Belgium’s wild locations present the proper counterpoint to its medieval facilities and historic points of interest. Coniferous forests, biologically wealthy wetlands, and the foggy moors of the uplands are among the many numerous settings the place you may expertise the shocking great thing about this small European nation.
Whether or not you’re after nice mountaineering, biking, birdwatching, and even winter actions like cross-country snowboarding, you’ll discover some excellent locations in Belgium. And the nation’s comparatively compact measurement means you may pack numerous selection into even a brief getaway. Right here’s a rundown of the highest three nature reserves in Belgium to place in your journey itinerary.
Parc Naturel Hautes Fagnes, Wallonia
Finest for botany lovers
One of the crucial lovely areas in Belgium lies tucked away within the far east of French-speaking Wallonia. Right here, the wind-swept moors and misty peat lavatory evoke an otherworldly panorama, whereas additional south lies the equally enchanting Higher Eifel area with its forest-covered hills, shimmering lakes and flower-fringed valleys.
A part of a nature reserve that spreads between Belgium and Germany, the Excessive Fens – Eifel Nature Park has been round since 1971, and its 72,000 hectares (with one other 100,000 in Germany) prolong throughout twelve Belgian municipalities. The park is house to Belgium’s highest level, the 694m Signal de Botrange, and among the nation’s most uncommon flora, from the sundew (a carnivorous plant) to the uncommon lavatory asphodel with its star-shaped yellow flowers.
Each season brings its personal rewards. In spring, you may stroll among the many incredible wildflower blooms when daffodils blanket the hillsides. The golden leaves of birch timber make for equally photogenic rambles in autumn. Within the warmth of summer season, you may get pleasure from cool walks beneath the darkish forest cover. Because the temperatures plummet and the primary snows arrive, winter lovers head to Sign de Botrange for cross-country snowboarding over the frozen hills.
Visiting Parc Naturel Hautes Fagnes
4 villages on the outskirts of the park make the perfect bases for overnighting within the space: Eupen, Montjoie, Spa, and Malmedy. Most guests arrive by automobile or bicycle. If coming by public transport, bus 390 runs between Verviers Gare Central prepare station and Elsenborn Siedlung and stops at Sign de Botrange. Bus 394 working between Eupen Banhof prepare station and Sankt-Vith additionally stops there.
A very good first cease for exploring the park is the Maison du Parc-Botrange. Atop Belgium’s highest level, this data workplace and museum is the start line for trails throughout the excessive fens, and employees fortunately dole out data on walks and different actions within the space. You’ll want to take a look at the small kid-friendly displays that delve into the wildlife of the Hautes Fagnes. You possibly can lease bikes from spring by fall and rent cross-country skis within the winter. You can even buy maps and data guides. After a stroll, you may have a meal on the Maison’s brasserie.
Hoge Kempen Nationwide Park, Limburg
Finest for adventurers
Within the northeastern area of Limburg province, Hoge Kempen National Park encompasses 12,000 hectares of heathland and forest interspersed with marshes, streams, and even the odd sandy patch. The park stretches throughout six completely different municipalities and is the biggest reserve in Flanders. Whereas missing in elevation (like all over the place else on this vertically challenged nation), the park has distinctive magnificence. Pine-scented forests, golden-lit purple heathland, and glowing lakes make a memorable setting to attach with nature. Hoge Kempen additionally boasts spectacular biodiversity with over 7000 plant and animal species.
The mountaineering right here is excellent with over 80 signposted loops totaling 220km of strolling trails. Two excellent trails begin in Pietersheim, together with an 11.4km red-signed path that takes you previous a moated fort, alongside elegant beech-lined lanes, and thru salamander-filled brooks and woodlands. These searching for a bit extra problem can tackle the park’s multi-day long-distance hike, tenting alongside the way in which. The so-called Nationwide Park Path, which was prolonged to 100km in 2022, takes in fens, moors, dunes, and ponds over 4 or so nature-filled days.
Mountain bikers are spoiled for choice relating to park adventures. Ten completely different trails provide diverse terrain from difficult ascents up rugged slopes to scenic, easy-going pedals alongside the Meuse Valley.
Horse riders can head off on 140km of tracks made for quadrupeds and horse-drawn autos. These routes solely not often overlap with strolling or biking paths and supply the prospect to experience throughout fields and thru leafy forests. There’s much more driving simply past the park – Limburg province has a staggering 550km of tracks.
Should you’re touring with children, the park has loads of points of interest other than mountaineering. Terhills has an aquapark, an remark tower that’s enjoyable to climb, and an enormous playground. Pietersheim has a moated fort, pony rides, and a petting farm. The curious Blotevoetenpad (Barefeet Path) in Lieteberg takes you throughout wooden, grass, stone, sand, and water on a sensory-filled tour that’s distinctive to the park. In Kattevennen, you may play mini-golf or take a look at astronomy exhibits within the Cosmodrome. On Saturday nights in winter, you may peer by telescopes on a guided viewing of the night time sky on the observatory there.
Visiting Hoge Kempen Nationwide Park
9 completely different gateways present entry, and every gives a distinct aspect of the park. Hoge Kempen is best to achieve by automobile alongside the E314, taking both exit 32 or 33. If coming by prepare, go to Genk Station. From there you may proceed to the park (Kattevennen entrance) through buses operated by De Lijn. Bikes are additionally obtainable for rent at Genk station, or you can also make the leisurely 3km stroll to Kattevennen. Within the park, you may rent bikes at Kattevennen, Lieteberg, Pietersheim, and Station As.
Paths are well-marked, however it helps to have a regional map whether you are mountaineering, mountain biking or horse driving. You should purchase one from an data kiosk for about €8.
Zwin Nature Park, West Flanders
Finest for birders and households
Close to the Netherlands border in West Flanders, the Zwin attracts such a formidable vary of feathered creatures that it’s referred to as the “worldwide chook airport.” Amid mudflats, salt marshes, and scrub forests, over 350 chook species have been noticed. The character reserve was created in 1952, making it the primary such protected space in Flanders. Though diminutive in measurement, this 150-hectare web site is one among Belgium’s most essential wetland habitats.
Through the spring and fall migration, you may count on to see an astonishing number of birdlife, from breeding white storks and customary shelducks to osprey and Eurasian oystercatchers. Varied strolling trails within the Zwin present advantageous views over the various habitats, and it’s also possible to ascend a panorama tower for 360-degree views throughout dunes, the Zwin plain, and polders (land reclaimed from the ocean). Statement huts, together with a number of with free-to-use telescopes, dot the cabin path, and guides are additionally readily available to offer extra perception into the world’s fauna and flora.
The Zwin is an enormous hit with households. Interactive exhibitions within the customer heart delve into the science behind flight, avian biology, and the unbelievable journeys made by migratory birds. There’s additionally a feeding hut the place you may see birds up shut, a laboratory space for viewing insect specimens underneath a microscope, and a listening station for studying to determine completely different chook calls.
Visiting the Zwin
The character reserve lies 12km east of Knokke prepare station within the small metropolis of Knokke-Heist. Bus line 12 operated by De Lijn offers helpful entry. The reserve can be simply reached by bicycle with devoted bike lanes coming from city.
Admission to the park is €14 for adults and €6 for kids (admission is free for these underneath age 6). It can save you a few euros by reserving on-line at the very least someday upfront. The customer heart and the hut path are wheelchair and pram accessible. When starvation strikes, head to the self-service bistro, or carry your individual meals and revel in a meal on the picnic terrace.