For outdoor lovers and adventurers alike, Belgium is more than just a pit stop on a European cuisine tour. The country boasts unbelievable scenery; from quaint cobblestone villages scattered through picture-perfect meadows to enchanting bike paths set beside medieval castles, you really can´t not be impressed with this bucolic paradise!
And the crème de la crème of this inspiring country? Rock climbing! Yes, absolutely! If you need to hone your bouldering skills on a challenging but fun day trip, come to Belgium. If you are in the market for a guided rock climbing route overlooking a charming and historically relevant river, come to Belgium. If you can´t decide between verti-hiking, abseiling, or via ferrata – well, you get the idea.
Christophe Lehner, a certified Rock Climbing Instructor, calls Belgium home, and knows the best climbing sites better than anyone. He has been exploring every crag and cranny in the region since he was 12 years old. From years of cultivating his passion in Freyr and on the other rocks of Wallonia, he has developed a sixth sense on how to mix professionalism, friendliness, and pleasure into every climbing adventure.
With the help of Christophe, we have come up with the 10 best spots across Belgium to enjoy the great geoformations and rocky paths that makes the country a haven for climbers.
Wallonia is known for its landforms, and Landelies is one of the reasons for this. It has some truly fascinating origin stories, from the east-to-west fault of the Faille du Midi to the Massif de la Tomb, which extends down both sides of the Sambre River. The structural nature of the erosion makes it a great place to climb.
The ascents in the aesthetically marvelous landscape are no joke. The surface varieties include smooth slabs and rocky outcrops, allowing great technical climbs. Some of the well-worn paths offer a gentler ascent, so it is a destination for climbers of all levels. You can also find great via ferrata routes in Landelies, including some of the most challenging in Belgium.
Many of the routes can combine a few different forms of climbing, for example a via ferrata that includes some abseiling or easy rock climbing. The captivating rock formations and the wide variety of routes and activities make this a must-climb destination.
Landelies is 1 hour driving from Brussels. You can also access it by train, it takes 1.30 (Brussels – Charleroi – Landelies).
2| Grands Malades
This more family friendly region caters to anyone looking to dip their toes into the climbing world. Don´t get me wrong, you can always find a fun and challenging course here, but it is a wonderful place to learn the ropes both figuratively and literally.
The Rocks of the Grands Malades have been well-known and exploited to obtain blue rock (Namur rock) for centuries – dating as far back as the Gallo-Roman era! From their accessible heights, you can look out over the Meuse River, which meanders along beside you as you climb.
This spot also allows for crossover sports, so if you wanted to add a little via ferrata into your routine, you can certainly be accommodated here. Christophe knows routes that can satisfy your adventurous spirit for the day, and also for an extended trip.
Les Grand Malades is 1 hour driving from Brussels. You can also access it by train and bus, it takes 1.30 (Brussels – Namur – Les Grands Malades).
If you head east to where the Meuse and the Sambre meet, you will find Beez, another great rock climbing sanctuary. The limestone here features tons of routes spanning the entire spectrum of difficulty, so it attracts a diverse array of climbers.
Here you can take a multi-day trip to go over as many routes as you like, with both single- and multi-pitch climbs. And to top it all off, you will have spectacular views of the forested Meuse Valley as you make your way up – at points reaching near 70 meters.
Beez is also contains for vert-hiking routes, which are essentially hikes using rock climbing techniques. Using safety measures such as roped walking and easy abseiling, you can experience the basic thrill of rock climbing without too much trouble.
Found just outside of Beez and the greater area of Namur, Goyet provides plenty of crags for all skill levels. It is a smaller group of hills in the Samson Valley. The pleasure at this location is found in the natural landscape and the easy design of the climbs.
It is suitable for beginners, and anyone who wants to appreciate the lush green countryside while they climb. There just happen to be ancient caves in Goyet as well, and a significant amount of history for anyone with a little time on their hands to explore.
The limestone has many single-pitch routes, so you can get accustomed to the rock without any truly sustained effort. For more advanced climbers, there are also more complex routes to test your abilities if you are looking for a challenge. The ascent is not substantial, so you are able to complete a larger quantity of climbs.
