The Semois Valley National Park is a stunning natural paradise located in the southern Ardennes region of Belgium. It encompasses 29,000 hectares of pristine forests, verdant meadows, and meandering rivers, offering a haven for nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and those seeking a tranquil escape. The park’s namesake, the Semois River, gracefully winds its way through the valley, creating a picturesque landscape dotted with charming villages, historical landmarks, and scenic viewpoints.
The Semois River
The Semois is a 210 km long river that rises in Arlon, Belgium, and flows into the Meuse at Monthermé, France. It crosses the Gaume and the Ardennes regions, and is characterized by significant seasonal fluctuations in flow.
National Park: Semois Valley
Since 2022 the valley of the Semois has officially been recognized as a National Park. This means the area will be better protected and preserved with sustainable tourism in mind.
Wildlife at the Valley of the Semois
The more than 30,000 hectares are home to a wide variety of animal and plant species; the rocky slopes of the valley provide many opportunities for plants and insects to thrive; the forests are vast and the rivers are not polluted. The wildlife at the valley of the Semois compromises several species, including otters, beavers, deer, lynx, wolves, foxes, badgers, herons, and many more.
Towns & Villages at the Semois Valley
Dotted along the banks of the Semois River lies a collection of charming villages, each with its own unique character and history. Bouillon, with its imposing medieval castle, stands as a testament to the region’s rich past. Bertrix, with its old slate mine and quaint town center, offers a glimpse into the area’s industrial heritage. Herbeumont, dominated by the ruins of a medieval castle, exudes an air of ancient charm. And Vresse-Sur-Semois, with its picturesque riverside setting, provides a tranquil retreat.
|Municipality||Town / Village|
|Bouillon||Dohan, Bouillon, Poupehan, Rochehaut, Frahan|
|Bertrix||Cugnon, Mortehan, Auby-sur-Semois|
|Vresse-sur-Semois||Alle, Mouizave, LaForêt, Membre, Bohan.|
Nestled in a meander of the Semois River, Bouillon is a charming town steeped in history. The town’s crown jewel is undoubtedly its imposing medieval fortress, which stands proudly atop a hill overlooking the valley. Explore the castle’s ramparts, towers, and dungeons, and imagine life in this strategic stronghold centuries ago.
While the town of Bertrix itself may not be the most well-known tourist destination, it is home to a rich history and natural beauty that make it worth exploring. Nicknamed “the City of Slate,” Bertrix boasts a fascinating industrial heritage centered around its once-thriving slate mines. Step back in time and discover this legacy at “Au Coeur d’Ardoise,” an old slate mine transformed into a captivating museum.
Delve further into Bertrix’s past by visiting the ruins of “Le Chateau des Fées,” a Roman castle dating back to the 2nd century. Imagine life in this ancient fortress, once a strategic stronghold guarding the region.
The old Viaduct Des Conques over the Semois river dominates the landscape in Herbeumont. The village is overlooked by the medieval castle ruins on top of the hill. Close to the Herbeumont Castle, there’s a panoramic viewpoint called “Tombeau du Chevalier” from where you have a lovely view over the meandring Semois river.
Nestled on a peninsula along the meandering Semois River, the idyllic village of Frahan can be overlooked from the Rochehaut lookout point. Explore the area on foot by following the scenic Les Crêtes de Frahan hiking trail.
Embark on a guided tour through the historic Ardoise d’Alle slate mine in the village of Alle and discover the regions industrial heritage.
Witness a unique tradition in the village of LaForêt, where residents annually construct an 80-meter-long braided wooden bridge called “Pont de Claeies” to connect the two riverbanks. The bridge is installed in the spring, typically around April, and dismantled when the water level rises in the autumn, typically around September.
Bohan, the last Belgian town before the Semois River crosses into France, exudes a charming atmosphere.
The area features many panoramic viewpoints over the Semois Valley. These can be great destinations for shorter or longer hikes, bike trips or sightseeing stops.
Panorama de Frahan
From the village of Rochehaut, there’s an easy roadside accessible panoramic viewpoint overlooking the village of Frahan. Make sure to include this one on your roadtrip as this is probably the most beautiful panoramic viewpoint in Belgium!
The Bouillon Belvédère offers a fabulous panoramic view over the historical town, located in the meander of the Semois. This lookout tower stands at a height of 385 meters and offers multiple levels from which to admire the picturesque town below.
The hike to the Belvédère starts at the Pont de Cordemoy, where you’ll follow hiking trail number 7. The trail is steep and winds through the forest for about 30 minutes before reaching the bottom of the tower. Be prepared for a workout as you’ll need to conquer a total of 161 stairs.
If you’re unable to hike the trail, it is possible to reach the Belvédère by car. However, be aware that the road leading up to it is rough and rocky and may potentially damage your vehicle.
The Giants Tomb – Le Tombeau du Géants
Le Tombeau du Géant (The Giant’s Tomb in French) is a panoramic lookout point overlooking on of the meanders of the Semois river in the village of Botassart near Bouillon. It’s a great location to include in your road-trip or hike. The viewpoint is accessible by car.
Hiking at the Valley of the Semois
- The GR 16, Sentier de la Semois is a long distance hiking route leading trough the beautiful valley of the Semois.
- Promenade des Echelles in Rochehaut is a popular and adventurous hiking route featuring several ladders to climb
- Les Crêtes de Frahan is a lovely adventurous hiking route in the village of Frahan (Vresse-sur-Semois)
- The “passerelle du Moulin de l’Épine” is a suspension bridge over the river in Bouillon, which is a great destination to include in your hike
- The panoramic lookout spots in Bouillon, Botassart and Rochehaut are both great starting points as well as destinations to include in your hikes.
Kayaking and Canoeing on the river Semois
The Semois River provides an idyllic setting for kayaking and canoeing adventures. Paddlers can meander through tranquil stretches of the river. The river is beginner-friendly and there are several rental companies and different routes. Here is an overview:
|Poupehan||Alle||12km||Kayaks La Vanne|
|Alle||Vresse||7km||Kayaks La Vanne|
|Alle||Membre||12km||Kayaks La Vanne|
|Alle||Bohan||20km||Kayaks La Vanne|
Where to stay
Vacation rentals in the form of holiday homes, bungalows and chalets are the most popular types of accommodation at the Semois Valley. There are plenty of rentals available ranging from cozy cottages to more luxurious holiday homes.
The Semois Valley is one of the best travel destinations for camping trips in Belgium. The area features many campsites, often located next to the water.
Camping Le Prehay and Camping Ile de Faigneul are 2 ASCI-Eurocampings recommended campsites in the village of Poupehan, between Bouillon and Frahan. In the area between Bouillon and Herbeumont the recommended ASCI campsites are Camping Maka and Camping Les Ochay. Other campsites can be found simply by using google maps.