Destinations | Europe

Hiking in Belgium – Discover The Belgian Ardennes

2 May 2020 | Europe, homepage, Outdoors

The Belgian Ardennes are an attraction for both the young and the old. Walking along the most beautiful rivers in Belgium, the Semois and the Ourthe, always gives you a bit of a holiday feeling. Close by, yet so different. 

After the success of Hiking in Belgium – Strolling along Flanders most beautiful hiking paths, there simply had to be a Walloon sequel. I joined forces with Jelle from Shot by Canipel for this blog – because if you’re writing an inspiring blog about hiking in the Ardennes, you definitely need the help of a top photographer. All the photos in this blog were taken by Jelle – for more of his beautiful work, head over to his Instagram and Facebook page.

In these strange times, things can occasionally feel overwhelming. Even getting out of the house for a breath of fresh air sometimes feels like quite a task. Fortunately we’re still allowed to go outside, and there’s truly no better feeling than walking outdoors. It’s relaxing, it makes your body stronger and it’s certainly a lot cheaper than that fitness membership… 

Hiking is so beneficial for your mind and body. It forces you to put that annoying phone away and shield yourself against the continuous flow of (inessential) information. Bye bye stress and negative thoughts. Here’s my list of top places to hike in Belgium – enjoy!

 

Shot by Canipel Bieley, Elsenborn

Hikes in Brussels

In our politically complex country, Brussels does not belong to Flanders nor Wallonia – but obviously I simply must mention the Sonian Forest at some point, and this post seemed the most appropriate fit. (By the way, this is the first place I want to go to when we get out again!)

Sonian Forest (Zoniënwoud)

Contrary to popular belief, you won’t hear any noise from the Belgian capital during your hike in the forest. It’s a truly unique piece of landscape that is definitely worth exploring! There are also hikes suitable for people in a wheelchair in this beautiful forest. You can find all information about the accessibility and the different hikes here.

Hikes in the province of Walloon Brabant 

The province of Walloon Brabant lies south of the Brussels region. The region is known for the Battle of Waterloo, where Napoleon suffered his historic defeat. The battlefields and locations of the battle are some of the many cultural sites you can visit. Another special place worth mentioning is the church in Nivelles, one of the largest and oldest Romanesque churches.

L’écluse

A six-kilometer-long rural hike leads you through serene landscapes, where beautiful and large Brabant farms pop up along the way. As an extra treat, you’ll also discover an admirable art piece by Julos Beaucarne. Starting point: Rue de La Tourette 1, 1320 Beauvechain.

Shot by Canipel Frahan, Semois – Bouillon

Hikes in the province of Hainaut

Hainaut is an undiscovered region with a wide variety of natural beauty, industrial heritage and architectural treasures. One of the best things about Hainaut is how easily you can alternate your hikes with a cultural trip – for example, taking a boat trip on the Canal du Centre.

Elzelles 

This didactic path brings old legends back to life. During the 5 kilometer hike, you can discover the beautiful landscape of the Pays des Collines. You’ll be confronted with old superstitions and urban legends centered around witches, the witch sabbath, devils, green goats and werewolves … Starting point: Ruelle des Écoles, 7890 Ellezelles

Bois de la Haye du Roeulx 

La Haye du Roeulx is the forest area located in the northeastern part of the municipality. The name dates back to the 17th century, and the area extends from the chaussée de Soignies to the municipality of Houdeng. The 8.5 kilometer hike starts and ends at the Grand Place of Le Roeulx.

Charleroi Street Art 

This 3 kilometer walk takes you past graffiti art by some of the greatest artists. Their works pay homage to the men who worked in the steel factories, and their cries of despair echoing the industry’s shutdown. Download the street art app for more info.

Flobecq 

The hike d’Hoppe, near the language border, runs mostly over unpaved trails. During this 11 kilometer tour, you’ll pass the Bois de la Houpe, Brakelbos and Bois du Pottelberg. Starting point: the walk starts in the village of Ath.

