Ultimate Travel Guide to Famenne Ardenne - UNESCO Global Geopark (Wallonia - Belgium)

This article first appeared in My Travelogue by Bhushavali
 
As you may know, I'm always in a look-out to visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites wherever I go. It is funny but I actually hadn't known that UNESCO also has other branches - like Intangible Cultural Heritage (like beer culture in Belgium), Memory of the World, and many more! One such branch is UNESCO Global Geoparks (UGGp) network. I came to know about UGGp when I visited Domaine des Grottes de Han, which is one of the important sites in the only UNESCO Global Geopark Site in Belgium - Famenne Ardenne. So, soon after that, I started visiting the other places of interest in this belt and I'm not done yet, there are so many more places for me to visit, but here's what I know...

WHAT IS UNESCO GLOBAL GEOPARK NETWORK?
As the name suggests, like how UNESCO Natural & Cultural World Heritage protects places of Natural & Cultural importance, UNESCO Geopark protects places of Geographical Importance. The concept of Global Geopark came into being in 2001 and the first-ever global meeting of UNESCO Global Geoparks happened in 2004 with 17 European and 8 Chinese geoparks. Today there are 161 UNESCO Global Geoparks worldwide of which only one is in Belgium - Famenne Ardennes UGGp

Famenne Ardennes La Grande Foret Saint Hubert


Belgian Ardennes Hiking Spa

Plus Beaux Villages de Wallonie Ny

Snow in Belgium Belgian Ardennes Mont Rigi
Pic credit: __saranina___ via Instagram (used in this blog with permission)

WHERE IS BELGIAN ARDENNES
Ardennes is a forest range and mountainous region in the geographical area that falls primarily in southern Belgium (Belgian Ardennes), northern France (French Ardennes), Luxembourg and a bit into Germany (Eifel National Park). A major portion of Wallonia, southern Belgium is under Belgian Ardennes. In simple words, take the map of Belgium and draw a line connecting Eupen - Spa - Aywaille - Durbuy - Marche-en-Famenne - Han-sur-Lesse - Rochefort - Philipville - Cerfontaine - Froidchapelle. The whole of the country to the south of it is Belgian Ardennes (except Thierache & Gaume regions - the tiny bit south of Chimay & Couvin and a larger bit south of Arlon & Florenville). Famenne Ardennes is a portion of Belgian Ardennes. 

ABOUT FAMENNE ARDENNE - PLACES TO VISIT IN BELGIAN ARDENNES
A major portion of Famenne Ardennes, totalling to 911sqkm, is listed as UNESCO Global Geopark (UGGp). The strip of land is called the Calestienne which has a lot of limestone and similar rocks that can be easily eroded. There are 3 rivers here - Ourthe, Lesse and Lomme. The water currents in these rivers & their tributaries, corrode the rocks which create unique geological curiosities in the region! At many a place, the tributaries of the rivers run underground and then re-emerge again. These underground passages sometimes create caves overtime and today it is possible to go down some of these caves, to see it flowing several meters underground. 
Below are the details of the places to visit in Famenne Ardenne segregated by the communes they fall under. 

DURBUY & HOTTON - PLACES TO VISIT UNESCO GLOBAL GEOPARK FAMENNE ARDENNE
Durbuy is considered the smallest city in the world and is the home to the Durbuy AdventureDurbuy Anticline and Durbuy Topiary. The historic city centre of Durbuy is also worth seeing. The next town Barvaux is where the annual Durbuy Labyrinth happens. Very close to Durbuy is Weris, which is the best-preserved megalithic site in Belgium. There is a museum called La Maison des Megalithes, there are 2 dolmens and several menhirs in the region. There is a dedicated cycling path that goes through them all. Apart from that, the village of Weris is listed as a plus beaux village de Wallonie (beautiful villages of Wallonia, Belgium). 
On the way from Durbuy to Hotton is the village of Ny, one more of the beautiful places of Belgium, plus beaux villages de Wallonie. In Hotton is the Grottes de Hotton, and Riveo, a river interpretation centre. 

