With a complex concoction of lush forests, rugged Ardennes Mountain terrain, rolling green hills, and meandering rivers, Belgium has become a Shangri-La of adventure. The entire country, which covers over 30,000 square kilometers and has a population of 11.4 million people, is known for its unbridled nature and awe-inspiring wilderness. Journeys and jaunts into the most remote areas of intrigue have led to exhilarating programs in hiking and climbing, including one of the most highly inventive and fun: via ferrata.
A via ferrata, which translates to “iron path,” is a climbing route anchored by a steel cable that runs the length of the route. Every so often, the cable is fixed to the rock to aid climbing. Climbers attach themselves to the cable and begin the route, which is often also assisted by rungs or steps along the path. It can also include routes along ladders and bridges to help guide climbers from one side of the rocks to the other. This type of climbing allows for less experienced participants to experience compromising heights, unique positions, and impressive vistas on otherwise difficult rocks and mountains.
Combined with the incredible setting of Belgium and its nature, via ferrata is quickly becoming one of the most fulfilling adventure sports in the country, particularly in the south.
No one knows this better than Christophe, a local rock climbing instructor who has honed his craft on the rocks of Belgium since he was a 12-year-old boy. He has been nurturing his passion for rock climbing and outdoor adventure on the geology of Wallonia for decades and he has helped us create our guide to via ferrata in his home country.
With a host of ancient cities to explore and meadow after meadow of jaw-dropping beauty, it should come as little surprise that tourists and travelers place the scenic countryside front and center when preparing a trip into this small country in Northern Europe. Though Flanders in the north is a gold mine of promising activities and locations, climbing the impeccable rock of Wallonia and Southern Belgium holds a special place for via ferrata enthusiasts. Check out these amazing via ferrata trips in Belgium and be the first in line to pick a guide and go!
There are a number of reasons to climb a via ferrata, and even more to do it in Belgium. The country provides efficient and well-maintained paths for climbing on Wallonia’s geology. They are easily accessed and often include parking, with paths climbing straight through and across the bucolic and serene environment. This provides adventurers with a memorable and exciting climbing experience, featuring the best aspects of hiking and climbing all in one.
Here are the three most compelling arguments to climb via ferrata in Belgium.
Belgium can’t help but be naturally appealing. Via ferrata routes and climbs often look out across a vast wilderness beauty, topped off with a manicured garden for those lucky enough to climb around Anseremme and Pont-a-Lesse areas. Meadows and valleys spliced by trails through dense forests are common, an alluring feature that keeps travelers captivated by the scenery.
Part of the charm lies in its deep cultural ties, which can range from quaint village structures to the war memorial fields south of Namur (and across the country). Seeing these from the peaks of massive rock formations adds to the experience and carves a personal place for via ferrata climbers into the storied landscape of Southern Belgium.
Via ferrata does not require a substantial amount of experience, mostly just being comfortable with heights and having a reasonable fitness level. Put into practice in Belgium, this really does bring the landscape to your fingertips. Now every can see the unbelievable views of magnificent pastures unrolling into the distance, all from the top of a satisfying via ferrata climb.
Some programs even allow families to experience the rare and rewarding rush of conquering a route and standing on top of Belgian monoliths and rocks. A bit of exercise can bring the countryside to life, particularly for newcomers to the sport, and can instill a lifelong passion into a fun activity.
It’s not every day that you get to take a zip line through a forest, scale a limestone slab, venture across a monkey bridge, and, with the help of iron rungs, reach the top of a rocky outcropping that looks across a meandering river at a castle. Via ferrata is a foundation for climbing across disciplines, which blends the best features of Belgian culture and scenery with heart-pounding ascents, death-defying heights, and an immersive activity that is good for the body and mind.
The sport of via ferrata has developed over time to include many different aspects of the landscape. You will dangle safely from the side of rocks while making your way across routes that are defined by you and your guide. Plenty of spots in the country offer different options to comply with your own personal needs and abilities, covering nearly all types of rock climbing and adventure so you can adjust your path as necessary.
One of the best via ferratas and overall locations is Pont-a-Lesse. Roughly 35 kilometers south of Namur, this gorgeous spot in west-southwest Dinant is filled with intrigue. It sits just a few moments from the Freyr Castle and the Caves of Dinant, two incredibly enriching additions that can be added to your trip for an ultimate adventure.
