"Up above the young Rhine lies Liechtenstein, resting on Alpine heights" are the first lines of the Liechtenstein national anthem and a fine summary of what you can expect from life in Liechtenstein.
Liechtenstein lies in the heart of the Alps between its two far larger neighbours, Switzerland and Austria. It has an area of 160 square kilometres and borders totalling 78km in length, making Liechtenstein the fourth-smallest country in Europe and the sixth-smallest country in the world. To the west and south it borders the Swiss cantons of St. Gallen and Graubünden for 41km, while the remaining 37km border is with the Austrian province of Vorarlberg. The lowest elevation in the country is Ruggeller Riet (430m altitude), the highest elevation is the Grauspitz mountain at 2599m.
The landscape is shaped by the young Rhine. The river, which cannot be used by boats, runs for 25km through the country and forms the entire western border with Switzerland. The valley along which the Rhine flows makes up only around one quarter of the country's total surface area. Other major topographical features include two "inselbergs", mountains that rise abruptly from flat or gently sloping plains, as well as Gutenberg mountain near Balzers and Eschnerberg mountain. The "Alpine heights" upon which Liechtenstein "rests" make up the remainder of the country, including a significant number of mountains forming part of the Inner Alpine chain.
Despite the fact that most of the country is mountainous, Liechtenstein enjoys a mild climate that is strongly influenced by the southerly Föhn wind as well as by the large difference in altitude (2000 vertical metres) between the valley and the mountains. It is rarely colder than -10°C in winter, while temperatures range between 20 and 28°C during the summer months.
The Rhine Valley, the foothills above the river and the Alpine region mean that Liechtenstein is home to a wide range of flora and fauna that belies its small size. Of particular interest is the fact that three geological sheets meet in the area covered by the Principality, making it home to many rare plants and flowers. Around half of the 1600 plants found in Liechtenstein are native to mountainous areas, with the other half comprising plants typically found in the valleys and foothills below. Liechtenstein also has an exceptionally wide range of fauna. For example, Liechtenstein is home to around two thirds of all mammal species found in Switzerland, despite the fact that Switzerland is 260 times larger.