails and bike paths all throughout it. The walking trails aren’t particularly direct and are intended more for some scenic bushwalking that for a trip across the whole country, so we only occasionally used them. The bike paths turned out to be much more convenient because they often followed the roads but kept us safe from the cars.

walking across Luxembourg, what is luxembourg like, small countries in europe, trekking

walking across Luxembourg, what is luxembourg like, small countries in europe, trekking

It was when neither existed and we had to trudge along the side of a highway (sometimes in quite wet and muddy undergrowth) that there was some discomfort. Having to walk single file to keep a safe distance from the speeding trucks also meant we couldn’t chat very easily.

One of the most surprising things we discovered was how little there was along the way. Luxembourg has a population of about 500,000 people and about 100,000 of them live in the capital city. The rest are spread out across the whole country in small towns and rural properties. It means you don’t get much of a concentration of development or commerce along the roads we were walking. There were a lot of farms, forests, rivers and other mixes of green and blue.

walking across Luxembourg, what is luxembourg like, small countries in europe, trekking

But there was very rarely somewhere to stop for a coffee or even buy a bottle of water. It was something that proved to be quite an issue over the week – we just couldn’t find shops or convenience stores to get refreshments. Sometimes it would take hours of walking just to get to a town with an open café where we could buy something to drink.

walking across Luxembourg, what is luxembourg like, small countries in europe, trekking

It sometimes felt a bit like walking through a fairytale. The trees on dappled paths would clear to reveal a medieval castle on a hill, Romanesque churches would sit on small and tidy squares, and sometimes well-kept gardens would introduce grand Renaissance houses which could pass for the residences of fictional royalty.

walking across Luxembourg, what is luxembourg like, small countries in europe, trekking

walking across Luxembourg, what is luxembourg like, small countries in europe, trekking

There is so much of this country you can see during the slow methodical walk across the country. This whole week I’ll be bringing you a range of stories from Luxembourg – the magical land of the world’s last remaining grand duchy.

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40 Comments
  • Maria | Dec 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Looks like you’ve identified a niche market. Perhaps a local partnership to a small grocer that would stock staple items in one of those areas?

    In some parts of Europe there are little cabins that are often stocked w/bottled water. Although I believe the idea there is each person should bring an item to leave behind – then it’s never completely empty of dry or canned goods.
    Maria recently posted..Fluff and FoldMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Dec 11, 2012 at 1:11 am

      My gosh – you would make so much money opening up a string of convenience stores in Luxembourg! There is absolutely nowhere to buy stuff most of the time. I don’t know how the locals do it (presumably they’re not always walking across the country, though). A couple of people told me they drive to Germany and stock up there because everything is cheaper.

  • Ian [EagerExistence] | Dec 10, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Wow Michael, you’ve just done everything, haven’t you? I imagine not too many can say they have walked the length of a country.. an achievement, even if its only 140km across. I’d be interested in hearing more about the logistics of this walk.. I imagine you camped out a bit, if it was so hard to get a bottle of water.
    Ian [EagerExistence] recently posted..Interview with Caroline from CarolineInTheCityMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Dec 11, 2012 at 1:13 am

      Well, stay tuned and I’ll be writing a little bit more about the logistics. But the short answer is that is has an incredible system of youth hostels all across the (relatively small) country. So there was no need to camp at all – we always got nice comfortable beds in very cool accommodation.

  • Cam | Dec 10, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    What a fun experience. It’s not everyday one can make claim to walking across an entire country! Well done.
    Cam recently posted..Photo Story: The Golden Round Trip to Pilatus, LucerneMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Dec 11, 2012 at 1:15 am

      This is my third country I’ve walked across now (the others being San Marino and Liechtenstein). It’s actually a really fun way to see things. Perhaps I’ll try to do a couple every year… and make them slightly bigger each time! :)

  • Laurence | Dec 10, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    Well, if you’re going to walk across a country, Luxembourg isn’t a bad one too start off with! I’ve only ever visited the capital, but the drive there didn’t make me think there was much else to see – that castle though looks really cool!
    Laurence recently posted..Visiting the hill tribes of Doi InthanonMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Dec 11, 2012 at 1:20 am

      The castle is way cool. Just you wait until the next post when I will take you inside it…

  • Sophie | Dec 10, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    Very cool. I quite like that little country. And I think you got the added ‘benefit’ of experiencing it like people have for centuries: hours and hours of walking without any shops along the road. Walking in a fairytale sums it up nicely.
    Sophie recently posted..The lighthouse at ColoniaMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Dec 11, 2012 at 1:21 am

      I can imagine it would be the kind of country that would interest you. It’s so quaint and SO European. But because it’s small and quite wealthy there’s a very happy mood to the whole place, I found.

