Heidiland is a region of Eastern Switzerland packed with high mountains, clear lakes, diverse nature, and original postcard-worthy villages. A total of 32 communities in an area of 24 square miles. It’s also home of Heidi Village, the original site of the world-famous Heidi story. A short-day trip from the Bavarian region of Germany, Austria or Switzerland, this is a must for anyone familiar with the story of Heidi or those looking to experience dramatic Swiss scenery.
We stumbled across Heidiland while searching for day trips from Germany to Switzerland, and it was a brilliant choice. Not only did we get to experience Heidi Village, but we also got to explore Bad Ragaz, which is a picture-perfect spa town – a bonus we did not expect. To top off the experience, we ate in Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein, which another country that is literally across the river.
The region of Heidiland inspired Johanna Spyri’s “Heidi,” one of the best-selling Swiss books and by far one of the best-known pieces of Swiss literature. Although Heidi is fiction, the Heidiland area is what inspired Spyri, and it’s what she envisioned for Heidi’s home. Spyri even used a few real names of places in the area in the book.
Heidi is an endearing children’s classic about Heidi’s life in the Swiss Alps that was written in 1881. It’s since then been re-written and adapted along with approximately 25 film or television productions. It has also been translated into over 50 languages.
At the age of five, little orphan Heidi is sent to live with her grandfather in the Alps. Everyone in the village is afraid of him, but Heidi is fascinated by his long beard and bushy grey eyebrows. She loves her life in the mountains, playing in the sunshine and growing up amongst the goats and birds. But one terrible day, Heidi is collected by her aunt and is made to live with a new family in town. Heidi can’t bear to be away from her grandfather; can she find a way back up the mountain, where she belongs?
About the Author
Johanna Spyri (1827–1901) is an icon in Switzerland and around the world. She wrote more than fifty stories for children and adults.
The Heidi House was opened to the public in 1998. It was purchased from a private owner by the local government of Sargans. Sargans is the administrative “capital” of the Heidiland region.
Heidiland Village is home to the peaceful hamlet houses of the original Heidi house, the house with the furnishings of Heidi’s time, Heidi’s alpine hut, a replica of the loving home of Alpöhi and the exhibition Johanna Spyris “World of Heidi.” Heidi’s animals are already waiting in the village. In the village shop with souvenirs is the smallest post office in Switzerland with the Heidi village unique post stamp.
Inside Heidi Village
Once you arrive at the village, you’ll park at the Hotel Restaurant Heidihof Bovelweg. From there, it’s a brief ten-minute walk to the actual village. As you walk to the village, you’ll stop many times to admire the beauty below you. The views are outstanding! Not only will you see the alps on both sides, but you’ll see the villages dotted below. As you walk, you’ll hear all of the cowbells from the milk cows below. Walking to the Heidi Village sets the stage for everything you ever imagined Heidi’s place to look like. If your not familiar with the story or have not read the book, don’t worry. It’s worth the visit because it’s what you believe Switzerland looks like.
There are essentially three things included in your admission, which costs approximately 12 Euro. The original Heidi house, Heidi’s alpine hut, a replica of the loving home of Alpöhi and the exhibition Johanna Spyris “World of Heidi.” It only takes about an hour to view all of it.
Once you’ve taken in all the marvel of Heidi’s life, it’s time to feed the animals. You can buy goat or chicken feed for one euro, and it’s worth it to interact with the animals.
From here, you can then hike or walk the area or, if like us, take some silly photos with the life-size cow statues! Or, get some pictures of yourself with Heidi and Peter.
A beautiful village, you will pass on route to Maienfeld. It’s best known for the Bad Ragaz resort Quellenhof that is home to the thermal waters that helped relax and revitalize author Spyri. The Quellenhof resort has an 18-hole golf course and provides luxury spa services.
In town, there is the classic center that is dressed in colorful storefronts of the many boutiques that are here. Pubs and eateries are plentiful to be aware, all close for long lunches.
There is a beautiful stream that runs through Bad Ragaz that is worth looking at. Even the bridge is dressed in planters full of magnolias.
How to Get To:
Most villages and towns in Heidiland are less than an hour from Zurich. If you are staying closer to the border, it’s even less. We stayed at Missen Wilhams, a tiny town in Germany, and it took us about 45 minutes to drive there.
Things to Do in Heidiland, Switzerland
Visit the Heidi Village
Hike or bike the various trails
Take a Segway tour of the region
Sail on a sailboat or swim in the Walensee
Lunch in one of the villages
Shop in one of the communities
Visit the vineyards of the Bündner dominion
Take a horse-drawn carriage to the Tamina Gorge.
Learn to blow the Alphorn in a village above Walensee
Make your own cheese on the Flumserberg
Try the thermal waters at Bad Ragaz
In the winter, try skiing or inline skating
What You Need to Know
You DO NOT need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to rent a car and drive in FYI; many sites will tell you that you do. You do not!
Here are the countries that require Americans to obtain and IDP: Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Spain. Oddly, it’s unlikely you will be asked for it to rent a car. I’ve rented in Spain and Italy and never been asked.
When crossing the borders of Bavaria, you need an international driving sticker. It’s a tax you pay. You must get it before you cross the border. You can buy these stickers at gas stations, and you can buy for a week, a month, and so on. I can’t stress to you how important this is. If you don’t have it displayed, you are going to get a huge fine. It only costs about six Euros for a week.
Heidiland is a region, and Heidi Village is in Maienfeld. If you enter Heidiland into your GPS, you may not get a specific result.
In the villages, everything shuts down during lunchtime. Lunch can start as early as 11:30 am and go through 1:30 pm. Plan around this!
I’m always a sucker for anything nostalgic, so finding Heidiland, and Heidi Village was a huge win for me. What’s most impressive is you don’t really need to know the story behind Heidi to appreciate the splendor. Heidiland is a great day trip that will put in you in the heart of Eastern Switzerland’s where you will marvel at the sheer beauty of the place.
Nikki Webster is a travel writer who covers how to travel while grinding a day job, how to travel without breaking the bank, hotels, cruising, and off-the-beaten-track experiences. She is particularly fond of Florida and writes extensively about the state. She flies around 60,000 miles per year and has visited 54 countries, 50 states, and six continents. You can read all about her travels at www.britonthemove.com.