After doing some research, I discover that the Viroin-Hermeton nature park is the perfect destination for an active holiday in Belgium. A wide range of activities is possible in this area. You can experience a fascinating railway journey, sail a boat on an underground river or having a walk through a canyon. Yes, I’m really talking about Belgium!
Its geographical location
The Viroin-Hermeton nature park is located in the Belgian province of Namur. It stretches over the municipalities of Viroinval, Couvin and Philippeville, close to the French border. It owes its name to the two rivers flowing through the area: the Viroin and the Hermeton. Both are tributaries of the Meuse.
Fondry des Chiens, a spectacular geological site
Although the Viroin-Hermeton nature park is generally less known by tourists, chances are high you’ve seen passing by this image on your socials. Fondry des Chiens, which is a 20 meter deep sinkhole, attracts many hikers and photographers with its exceptional rock formations.
The village of Nismes is the starting point for several hiking routes, leading to the canyon. There is a short walking trail of four kilometers (red signs) or a slightly longer trail of seven kilometers ( yellow signs). I prefer the yellow trail, because this one offers some beautiful viewpoints along the way (la Roche aux Faucons for example). Just before returning to the village of Nismes, you will reach Fondry des Chiens.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION. You can reach Fondry des Chiens by car as there is parking lot at about 100 meters. However, if you want to do one of the hikes as described above, you can better leave your car at the spacious parking lot in the village center. There is a charging station for electric cars and camper spots with a picnic bench and disposal area.
The Three Valleys Steam Railway
Every now and then, an authentic steam train puffs through the green countryside of Viroin-Hermeton. The train departs in Mariembourg and travels through the rural villages of Nismes, Olloy-sur-Viroin and Vierves-sur-Viroin to Treignes. It’s a beautiful ride of about 30 minutes. Better not hang out the window while the train is moving, or you will find soot particles in your hair for the next days. Well, that’s just my luck. Click here to check the timetable of the Three Valleys Steam Railway.
In Treignes, you’ll have time to visit the railway museum before heading back to Mariembourg. The railway museum houses a certain number of locomotives and carriages. The oldest locomotive dates back to 1894.
About cave lions and Neanderthals
In the archaeological museum of Treignes (le musée du Malgré Tout), you can dive even deeper into history. Although it’s a small museum, the exhibition is diverse and quite unique, with pieces dating back to prehistory. One of the objects drawning my attention immediately is the skeleton of a cave lion. Don’t worry, you won’t encounter this animal in our forests. It is an extinct animal species, related to the lion. The collection takes you on a journey through time, from prehistoric times to Gallo-Roman times.
All too often, history is labeled as “boring”. Quite a shame, if you ask me. It’s so fascinating to find out how this world looked like in the past. Definitely give it a chance when you’re in the south of Belgium. The museum is very educational for children too. They can learn more about history and the evolution of human being in a playful way.
An underground boat tour
A large number of caves can be found in the Belgian Ardennes. Some of them can only be explored by speleologists, but others can be visited for tourist purposes too. In the Viroin-Hermeton nature park, for example, the Caves of Neptune are open to public. Take a guided tour and just enjoy the audio visual effects created underground. Especially the boat trip during the last part of the tour is very cool. After your visit, you can do a short hike in the woods above the caves.
Authentic villages in Viroin-Hermeton
The picturesque village of Vierves-sur-Viroin is located in the middle of the nature park Viroin-Hermeton. It’s stated to be one of the most beautiful villages of Wallonia. There are two short hiking trails (blue and red) departing from the church. Follow the blue signs if you want to see the village from another perspective. There are some great viewpoints included in this hike!
Where to stay: Le Presbytère de Sautour
When you’re looking for an active holiday combined with a little bit of luxury, I think I’ve found the perfect place to stay. Le Presbytere de Sautour is a small-scale hotel with nine rooms and a restaurant, located in Sautour. A picturesque village near Philippeville. The building, which once served as a rectory, has been beautifully renovated. As a hotel guest, you can use the outdoor pool, sauna and jacuzzi. It’s so great to end the day like this!