The via ferrata has ridges and progressive climbing. A bit of abseiling at the end rounds out the experience, which is perfect for families and novices. “It is ideal to share a family activity in the countryside,” says Christophe. “Or for a first discovery of verticality.” This route is in the heart of the Lesse Valley and takes in a surprisingly wide array of geographic features in a relatively small area.
The blue rock at this Namur-adjacent location has been taken for centuries. Combine this remarkable geology with the green surroundings of Grands Malades, and you have a recipe for an unforgettable via ferrata. Still not convinced? How about an aerial bridge, zipline, and abseiling? Les Rochers des Grands Malades boasts some incredible scenery with varied and technical climbing, all in a half-day’s work. You should have some previous experience in the sport, as this area requires a higher level of physical strength than others (you should be able to hang by your arms).
The via ferrata covers about a half-mile from start to finish, the via ferrata is just up from the Meuse River. These great views don’t get in the way of the climb, which will feature some areas of tandem ascent, abseiling, and substantial hangs. This location is a great route for a first approach to via ferrata, including proper equipment use and safety techniques. A parking lot off of N80 makes it easy to reach and park before taking off on your trip.
To the west and south of Charleroi, a more strenuous via ferrata rises out of the pastureland north of Landelies proper. As it looks out across the meandering Sambre River, it features substantial climbs into tree-lined ridges over 300 feet in the air. The Massif de la Tomb and the Faille du Midi have worked together over time to provide this stunning landform with iconic sweeping views.
Cobbling together climbs on this route can keep you busy for an afternoon, with fireplace or chimney as one of the most thrilling sections of via ferrata in the country. You will have overhangs, chutes, and other vertical traverses, complimented by zipline and abseil portions towards the finish. Please note that previous experience climbing on a via ferrata and an excellent fitness level are required for this via ferrata in Landelies.
Located in one of the most beautiful locations around Namur, the Marche-les-Dames via ferrata is a great experience for everyone. The climbing takes place along the Meuse, looking out on incredible green forests. The initial course is 400 meters with options to extend the route into another. Climbers can expect a variety of obstacles, from serious vertical to bridges and abseiling.
Once on the via ferrata, take in the surrounding countryside. The spires stretching skyward are connected by bridges and cables, overlooking train tracks, the winding Meuse, and everything to the horizon. With accessible routes for a range of climbers, this is a via ferrata route you don’t want to miss. Come on the weekend, as access to the military zone is prohibited during the week.
The eastern rocks of Belgium are also known for compelling courses. Heading towards the southeastern border with Germany, a challenging Chaudfontaine course sits near the Vesdre River, up the hill from Hauster Park. Another bucolic gem, this via ferrata prides itself on its vertical wall and abseiling features. The approach trail of brush and forest helps place participants in the right mindset to take on a pristine rock slab. This is a short and supported course that tests your strength, so physical strength and previous experience are paramount here!
The climb itself is short, though the vertical is severe. Trees grow along the rock, adding to the natural allure of the route. Steel steps assist the climb, but overhangs increase the difficulty and can be intimidating. It can be a physically demanding affair, so come prepared. Some loose dirt and rocks can add to the charm of the route, adding necessary precaution on rugged terrain.
Via ferrata is a pleasant activity, so enjoying a program during a comfortable season is ideal. Planning a trip during the spring, summer, and fall is ideal, with great conditions generally from April all the way through October. The weather in Belgium, while at times rainy, is not too severe at this point of the year, so you should be able to find a program that fits your schedule with positive results.
The winter tends to be too cold for a reasonable via ferrata trip. Even if the weather may seem favorable, adverse conditions can delay a trip or even make it impossible to continue. The spring, summer, and autumn will also allow you to take in the foliage and wildlife that is blooming or changing around you. Relentless greens accompanying your climb can turn your great trip into the vacation of a lifetime.
With minimal equipment and fairly open access, via ferrata is not particularly expensive to enjoy. Depending on the number of participants, the included that is and is not included, and the overall duration of the trip, you can spend anywhere from 35 EUR to 180 EUR for a guided program. A three-day program starts around 210 EUR.
Additionally, some programs will include other activities or forms of climbing, which can drastically change the cost and scope of a via ferrata trip.
The illustrious countryside of Belgium provides endless venues to enjoy outdoor adventures. Feeling inspired? Check out all the programs available and sign up NOW for the via ferrata program of your dreams in Belgium!
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