  • Jennifer | Dec 11, 2012 at 1:03 am

    How fun! Not too many can say they’ve walked across an entire country.
    Jennifer recently posted..Dining Under the Arabian Stars at AmaseenaMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Dec 11, 2012 at 1:24 am

      It’s a pity more people can’t say that. It’s a wonderful way to see a nation! :)

  • Angela | Dec 11, 2012 at 6:03 am

    Looks like an interesting experience, strange enough Luxembourg has never really captured my attention, I mainly see it as a business state with little to visit, sure I’m wrong..
    Angela recently posted..Scenic walk along Liguria’s coastline, a photo journeyMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Dec 13, 2012 at 11:10 am

      The business side of Luxembourg is contained in a very small part of the city. Large parts of Luxembourg City are quite beautiful – with some stunning views from bridges out over the valleys. And then the rest of the country is a very green and quaint land. There’s definitely a lot more there to see!

  • D.J. - The World of Deej | Dec 11, 2012 at 9:24 am

    What a ridiculously awesome idea. Although, I might have gone with Lichtenstein:)
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..The Renaissance Vinoy St. Petersburg – Check-In FloridaMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Dec 13, 2012 at 11:10 am

      Well, it’s funny you mention that. I have also walked across Lichtenstein and felt like a bit more of a challenge! :)

  • Jade - OurOyster.com | Dec 11, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Sounds like it might be a good idea to take the days worth or water and food with you just in case! The last thing you want to do is be hiking while hungry!
    Jade – OurOyster.com recently posted..Travelling With Children – Interview With YtravelblogMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Dec 13, 2012 at 11:11 am

      Yeah, I got to a point where I would steal a bit of food from breakfast to put in my bag so I could have something to eat before we found lunch!

  • Natasha von Geldern | Dec 11, 2012 at 11:35 am

    That is an achievement! Good work and love the fairytale castles :)
    Natasha von Geldern recently posted..Bali: A Menjangan Island Dive TripMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Dec 13, 2012 at 11:12 am

      The castles were amazing. The best thing was that you never quite knew when to expect one. You’d be wandering along and then they would just pop up out of nowhere!

  • Peter Lee | Dec 11, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Luxembourg is one of my favorite cities, perfect for a day or two – pretty laid back, quality beer and baked goods, a pretty sweet fortress, and I must say its natural beauty is beyond words.

    • Michael Turtle | Dec 13, 2012 at 11:13 am

      Great description of Luxembourg, Peter! I think you’ve captured all of its glories in that one sentence!!

  • thetravelfool | Dec 12, 2012 at 4:32 am

    What a cool way to see the country. Taking it slow and having time to meet the people and see things others just pass by. I envy you.
    thetravelfool recently posted..The Number 1 Way to Ruin Your TripMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Dec 13, 2012 at 11:15 am

      I have a grand plan to do more countries this way. We’ll see… it was a very pleasant thing to do but it can become quite a time commitment!

  • Stephanie - The Travel Chica | Dec 13, 2012 at 11:39 am

    Sounds like a fun challenge.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..New York City: A Photo EssayMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Dec 17, 2012 at 8:53 pm

      It was quite fun, actually. Let’s see how many more times I can do something like this! :)

  • Deb | Dec 15, 2012 at 3:33 am

    What a great idea and a beautiful way to see a country. So, what country are you walking next?
    Deb recently posted..12 Days of Christmas – The Safari VersionMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Dec 17, 2012 at 9:09 pm

      Ha ha – maybe another small one. Perhaps Andorra? I don’t think I can tackle any of the big ones yet… but watch out Australia! One day… :)

  • John Williams | Dec 15, 2012 at 7:33 am

    I’ve not walked across Luxembourg but have done some day hikes in the country. I hiked along GR5 /E2 on the banks of the Moselle for one birthday and watched the grapes being harvested and wakeboarders on the river. A day that will stay in my memory.
    Spending a lot of time in Belgium, Luxembourg has some fascinating, historic and scenic treats.
    John Williams recently posted..Travel jargon demystifiedMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Dec 17, 2012 at 9:09 pm

      I’ve very jealous that you’re so close. It was such a lovely place and you could have some wonderful day hikes there, I imagine.

