Domaine des Grotte de Han (Wallonia - Belgium)

When I visited Antwerp, we had seen all 13 of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Belgium! However, UNESCO also has other wings like UNESCO memories of the world, intangible cultural heritage, geoparks etc. UNESCO Geo Park concept, as the name suggests, is about the Earth Heritage!!! Currently there is only one UNESCO Geopark in Belgium - Famenne Ardenne. The Geopark territory covers a very huge area.

The geological formations in this region date from the Paleozoic (541 to 251 million years ago) era when this region was under water and a marine region. These deposits were folded during the formation of the Hercynian mountain range (around 295 million years ago) and then flattened in the Meso-Cenozoic. This entire Geopark comprises of several municipalities of Wallonia in the provinces of Namur & Luxembourg. When we ventured to Namur, we got to visit Han-Sur-Lesse. Infact, the logo of the Geopark is the particular river that flows here. Domaine des Grottes de Han has a lot things to see and do, that it would take an entire day. Here's more about what we did in about half a day.
The first and foremost is the most magical thing to do - visiting inside the caves - Grotte de Han.To begin with it very much reminded me of Grotte Merveilleuse in Dinant, because of its innumerable stalactites and stalagmites with very amusing formations. There were quite a few pillars too which were formed when stalactites and stalagmites meet. There were quite a few waterfall formations too.

One of the chambers that fascinated me was the Room of Draperies! Look the pic above. The way the water droplets comes in and flows before dropping down, when the surface is a slope, these drapes are formed! One of the drapes totally was unique - It looked like a tulip upside down!!!
Another impressive chamber is called the Trophy, for it has the most prestigious stalagmite - its 7ft tall! I thought its a boulder. Nope - the whole thing is stalagmite!!! Another impressive one is the one that sparkles! Its the fastest growing boulder with the constant pouring of a stream of water on it and with the mineral deposits, it sparkles! 
Tours inside these caves began as early as mid 18th C CE. Then the tours happened with torches, which resulted in black soot to be deposited on the stalactites & stalagmites, due to the smoke. It looks grey today and later, during the world wars, the caves were rarely visited which made the formations pristine white once again. After the year 2000, the torches were stopped, thanks to electricity and then the formations are white since then! A preview into how the caves would have looked in torch light, is now re-enacted with a battery operated torch, in the biggest chamber of the cave 'Room of the Dome' - definitely a bit creepy!!!!


One of the most amazing thing in this cave is the lighting! Its flows! Its LED lights that flows.... I mean, the way the lighting switches on and off, makes it appear as if its flowing. No, I can't explain that in words. Its better to see the below above (from 5:05 mins) to understand that. The beginning of the video is the most magical light & sound show, video mapping, I've ever witnessed!!!! This is titled Origin, and was created by Luc Petit. With mapping, that glorifies the stalactites and stalagmites, it is too crazy and mind-blowing!!! Watch the video, but let me assure you, this doesn't do any justice. To be standing there, inside the cave formed millions of years ago, 110m below the ground, with stalactites and stalagmites all around you and light projecting on them - to say its magical - is an understatement. You have to be there to feel it and believe it!!!!


There are parts of the cave that are not accessible during the tour; some that can be accessed only by diving. If you're a geologist or a student studying to be one, you could possibly visit these restricted places too, if you want to research after getting special permissions towards it. Otherwise, the regular tour is about 2 hrs & 2km long and the temperature inside is 13°C no matter what the outside weather is. So make sure to wear suitable clothing. When its too hot outside, you can actually see the river water vapourizing after hitting the cool temperature inside the cave. 


Another interesting aspect of the Domain is the Wildlife park. Its 250 hectares of just greenery. This can be visited either on foot or using the tram and shuttle bus which begins at the ticketing office. After crossing a few enclosures of herbivores including Przewalski's horses, red deers, lynx cats, wild boars, great eagle owl etc, is the most fascinating place in the wildpark area - the canopee walk! 

Its a passage of suspension bridges that connect the various trees! From atop here, the view of the whole wildlife park area is just wow! Also from atop here, you can see quite a few animals including polar fox. Around here is the historic railway station of Gare de Faule. This was functional till 1968 for people to visit the caves! Further ahead are enclosures arctic wolf, alpine marmot etc.  

Further ahead, beyond the deers, European bisons, white stork, vultures etc is the restaurant called Tivoli, which again lends an impeccable view of the park. Beyond this is one of the most important places in this region - the one that's used as the logo of Famenne Ardennes UGDp - the river that disappears - the Gouffre!!!!!! Here the river enters the cave and falls down to a depth of 11.5m; then travels underground for 1.8km, which is spotted time & again during the underground tour inside the caves; after that it goes up again, like a siphon and continues!!!!


Further ahead is the enclosure for the bears and upcoming insect hotel which would be the largest in Belgium. There is a tiny drinks/snacks kiosk here as well. After a few more animals, the bus shuttle ends at the entrance of caves.

