Last updated on 28/01/2013
Going away? Getting rid of the daily stress for a weekend? Nowhere better than the Belgian Ardennes for that. This natural region of hill and dale acts as Belgium's green lung. The diversity of the Ardennes, which extends over 26 municipalities in the North of the country, is both alluring and disconcerting. Each village has its secrets, its legends and its unique authenticity. Nature lovers and fauna and flora enthusiasts are intoxicated by its woods, forests, nature reserves and rivers. But the region is also teeming with a multitude of sport and leisure activities.
Whether you want peace and quiet or need sports activities, it's the place for recharging your batteries. An opportunity for getting your strength back and filling up on nature...
1,625 miles of marked out paths
Small detour to start with via the Town of Spa, Pearl of the Ardennes, where hydrotherapy rules the roost. Then plunge into the green heritage of the Cantons of the East and the High Fagnes, to the whim of the 1,625 miles of marked out paths. Unless you prefer adventure and discovery, at the Forestia animal park (La Reid), for example. Then it's time to eat, to discover the ten starred restaurants? It must be said that, in the Ardennes, the local gastronomy is unbeatable.
Spa, perle de l'Ardenne
Would you like to enjoy the Ardennes? Dive in at the deep end. First unmissable appointment: the Town of Spa, aptly called "Pearl of the Ardennes". Everyone knows about Spa's springs and their centennial beneficial properties. This water is to be found in bottles of course but also at the famous Thermal Baths of Spa, reopened in 2004.
The town is "the" true cradle of hydrotherapy in Belgium. The brand new complex is enjoying huge success. In 2006, it had as many as 156,000 visitors. Nestling on the heights of Spa, overhanging the Hill of Annette and Lubin, the thermal baths offer an unrestricted view on nature. A glass cable car runs directly from the bottom of the hill (and the Radisson Hotel) to the thermal baths themselves. Here, you can indulge in truly 21st-century hydrotherapy. Two quite distinct areas have been set up. On the one hand, the well-being centre, where beauty and health combine to offer a whole range of massages and cures. Bathing in Fagnes bubbles or peat is an ideal opportunity for relaxing and letting your mind wander. On the other, the thermal baths also offer various titillating water games and activities: hydromassage, wash bottles, bubble seats, bubbling settees and water guns.
But the town has other attractions as well: its museums (of the town of water, the horse and washing), its Olympic swimming pool, its Casino, its Francofolies (in July) and its marked out walks? In Spa, the only thing missing is the sea!
A Walker's And Sportsman's Paradise
The Ardennes is paradise for walkers and hikers. Here, you fill your lungs with nature? And there is an unmissable green corner of paradise: the Cantons of the East.
Set out initially to discover the High Fagnes, a green plateau of some 4,500 hectares, and its unique peat bogs. The nature reserve conceals some exceptional fauna and flora. There are information and departure points ideal for the discovery of the Fagnes at the Botrange Nature Centre, at the Ternell House in Eupen, and at the relay office of the National Forestry Commission, located in the Tower of Botrange, the highest point of Belgium at 694m. Its various valleys (de la Gueule, de la Vesdre, de la Helle, de la Warche, de l'Amblève and de l'Our), for their part, will reveal fields, meadows, moors and forests. There are 1,625 miles of marked out paths that are available for you.
You should also know that there are mini-trip walks of two to three days and educational itineraries that combine walking and learning. And in winter, there's a not-to-be-missed cross-country skiing excursion starting from the region's 25 centres.
300 Forest Animals To Be Observed
The Ardennes is also a territory for animals. At the entrance to the High Fagnes, in La Reid, discover the huge "Forestia" animal park All year round, the young and old observe more than 300 animals across some thirty species moving in their natural environment there in semi-freedom: sheep, stags, wild boars, horses, farm animals?
If you prefer strong sensations and the thrilling discoveries, no problem. Forestia will also come up with a 100% adventure programme for you. On the menu: five courses, of varying difficulty, and 70 obstacles in the trees. Between rope bridges, monkey bridges and pulley descents, there is everything for adventurers to play with, from four-years-old upwards. You will have a ball between sky and earth!
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