  • A Montrealer Abroad (@amontrealer) | Jan 23, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    That is such a cool idea! I would’ve never thought of it, but Luxembourg is a small enough country to do it… bucket list just updated!
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    • Michael Turtle | Feb 6, 2013 at 1:09 am

      A warning, though – once you do one country, you’ll want to do even more. But Luxembourg is the perfect size to start with!

  • Katrine | Jun 16, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    Hey Michael,

    I’m going to Luxembourg for a couple of days in late June, staying with family. I have one free day and an interrail pass. Any suggestions of how to get the most out of that day?
    Hope you’re well:-)
    Katrine

    • Michael Turtle | Jun 19, 2013 at 4:31 am

      Oh, I think you should head up and see Vianden Castle. It’s one of the highlights of Luxembourg. If you’ve got a bit of spare time there are some nice half-day walks around there too!

  • Glenn Rossi | Feb 4, 2014 at 8:23 am

    Hi Michael,
    Since James Martin quoted your trek across Luxembourg @about.com which I read last December, I have been inspired to do this in July of 2014! I am a recently retired American living in Germany, and I’ve always enjoyed long walks also for the health benefits.
    Interestingly, I linked up with a Walk for Human Rights organizer from my home state of Texas, and she got me in contact with the Frankfurt, Germany, Youth for Human Rights organization. I’ve met with them, and they are providing me with Logo shirts, etc. [The URL to this International organization is noted above]
    I am also an active Amateur (Ham) Radio operator and will apply for a special event call sign for Luxembourg for the month of July.
    So, for my health, for a great cause, and for fun talking with the world, I am hoping for a great 1st Walk for Human Rights across Luxembourg!
    Thanks again for the great idea!
    Best regards,
    Glenn
    Ham Callsigns: DL8FG (in Germany) and WB5FDJ (in USA)

    • Michael Turtle | Feb 10, 2014 at 4:59 pm

      Thanks so much for getting in touch. I didn’t know James Martin had quoted my piece, so that’s great news.
      And I’m so pleased you’re going to be doing the walk yourself in a few months. It’s really quite easy terrain with plenty of accommodation options, some nice tracks, and beautiful scenery. The only issue I had was that it can be a long way between shops so I would recommend always carrying some drinks and food.
      Let me know if you have any questions and I can’t wait to hear how it all goes!!

  • Tom Howes | Sep 27, 2014 at 12:05 am

    Hi Michael,

    Firstly great Article. It actually inspired me to do a walk across Luxembourg. However, I have had a lot of trouble trying to figure out where to start from and the best way to walk across my first ever countrz. I would be really helpful if you could tell me where you started from and the name of the towns that you stopped at along the way.

    Thanks a billion

    • Michael Turtle | Oct 2, 2014 at 5:06 pm

      Hi Tom,
      Thanks for the question! I started in the very north at a border town called Knauf and finished just south of Dudelange.
      Along the way, I stayed at Clervaux, then Vianden, then Echternach, then Junglinster, then Luxemburg City.
      I guess there are other ways to do it but I thought that route would go past some interesting places and there were some good hostels to stay at along the way.
      Good luck with your trip!!

  • Tom Howes | Sep 27, 2014 at 8:51 am

    Also, any idea where I could get some good maps of cycling and hiking trails in luxembourg?

    Cheers

  • Glenn Rossi | Sep 27, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Tom,

    I did my first walk in the northern part of Luxembourg. We did a 4-day program this past July starting in Kautenbach, where there is ample parking space and even train connections. See the link below: http://ardennes-hotels.lu/index.php?lgn=3&cont=1

    The hotel owners at the hotels in each village were very friendly and helpful. I would believe that they would mail you the walking trail maps for just the postage fees.

    We had a great time. Our route was: Kautenbach – Bourscheìd – Eschdorf – Esch-sur-Sûre – Kautenbach. We also made a side trip via train to the Ardennes province capitol Wiltz, well worth seeing.

    If you have any questions or need the current hotel contacts, just let me know.

    Best regards, Glenn Rossi

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