Heading south from Beez and Namur along the Meuse River, you will find a great slab of rock in Yvoir. Reaching moderate heights of 60 meters, the accessible routes offer singe-pitch and multi-pitch climbing, and if you are feeling ambitious, you can even take a sustained trip over a couple of days.
With a few ridges and isolated spots, you can climb, abseil, and mix sports to add some excitement to your day. It´s a great place to practice your climbing, and the limestone offers some relatively long routes. And the less sustained climbs have bigger holds, so beginners will have an easier time enjoying the climbs.
The riverside views are also spectacular, and adds a little natural appreciation to any adventurer peering out from the ascent. You can come here to enjoy the Meuse Valley and take on a few different climbs at various levels.
Moving east from Yvoir, there is a family-friendly location in the countryside with lots of easier, gentler climbs. As you climb higher and higher, you can look out over trees and forest and see what makes the Durnal climb so sweet. There are some more difficult climbs, but it is definitely a location to practice some single-pitching and to have fun.
Durnal is made up of slabs of a coarse, metamorphic rock, and with a reasonable amount of routes to enjoy, it´s a truly unique experience. Here you can use crimps and practice some of the basic skills to prepare you for a more sustained climb, or even take one here on site.
The sandstone is a huge draw for sport climbers – it is actually Belgium´s only sandstone cliff that you are permitted to climb. Even if that isn´t a compelling reason for you to visit Durnal, it is still a peaceful spot to spend an afternoon improving your climbing skills.
The rock face at Pont a Lesse is daunting, but it is fairly straightforward with dense cracks in the slab. As you make your way to the top, the views overlooking the Lesse Valley are breathtaking. The serene country and tranquil forest make this an evocative scene from a truly incredible adventure.
The routes, for the most part, are family friendly, and can be modified to include more difficult levels. There are enough climbs to make this more than just a day-long trip, and the modest height of some routes make it easy to come back and try it with a new and more exciting twist.
Now we get into one of the larger climbs! It is just a hop, skip, and jump to the west of Pont a Lesse, right along the Meuse River. Freyr is so big –with so many varying routes– you can spend days climbing and still feel like there is more left to discover. It is Christophe´s favorite massif, so it is definitely a must-see climbing spot.
Not to be outdone, the climbs follow the same aesthetics. The slab is made of limestone and is a perfect spot for sport climbing. The extensive network along the rock allows for single-pitch and multi-pitch climbing, as well as multiple sports (verti-hiking, abseiling, etc.).
Freyr will always keep your mind occupied and your heart racing! The routes reach 120 meters high, and with over 600 of them waiting to be explored, this will make any climber´s dream come true.
The views are stunning. From the top of certain climbs, you can view the river, the Chateau de Freyr, and a green expanse that stretches to the horizon. The location could not be better to lose yourself in a guided climbing trip!
Another Lesse Valley gem is found in the same region as Pont a Lesse and Freyr – the Aiguilles de Chaleux. For climbers in need of a challenge, or a trek that is a little out of the ordinary, this is the perfect location. From castles and walking paths, to rivers and ancient artifacts, you would be hard-pressed to find something that wasn’t fascinating here.
The rock has formed in thin bulges that rise 50 to 70 meters high. These ¨blades¨ make it difficult to accommodate larger groups on the narrow ridges, but they do make it a great place to enhance your multi-pitch climbing ability.
Chaleux puts you right on the river, and right at amazing scenery from its cliffs. The limestone is as competent as it is beautiful. It is a rewarding experience that Christophe recommends taking an extra day to enjoy. Sometimes one day isn´t enough to fully appreciate and value this incredible location.
This popular destination is just north of Freyr, snuggled into the same lush green landscape, and has beautiful vistas that you have to see to believe. And because it offers courses for beginners and novices, everyone can enjoy the great climbs.
Belgium´s history is as filling as a pot of moules-frites, and the culture of this pint-sized country is as intriguing as it is dense. But while it´s difficult not to be drawn to the beautiful story of this enchanting land, remarkably, the real magic is found in just that – the land itself.