Shot by Canipel Mont-Rigi, Hoge Venen

Hikes in the province of Liège

Besides capital city soccer team Standard de Liege being my husband’s favorite Belgian team (apparently the best, if I’m to take him at his word), the province of Liege has a lot to offer. The rich culture and historical heritage of the province of Liège guarantees a fun and interesting trip for everybody. 

Of course, nature has a lot to offer too. Discover the Gileppe dam, the lakes of Robertville and Butgenbach or the Signal van Botrange, the highest point in Belgium!

Ninglinspo Hike 

This walk along the only mountain river in Belgium is by far one of the most beautiful hikes in the Belgian Ardennes. You can opt for either the short family hike of 6 kilometers, or take the longer 14 kilometers trail. 

The hike takes you through the Aywaille, an astonishing part of the Belgian Ardennes, and the Remouchamps region, which is a beautiful green hilly piece of nature in the south of the country.

Take note: it can be quite busy here during weekends and holiday periods, so choose your hiking time wisely. Starting point: Auberge du Ninglinspo, Sedoz 5, 4920 Sougné-Remouchamps (Aywaille).

Les Sources Natural Park 

Water is present in all forms here. Groundwater, natural mineral water, thermal water, water from wetlands and surface water – all of which comes to a total length of 300 km. The element of water characterizes the park and forms rare biotopes such as swamps, peat and alder forests. 

The whole area of ​​the park is densely wooded. These nature reserves are not only an important source of income – they also have real ecological potential. They contain exceptional fauna and flora. as well as some of the rarest forest habitats that are threatened at European level. Address: Route de Berinzenne 6, 4900 Spa.

Signal of Botrange 

At 694 meters high, the Signal of Botrange is the highest point in Belgium. It’s situated in the nature reserve of the High Fens, an area with diverse scenery – forests, water points, ramparts and beautiful picturesque villages. 

The Signal of Botrange is the starting point for many walks! Starting point: Route de Botrange 133, 4950 Robertville.

Hikes in the province of Namur

When you explore Namur, you’ll come across an area called ‘Stromen en Rivieren’ that covers the valleys of the Sambre and the Meuse. It’s the perfect place to enjoy recreational activities on the water or hike to your heart’s content.

Parc Du Furfooz

The park of Furfooz is located in the valley of the Lesse, near Dinant. The park is well-maintained by sheep, and you can enjoy a pleasant family hike of about 4 kilometers.

Tip: combine this trip with a visit to the castle of Celles-Vêves. Perched atop a rocky outcrop, the castle has five magnificent towers. Admire the beautiful paintings, the rare porcelain and the amazing authentic 18th-century old furniture. Starting point: 79 Rue du Camp Romain, Furfooz.

Entrance for adults is 4 euros, 2 euros for seniors and children under 25 years. It’s not wheelchair accessible. Dogs are welcome on a leash.

Nismes 

This 9 kilometer hike is ideal for spending a quiet afternoon among glistening ponds and old factories. Combine it with a visit to Fondry des Chiens, known as the Grand Canyon of the Ardennes (although it’s not really comparable in my view!). The Fondry des Chiens is a natural pit, created by rainwater seeping through the limestone soil. Millions of years of erosion created gigantic pits more than 20 meters deep called Fondries. It truly is an amazing place to see.

Boninne 

This 12-kilometer hike includes a visit to the rocks of Marche-les-Dames. The hike starts on the plateau of Boninne, descends to the Meuse and takes you through the forest past the famous must-visit rocks of Marche-les-Dames.

Note: this hike is definitely for the more experienced hiker! Starting point: Rue l’Eglise de Boninne, Boninne.

Shot by Canipel Chateau de Walzin, Dinant

Hikes in the province of Luxembourg

The heart of the Belgian Ardennes lies in the south of the province of Luxembourg, and it has much to offer in terms of nature and hiking. Not only this – the region will also surprise you with its many beautiful cities and villages. Endless cycling and hiking paths offer tourists the opportunity to explore every corner of the province. Below are my favourite walks in the region.

Nadrin 

The rock formation of Le Hérou with its steep cliffs overlooks the meander of the Ourthe near Nadrin, between Houffalize and La Roche-en-Ardenne. There are 15 different hiking options between 2 and 13 kilometers, with difficulty levels ranging from easy to tiring. 

