A few weeks ago I was invited by the Belgium Tourist Board @walloniabelgiumtourism to visit and explore the Ardennes in the region of Wallonia. An excursion I would find really interesting and I was particularly excited that it suited my love for nature. As a result, it included the chance to explore the unique High Fens in the Eifel National Park and also the natural beautiful and extensive woodland of the Ardennes forests. Our destination is Wallonia. A great area of Belgium with so much to see and do. Within only two hours driving from my home in the Netherlands (Rotterdam), you will find the opportunity to get outside, explore and experience great nature areas.
Natural park The High Fens
After setting off from the Netherlands, we soon arrived at our first destination - Eupen. Eupen is a really nice small town nestled in the valley, close to the border of the Netherlands and also Germany. Easy access by road, rail or air, it would be our base for the coming days and allow us to easily get out and visit the surrounding area.
Our first location was the Natural Park the High Fens. This is a quite beautiful and extensive area of raised bog and heath land, that stretches extensively for a total area of 2,485 km2 (959 sq mi). With it being unique, not only in its appearance, but also geographical make up.
On arrival at the Nature Centre of Botrange, we had a little time to experience the stunning scenery, which looks quite desolate and serene, but is teeming with life. We met with our guide who showed us around this stunning area. With a wealth of information presented to us, we walked for round for 2 hours in a circular route. It not only compassed the High Fens, but also some stunning nearby woodlands, which can be utilised by any potential visitor.
It was simply a perfect afternoon, as we not only learnt a lot of new facts, but we got a great sense of history surrounding the area and of course developed a greater understanding of the many great pursuits that could be undertaken here. From walking along the extensive trails, bird watching, learning more about the wildlife and even cross country skiing, during the winter.
During the first half of the visit we managed to extensively cover some of the highlights in the High Fens region. We covered many km / miles by hiking the many beautiful walking trails. We also simply enjoyed the peace and quiet of our natural surroundings, as well as fully utilising the car to meander along the scenic roads. With that in mind, it is a beautiful area, that not only has a varying landscape types, but there are many hidden gems to be found along the way.
Malmedy, Rheinhardstien Castle, Ternell and Lac'd Eupen
As we spent a few days around the area, we found a lot more great places to discover.
Malmedy is a picturesque Wallonian city that is nestled in the surrounding hills. The city is relatively small, but is dominated by the architectural splendour of the cathedral. It is a great focal point and can be seen for miles around. The city is a popular destination visitors, who find their way here by car, hiking or perhaps even cross country skiing. There is plenty to enjoy here, with an abundance of cafes, local shops and restaurants.
Nearby to the city of Malmedy is the Reinhardstein Castle. It is a little tricky to find, but well worth it, once you find it. It dates back to 1345 and is typical of the time period. It is set within a beautiful location, at the bottom of a steep valley, probably offering the perfect hiding place for any would be invader. Surrounding the castle, the scenery is superb. With woodlands walking trails and peaceful meandering river at the bottom of the valley.
Ternell is an extension of the High Fens and again it offers a wonderful nature reserve that simply should not be missed, with a large variety of bird species to be noted. Close by is the 'Highway to Hell'. A stunning tree lined road, with an extremely bumpy road surface. It is really worth driving down. Furthermore, the woodland area, that surrounds, is stunning and very peaceful to walk through. Tall trees everywhere. Birds singing and from time to time the call of deer, really help you to get away from it all.
Lac d’Eupen is very close to the town of Eupen and probably seems to be overlooked, but on our travels, we found it to be a destination not to be missed. Effectively it is a reservoir that provides water for the surrounding areas, but it has a stunning dam that was constructed around the end of the second world war. Walks around the reservoir are scenic and inviting and the opportunity to walk across the dam, provides some stunning views.
La Roche en Ardennes
During the second half of the trip we ventured a little further into the Ardenne forest and region and finally reached the popular tourist town of La Roche en Ardennes.
En route to La Roche we drove down some fabulously quiet and meandering roads and were subsequently treated to some stunning scenery. From deep (tree lined) valleys, like the Ninglinspo, where we were treated to a peaceful mountain river walk, to castles prominently perched on rocky outcrops, to open farmland where cows peaceful graze on the hillside.
What a great location La Roche is, positioned at the bottom of a river valley with tree lined hills all around. La Roche caters for everyone from shops, museums and cafes, to a stunning old castle and church being the centre piece for all to see. During our time here we walked and enjoyed seeing the popular sites, but were also again treated to a guided tour by a knowledgeable local.
On our guided tour we hiked high up to the Deister viewpoint and out of the centre of La Roche, where we could (look back) and enjoy the beautiful panoramic view over La Roche. Wandering into the nearby forest areas, also presented opportunities to learn more about the history of the town and also visit a fabulous wildlife park, where we could certainly learn more about the wildlife and the animal species that could be found in and around the local area.
After the hiking tour, we headed back home to the Netherlands. This trip had been an amazing experience, we walked tremendous distances and took it all in. Although the visit was just a few days, it gave us a good insight of how much this part of the Ardennes has to offer. It is definitely an area where I would love to come back to.
We would like to extend a huge thank you to the Belgium Tourist board, for providing us with this wonderful opportunity and for all of their efforts in the organisation and making this trip a great success!
This hotel is situated in Eupen, from there it is great to explore the High Fens and its surroundings, since it is centrally located - they also serve excellent food!
Whats in a name? ;-) This beautifully charming and authentic hotel is located in a quiet valley just outside La Roche. With a big and wonderful garden situated at the river, this is the perfect place to relax after an active day. Tip: stay for dinner, the food fantastic!