MARCHE-EN-FAMENNE - PLACES TO VISIT UNESCO GLOBAL GEOPARK FAMENNE ARDENNE
Marche-en-Famenne is next in my list of places to visit in Belgium. Marche-en-Famenne is the capital of Famenne region and is a relatively bigger town. The most important thing to do in Marche-en-Famenne is exploring the town which won the European Destinations of Excellence (EDEN) in 2011, including spotting the ruins of the original fortified wall, medieval turrets, gothic buildings etc. Very close to the town is the Fond des Vaulx valley where the Trotti-aux-Fosses chasm is located, one of the geological curiosities of the region.  
The village next to it is Waha were Church of St.Etienne de Waha is located. It is unique because the church is historic, built in 11th C, has frescoes of 13th C, sculptures of 16th C and very modern stained glass windows of 20th C designed by Jean Michel Folon. A bit further ahead, on the way to Rochefort, is Chateau de Jemeppe which is not open to the general public currently. 
La Roche-en-Ardenne is the next big town after Marche-en-Famenne. This is one of the top tourist attraction for those who want to visit Belgian Ardennes. I'm hoping to visit here as a day trip from Marche-en-Famenne. Further to the south is Bastogne, an important World War II site.

Belvaux Chasm Han Sur Lesse Famenne Ardennes UNESCO Geopark

Animal Park Han Sur Lesse Famenne Ardennes UNESCO Geopark

Grottes de Han Han Sur Lesse Famenne Ardennes UNESCO Geopark

NASSOGNE - PLACES TO VISIT UNESCO GLOBAL GEOPARK FAMENNE ARDENNE
While the town centre of Nassogne itself doesn't have much to see, it is a good base to visit the surrounding beautiful villages like Ambly and Grune (incl. Château de Grune and a 17th C water-mill). Another important place to see in the region is the Pierres du Diable (Devil's Stones) which are megalithic cysts with dolmens.

HAN-SUR-LESSE - PLACES TO VISIT UNESCO GLOBAL GEOPARK FAMENNE ARDENNE
This is the first-ever place I visited in Famenne Ardennes region. It was when I visited here that I came to know of that something called UGGp existed. Domaine des Grottes de Han has 4 major places to visit, that paint the whole picture of the region - Caves of Han for the geology inside the caves, Parc Animalier (Animal Park) for the wildlife biology (incl Belvaux Chasm, a geological curiosity that's the inspiration behind the logo of Famenne Ardennes UGGp), Han 1900 for anthropology a century ago and PrehistoHan for the archaeology and studies about prehistoric humans & nature in this region. Very close to it is anticline of Wavreille
The village next to Han-sur-Lesse is Rochefort. The important places to visit in Rochefort include the Malagne Archeoparc, Grotte de Lorette, and Chateau Comtal (Rochefort Castle). The next village is Jamelle where the railway museum called Centre of Rail & Stone is located. Another site in this region is Lavaux Saint Anne, but it is located closer to Wellin (more details below).

Chateau Comtal Rochefort Castle Famenne Ardennes UGGp

Spa hiking Belgian Ardennes

TELLIN & WELLIN - PLACES TO VISIT UNESCO GLOBAL GEOPARK FAMENNE ARDENNE
Tellin & Wellin are southern-most regions of Famenne Ardennes. In the town of Wellin is the Lomprez water-mill, which belongs to 12th C and has been in use till 1920. Very close to Wellin are 2 of the beautiful places in Belgium - Sohier & Froid Lieu, 2 more of the 30 plus beaux villages de Wallonie. In the heart of Tellin is Causard-Slegers bell foundry which manufactured bells by lost-wax process & supplied to very many churches in Belgium, Germany & Luxembourg in 19-20th C. Very close to Tellin is the town Resteigne (one more of the plus beaux villages de Wallonie) which has a chateau & an abandoned quarry, but the main point is the between the 2 towns which lend a gorgeous panoramic view of river Lesse. This is one of the best spots for hiking in Belgian Ardennes. Further ahead is the cute little chapel of Notre-Dame de Haurt, perched atop a hill. 
Very close to the Tellin & Wellin, in the south, is the Euro Space Centre which gives an insight into space technology and astronaut life including walking on mars, rocket simulators, free-fall experience and more! 
I'm yet to visit this region. My idea is to go here on a 3-day trip, hopefully coming Spring, with Wellin as the base - a day for Wellin (incl Lavaux Saint Anne & Revogne - a 20km cycling loop), a day for Tellin & a day for Euro Space Centre.  