The hikes allow you to look out over the winding meanders of the Ourthe and provide a beautiful view of the valley. The entire site is classified as a Natura2000 site and is on the list of exceptional heritage of the Walloon Region. Starting point: Place du Center, 4 – 6660 Nadrin.

Les échelles de Rochehaut 

The ‘ladder wandeling’ is definitely the most spectacular – and perhaps also the most famous – walk in Belgium. If you stand on top of the rocks, you get a beautiful view over the valley of the Semois. Although the walk is only 5 kilometers long, it will take you three hours! Find the map of the walk here. At the bottom of this page you can find Jelle’s insights about this famous walk.

Shot by Canipel Les Échelles de Rochaut

Herbeumont

Discover the rock with the best name in the country – Rocher Du Chat! At the top you get treated to a beautiful panorama over the Herbeumont region. This trail is just under 7 km long, but you have to climb before you can enjoy the spectacular view. You brave almost 200 altimeters here, and you’ll be on the go for a good two hours. Starting point: Rue des Epioux, 6821 Florenville.

Achouffe 

How about a 14 kilometer tour that starts and ends at the Chouffe brewery? If that seems a little long, there are also loops of 6 kilometers – so there’s something for everyone. And of course, there is a delicious cold Belgian beer waiting for you afterwards. Starting point: Achouffe 32, 6666 Houffalize.

Croix-Rouge 

The ideal family trail of 7 kilometers in a fairytale environment. It’s an absolutely enchanting walk through the forest, with tall trees and a beautiful road that meanders through a lost valley where you’ll find the Fairytale Cave (le Trou des Fées). It’s a legendary place where the fairy Oriande is said to have handed the sword Flamberge and the steed Carillon to wizard Malegijs: the achievements of the four Heemskildren that could set the whole Ardennes on fire …

Shot by Canipel Hoge Venen

When is the best time to discover the Ardennes?

You can go hiking in the Ardennes all year round and every season has its individual charms. Spring and autumn are my personal favorite seasons to hike in the Ardennes – especially the months of June and September. During these months, you can escape the crowds but still have a decent shot at good weather. Winter is definitely for more experienced adventurers.

Tips for hiking in these bizarre times:

  • Choose open places close to home
  • Avoid busy hot spots or parks
  • Ensure you keep enough distance while hiking
  • Only go on a day trip and avoid unnecessary risks
  • Good hand hygiene is necessary, even during a hike
  • Wear masks in crowded places
  • Bring your own picnic and eat quietly along the way where there are no other people
  • Stay home if you don’t feel well!

Shot by Canipel Le Tombeau du Géant

Jelle’s insides about the famous hike – Les échelles de Rochehaut

I once spent an adventurous week with friends on the border between Austria and Germany.  We climbed several mountains, including Germany’s highest, the Zugspitze (and obviously we had to taste Germany’s highest beer and namesake whilst we were there!). However the week ended with a lot of rain, and we were forced to spend our last day of the week elsewhere.

We decided to drive towards Belgium and finish with a trip near the meandering and beautiful Semois. It’s home to some of the most spectacular hikes in Belgium. We immediately noticed the contrast with the mountains in Germany and Austria. Over there, everything felt more wild and completely at your own risk… yet here there were safety ladders with exaggerated frames that sometimes detracted from the scenery. But despite that, I have to say it was a beautiful hike with gorgeous views throughout the most whimsical forests. The Semois region might be one of my favorite places in the Ardennes … a stunningly beautiful valley in the Ardennes typical of the winding river.

Shot by Canipel Les Échelles de Rochaut

There are so many hiking options here, but don’t underestimate the trails! It’s a tough hike (2 to 3 days) from Herbeumont to Bouillon on to Bohan, where you have to cover more than 1.700m difference in height. We enjoyed a beautiful fire under a star-filled sky. Beers, lots of laughs, nice stories and sleeping outdoors … hiking at its finest! There are so many stunning hikes in the Belgian Ardennes for all abilities and ages.

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