Let me start this post by kicking in an open door. Belgium isn’t particularly known for its outdoor adventures and rugged landscapes. There are a couple of reasons for that, among them that many people simply associate Belgium with historic cities, delicious food and architecture. The idea that there might be some outdoor activities in Belgium as well doesn’t cross a lot of people’s minds.
And that’s completely understandable. I, too, agree that the cities in Belgium should be your main focus during your first visit to this small Western European nation. However, if you happen to be looking for an entirely different and alternative, even unique, experience, you might want to consider doing some of the following, possibly surprising, outdoor activities in Belgium.
In this particular list of outdoor activities in Belgium, all of them are in the gorgeous Ardennes region, a place of rolling hills, rocky cliffs, dense forests and countless rivers and streams.
Fun and Adventurous Outdoor Activities in Belgium
Kayaking and Canoeing on the River Ourthe
The incredibly scenic River Ourthe winds its way through one of the most beautiful areas in the Ardennes. Made up of gentle and quiet sections, but also of waterfalls and rapids, this wonderful river is a superb destination if you want to go kayaking or canoeing. There are many adventure companies in the area where you can rent kayaks and other watersports equipment.
Sailing on the Eau d’Heure Lakes
More watersports, most notably sailing, can be done at the Eau d’Heure Lakes. This collection of five large, man-made lakes makes up the Belgian “lakes district”, the largest lake area in the country. Surrounded by meadows and forests, these lakes are the number one destination for watersports in Belgium, attracting kayakers, yachters, fishermen, standup paddle boarders, windsurfers and sailors.
While this is obviously not an outdoor activity, it is definitely an adventurous activity, which is why I included it in this list. More than fifteen caves are open to the public in Wallonia, Belgium’s French-speaking southern half, while many more are only accessible to professional cavers or on special guided tours. The most famous caves are the Grottes de Han and the Neolithic mines in Spiennes, which, by the way, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This variety in caves attracts many people to this part of the country, whether they just want to walk around in an underground cavern or want to do some serious spelunking.
Hiking La Transardennaise
The best way to really appreciate the scenery in the Belgian Ardennes is by going for a hike. La Transardennaise is arguably Belgium’s most scenic long-distance hiking trail. Winding its way for 160 kilometers through woods and over hills, this trail connects Bouillon and La-Roche-en-Ardenne, two of the prettiest towns in the region. You can also mountain bike La Transardennaise, in case you like getting around on two wheels.
Rail-Biking in the Hautes Fagnes
This is one of the most remarkable outdoor activities in Belgium you can do. Rail-biking is a great way to repurpose abandoned railroads. It is basically nothing more than biking on a specially built wagon that fits on the railroad tracks, with room for two people in the back and two in front, who have to do the pedaling. There are a few places you can do this in Belgium, but I would recommend rail-biking in the Hautes Fagnes, Belgium’s highest plateau.