BEAURAING - PLACES TO VISIT UNESCO GLOBAL GEOPARK FAMENNE ARDENNE
I'm yet to visit Beauraing and I'm hoping to visit there as a day-trip from Brussels. The main town of Beauraing is one of the important Christian pilgrimage sites in Belgium. There is also the parks of Castle of St.Pierre & St.Marie. In the outskirts of Beauraing are Revogne and Vonêche which are listed as the most beautiful villages of Wallonia. Revogne is located very very close to Froid-Lieu of Wellin. Vonêche is located 7km away from Beauraing and can be easily visited with a bicycle or e-bike. 

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT FAMENNE ARDENNE
While geological curiosities are open to see throughout the year, it can get super cold in winters. Belgian Ardennes is also known for its snowfall! So exploring the region, trekking, hiking etc would be super difficult in the weather is freezing. The best time to visit Belgian Ardennes would be Mar-Nov
That said, Mont-Rigi is best visited in the coldest of the winter for it is the best place to experience snowfall in Belgium.

BELGIAN ARDENNES - FAMENNE ARDENNES MAP

Best of Spa Hotel - Corsendonk Sol Cress

HOW TO REACH BELGIAN ARDENNES FROM BRUSSELS
The easiest way to reach all of these towns & villages is ofcourse by car. Many towns in this region are connected to Brussels by direct train (SNCB/NMBS) including Marloie, Rochefort-Jamelle, Eupen etc. Since these are a bit distant from the city, the train tickets are a bit expensive as well. However, there are ways to get cheap Belgium train tickets by travelling on weekends or using discount codes. The rest of the places can be visited by local TEC bus services or by hiring a bicycle or e-bike.

HOTELS IN BELGIAN ARDENNES
I visited Belgian Ardennes in multiple trips, some day-trips & weekend trips from Brussels. Each time to a different destination in the region. There are many luxury & comfort options of Spa Hotels, Durbuy Hotels, Marche-en-Famenne hotels etc, but if you're looking for an authentic Belgian rural experience, you'd have to choose a gite (holiday home) or Airbnb in the villages. 
Here are the reviews of the various hotels that I stayed in the Belgian Ardennes region - My stay in Spa was at Corsendonk Sol Cress Hotel. I visited Han-sur-Lesse while staying in Dinant at La Merveilleuse Resort. My stay in Durbuy was at Le Vieux Durbuy and my stay in Marche-en-Famenne was at Hotel Quartier Latin, Marche-en-Famenne

FAMENNE ARDENNES ITINERARIES
1 DAY IN FAMENNE ARDENNES ITINERARY
  • Spend the entire day at Han-sur-Lesse in Domaines des Grottes de Han - Grottes, Animalier Parc, Han 1900 and Prehisto Han

2 DAYS IN FAMENNE ARDENNES ITINERARY
  • Day 1: Han-sur-Lesse as above
  • Day 2: Marche-en-Famenne & Durbuy (incl. Radhadesh & Weris dolmens)

3 DAYS IN FAMENNE ARDENNES ITINERARY
  • Day 1: Han-sur-Lesse as above
  • Day 2: Durbuy (Durbuy Adventure, Weris dolmens)
  • Day 3: Hotton & Marche-en-Famenne

Vennbahn way Eupen

tombeau du géant bouillon beautiful places in Belgium
Pic credit: __saranina___ via Instagram (used in this blog with permission)