Also there 2 museums within this place - Han 1900 (included in Wildlife park ticket) which is about the rural daily life of the last few centuries and PrehistoHan (included in Caves ticket) which is about, as the name says, the prehistoric excavations that happened in Han showcasing 9000 years of history. Btw, we are extremely grateful to Ms.Dominique of Wallonia Tourism Dept and Mr.Albert of Grotte de Han who gave us a very detailed account of the place

To Stay:
Hotels at all price points are available in Dinant & Rochefort.
Check out my review of La Merveilleuse in Dinant.
It is possible to camp in Grottes de Han, Aux Cailloux and Le Roptai with your own caravans or tents.
Its also possible to stay inside the Domain de Han, in treetop tents! Climbing atop with a ladder, you could just be one with the nature and sleep under the stars. You could be spotting, deers and horses walking about around you!

To Get There:
On Google Maps: Grotte de Han
Trains are available every hour from Brussels to Arlon/Luxembourg, that stop at Rochefort. Buses are available from Rochefort to Grotte de Han. 

Entrance Tickets & Timings:

Cave + Wildlife Park - €31 (both separately €21 each). 
Possible to buy online for their official website.
If you're in Belgium on a short stay, its best to buy a B-Excursion ticket that combines train ticket plus the entry ticket of the park and works out cheaper.
If you're in Belgium on a long stay, its better to choose the annual pass at €49 which gives unlimited visits for 1 year. It can also be purchased at their website.

P.S: I was invited by Wallonia Tourism to experience the region for review purposes, however the opinions are my own and this post does not to advertise the product/service.

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.

16 comments:

  1. Very cool ecopark! I love the swinging bridges and treehouses that let you walk though the Wildlife Park. I'd love to see some Przewalski's horses in person. The arctic foxes and wolves are very cool too. The Grotte de Han caves look very beautiful and those are some impressive stalagmites and stalactites! I get a little claustrophobic in caves but those are so spectacular I think I would make an exception and venture inside!

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  2. I’d never heard of UNESCO Geoparks before so I was interested in hearing about this one in Belgium. Those grottoes and caves look amazing! I bet the canopee walk over the animal areas gave a great view. I appreciate the details on planning an entire visit including costs and where to stay.

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  3. I love that you made a point to visit all the UNESCO sites in Belgium. I never knew that there were other sub-catergories for UNESCO.. now I want to find out what I have been missing! The room of draperies looks really cool, I love natural formations like that.

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  4. I adore caves especially those centuries old with stalactites and stalagmites. This must be covering a large area with having additionally an animal park. All in all looks like a good day trip.

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  5. I visited an ecopark in Romania and just loved it. I love that you made it a point to visit all of them in Belgium, as I feel like they often get overlooked. Playing on suspension bridges are so much fun!

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  6. This looks like a lovely part of Belgium. We are planning to visit soon for the first time, so I’m going to keep these recommendations in mind. The caves look fascinating! The bridge also looks like a fun adventure!

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  7. It would be a unique experience to see the UNESCO Geopark in Belgium - Famenne Ardenne which is only one of its kind in whole Belgium. I loved the rock formations part and good to know that centuries ago this region was under the sea. What a wonderful world it is and through visiting such places, we come across so many wonderful facts. I could imagine how they have placed LED lights so that you can feel the movement and no camera or words could express that feeling. Even visiting 250 hectares of Wildlife Park would also be a very informative visit. Thanks for sharing another beautiful destination to us.

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  8. Wow! This is incredible. It would be a wonderful and memorable experience to visit the caves and see these formations up close. I have always been fascinated with these natural formations. Happy to know that the cave has amazing lighting and it is indeed breathtaking.

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience.

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  9. I couldn't feel jealous to your little one, as he already visited many UNESCO spots!
    Those natural formations are beyond art. Looks breathtaking indeed.

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  10. That is an impressive place! But Grotte de Han is definitely fascinating. Well, we could be biased because we are cavers as well as mountaineers. Those speleothems look really amazing, and most importantly, untouched. Although we are not fond of human construction in caves (i.e. the fence), we know that those fences are important to prevent unruly people from damaging those delicate rock formations.

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  11. This looks like a lot of fun. Are they limestone caves? Some of the formations look a lot like the limestone caves and grottoes in Thailand. Though I doubt that you found any Buddha statues here. Very cool.

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  12. I knew about UNESCO heritage sites but never heard of Geoparks. It looks like a great place to spend a full day and I love caves. Grotte de Han reminds me a bit of Belianska jaskyna in Slovakia. It also has a chamber with lights and great acoustics where concerts take places from time to time.

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  13. I don't mind caves and that, but not when that's the only thing you can do there, so it's great to see that there's an extensive wildlife park that is attached to it to really round out the experience!

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  14. I was not aware of all these different wings of UNESCO sites until I read your post. We loved visiting Belgium and look forward to returning - and after reading your post, I'd like to include Famenne Ardenne in our itinerary. Your'e absolutely right - the Grotte de Han looks magical. So interesting to see nature's work in action in the Room of Draperies - the tulip in that chamber looks perfectly sculpted by nature. The video of the lighting in the caves really helps get a sense of the grandeur of the caves - it's beautiful. I love the fact that it is possible to camp at Grotte de Han - my family would love such an experience. We usually travel by public transportation during our trips instead of car rental so it was good to learn that it's easy to reach the site by train to Rochefort followed by a bus ride. Thanks for sharing and introducing me to the UNESCO GeoPark of Belgium.

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  15. I had no idea about this place in Belgium before reading this article. The best I loved is the video of light and sound. Really it is amazing in the dark with LED light show.

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  16. Never heard of this place in Belgium! But after reading your blog it looks very interesting. Hope i will get to see it in person next year.

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