A blogger’s advice to discover the beauties of the Ardennes

Just for you, I asked Julien Libert, the author of the blog » Les Sentiers du Phoenix » who is also passionate about the Ardennes, for some advice to discover the beauties of the Ardennes. Here he tells you about his favourite tips and his favourite attractions. All to inspire you on your next Ardennes escapade!

Julien Libert, a Belgian blogger and running fan, is the author of the blog « Les Sentiers du Phoenix ». I sat down with him to learn about his best tips so that you can discover the best that the Belgian Ardennes has to offer you. Interview.

What are the attractions of the Ardennes that one absolutely must visit when staying there?

For me the attractions of the Ardennes are many! First of all, there is a fairly strong presence of ecotourism. The hiking infrastructure allows you to discover the Ardennes in an environmentally friendly way. You can not only find different GR (long distance trails) but also the Escapardenne trail that starts from Kautenbach and goes to La Roche-en-Ardenne… and many others are being rolled out. The development of bivouac areas really allows the discovery through soft roaming of the territory and it’s a really good way to explore it.

Next, at the gastronomic level, there are many treasures as diverse as the villages that populate the Ardennes and that is quite inviting.

Another attraction is the variety of landscapes that one can find between the different valleys. All these places create terroirs that are completely different. When you are in the Eastern Townships, you are completely disconnected from the landscapes that you find in the Semois Valley, for example.

There are also these European LIFE projects for the rehabilitation of the environment that have been undertaken; which allow both foreigners to discover a territory that has been restored to its natural level, and, at the same time, for the inhabitants to rediscover their region. It’s rewarding for everyone.

It is also a region rich in tourist attractions in the traditional sense of the word. It’s quite crazy to see the diversity of activities on offer: on the Chimay side, you can find the steam railway, while in Vielsalm you can find the Coticule museum…

Finally, the Celtic heritage is also a particularity of the Ardennes heritage. The Ardennes, Brittany, Ireland and Scotland are the last great Celtic territories in Europe. So you can find the Chesle near Maboge, in La Roche-en-Ardenne, and other sites like the megalith museum in Wéris or the Celtic museum in Libramont.

© Julien Libert / Sentiers du Phoenix

For you, what would be the top three best places to discover in the Ardennes?

My favourite would be the Plateau des Tailles, near the Baraque Fraiture. It descends on the valley of the Ourthe, until La Roche-en-Ardenne. The variety of landscapes is amazing and it is still a very well preserved place, far from everything. Without a doubt, it is one of the wildest places in Belgium.

© Julien Libert / Sentiers du Phoenix

For second place, I would say the Region of Saint Hubert with its exceptional forest. In early January, I bivouacked with friends, and we were under a meter of snow for two days. It was the only week it had snowed in Belgium and it was like being in Scandinavia. This forest is the largest and most impressive in the Ardennes. In addition, the chance to come across wildlife is very high, so it’s a real paradise for those who love animal watching.

Finally, the valley of the Semois is full of stories like that of tobacco, a very unusual one. The elevation level is also impressive because the Semois has really dug into the earth and has formed very deep valleys.

And, as the cherry on the cake, I would also add the High Fens. It’s crazy to walk there and think that 150 years ago a big part of the Ardennes was covered with moors and heathers! It’s a bit the Scandinavian and Scottish side of the Ardennes.

© Julien Libert / Sentiers du Phoenix

© Julien Libert / Sentiers du Phoenix

What do you like most in the Ardennes? Why is this region good for outdoor sports?

When you are on a plateau, you can see a lot of villages in the distance. But once you go down into the valley, you are completely cut off from everything and you feel like you’re really at the end of the world, even when you’re 500 metres from the first house. It is because of this « garden side » that you find when you open the door and are immersed in the countryside just a few metres from home that is really interesting. And there are also grandiose landscapes, such as Herou and the High Fens… For me, all this variety of panoramas shape the wealth of the territory.

© Julien Libert / Sentiers du Phoenix

© Julien Libert / Sentiers du Phoenix

For you, what are the most beautiful trails in Belgium?

I risk making enemies with this question ? Sincerely, for me, the most beautiful trail is the one of Herou that is done in the valley of the Ourthe from Nadrin, just above the Rock of Herou.

On the other hand, my favourite trail is still the Bouillonnante because it was my first true trail in the Ardennes. I have done it four times. Once, the short course as a first race, twice the 56 km, and two years ago, they made a 75 km course along the entire valley of the Semois, from Bouillon to Membre. It was an awesome, sumptuous and very difficult course, but not difficult for the sake of difficulty.

Finally, the ohm trail in Aywaille goes through the most beautiful corners of the Ardennes: the Ninglinspo, the Valley of Chefna… What is impressive is the altitude of the mountain: it’s like being in the Alps or in the Vosges.

© Julien Libert / Sentiers du Phoenix

I hope all these tips will help you plan your next stay in the Ardennes! Do you want to talk about your favourite places and attractions in the area? Feel free to share them in the comments!