ULTIMATE 9 DAYS HONEYMOON IN BELGIAN ARDENNES ITINERARY - HIKING, ADVENTURE & CULTURE 
Just follow the map east to west! Tweak this to fit the number of days you have and concentrate of one region than travelling across Belgium. Here's your 9 days worth of things to do in Belgian Ardennes.
  • Day 1 - Eupen (Summer - Cycling in Vennbahn Path; Winter - Snowfall in the highest peak of Ardennes - Signal de Botrange in Mont Rigi at 694m) 
  • Day 2 - Spa (Sky diving in Belgium) and Aywaille (Hiking in Ninglingspo - best of hiking in Belgian Ardennes) or Coo (Highest waterfalls in Belgium)
  • Day 3 - Durbuy (Smallest city in the World, Radhadesh Iskcon temple in Belgium, Prehistoric dolmens & menhirs in Weris) - a bit relaxing day after & before super adventurous days
  • Day 4 - Durbuy Adventures
  • Day 5 - Hotton Caves, Ny (one of the most beautiful villages of Belgium), Marche-en-Famenne (charming old city)
  • Day 6 - Rochefort & Domaine des Grottes de Han
  • Day 7 - Wellin, Sohier & Froid-Lieu (2 more of the plus beaux villages de Wallonie), Euro Space Centre
  • Day 8 - Bouillon Castle, historic city centre of Bouillon & cycling to the very picturesque Tomb of Giant
  • Day 9 - Les Lacs de l'Eau d'Heure
Travel Guide to Famenne Ardennes belgium Pinterest Travel Guide to Belgian Ardennes Pinterest

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 78 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of Sept 2020. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands

9 comments:

  1. I've never heard of the UNESCO Global Geoparks before, so thanks for the information. It's a very interesting concept for sure. The Famenne Ardennes seems like my kind of place: beautiful scenery, a grotto and even some castle ruins. Your post also provides some useful information about hotels in the Geopark, as well as reaching the Belgian Ardennes from Brussels.

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  2. Interesting, like you I hadn’t realized there were other branches of UNESCO. Sounds like the rocks in the river and underground passages would be cool to check out. Loved the handy itineraries, definitely make planning a future visit easy.

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  3. Going to have to admit being a regular visitor to Belgium, I never heard of the Global Geoparks before and now I am actually looking up on Doctor Google to find out all about this. I didn't even know this was also an offspring of UNESCO. I only stretched the surface with the Ardennes so I really want to get in there deeper and check out more of the beautiful landscape and villages. Hopefully this summer if Covid goes away (doubt it). Beautiful post and photos.

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  4. As a Belgian, I know and have been to Ardennes. It is indeed a beautiful village with the most awesome landscapes.Our family lives near Brussels so I like how you included that into this guide. I also like the passages that you mention, we'd love to check that out for sure. Thanks!

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  5. I actually heard about UNESCO Global Geoparks because there's at least one in Indonesia. I haven't been there, but I learned about what Global Geoparks is from this post. I like visiting places like Fammene Ardennes because it has what I like. Beautiful nature and historic ruins.

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  6. Wow, UNESCO Global Geoparks is such an interesting idea. I feel a bit silly that I've never heard of them before! Thank you for all the information, Famenne Ardennes looks beautiful and filled with nature activities. Would love to visit one day.

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  7. I've never heard of these global geoparks before so really appreciate learning about them and this one in particular. The combination of geographic attractions such as that cave and the chasm and the beautiful landscapes with the pretty architecture and culture of the region looks is just the kind of two I'd really enjoy!

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  8. living in London i always research where can i go next far far away without realising that such a beautiful places are so close! Ive never heard about Ardennes but now I definitely have to add it to my list and visit as soon as I can! UNESCO Global Geoparks sounds so perfct

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  9. Belgian Ardennes looks so dreamy. I would love to spend some wintertime here. It is topographically very attractive. I am so glad that I got to learn about global geopark here.

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