When we had the chance to go on a weekend trip with a Travel Van (read our experience here), we immediately thought of this two-day roadtrip that has been on our list for a while. We take you on this trappist roadtrip along Chimay, Orval and Rochefort in combination with some other nice stops along the way!
📍 Total distance: Approximately 250 km
🛏️ Where to stay: We had a Travel Van, so there's plenty of choice to spend the night somewhere along the way, but hotels are certainly abundant between Rochefort and Florenville or spend the night in the beautiful city of Bouillon.
Did you know?
In Belgium there are officially 5 Trappist beers: Westmalle, Westvleteren, Chimay, Orval and Rochefort.
There are 3 conditions to call a beer Trappist:
👉 The beer must be brewed in or near the abbey
👉 Monks of the Cistercian order supervise the production.
👉 The profits go to the monastic community and if there is any money left over, it goes to good causes.
🏁 Start: Lacs de l'Eau d'Heure
The start of the road trip is at the well-known lake district of Lacs de l'Eau d'Heure. This nature reserve with its 70km of shores offers various activities such as a visit to the water dam, various water sports, the aquatic centre and many more. We took our time here to have a picnic and a walk.
First stop: savour the Chimay experience
Next, we head south to the first Trappist abbey: Chimay. The Abbey of Notre-Dame de Scourmont is an oasis of peace and quiet and it is certainly worthwhile to take a walk around the Abbey. The walls of this abbey contain over a century and a half of tradition! The chapel, garden and cemetery of the Abbey can be visited free of charge. Be sure to check the visiting hours as the monks still work here and the chapel is still used for prayer. The brewery part cannot be visited, but thanks to the Chimay Experience, located 500m from the abbey, you can learn more about the history, brewing process and about the Chimay cheeses in an interactive way. Of course, a tasting of the delicious Chimay Trappist is not to be missed. Chimay Experience: €6.50 per adult
Fondry des Chiens: the Belgian Grand Canyon
The impressive sinkhole of Fondry des chiens - also called the Belgian "Grand Canyon" - is located near the village of Nismes, about 25 minutes from the Chimay Abbey. It was the first time for us and we didn't know what to expect. But once on the spot, we had to conclude that this is a beautiful piece of Belgium. Fondry des Chiens is about 20 metres deep and 100 metres long and is an exceptional geological site. A visit to Fondry des Chiens is very easy to organize by car, there is a special parking area for visitors and it is within walking distance of the sinkhole. Visits are free.
Rochefort: Castles, caves and Trappist beer
Let's start with the bad news: the abbey of Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy cannot be visited and there is no visitor centre like in Chimay. So the only thing you can do is visit the region and enjoy a Rochefort Trappist in one of the many nice bars. Of course, everyone knows Rochefort as an ideal weekend destination in the Ardennes. There is so much to visit, just think of the Caves of Han, the Castle of Lavaux-Sainte Anne, the many hikes in and around Rochefort or enjoying culinary delights in one of the many restaurants. We chose to walk around in the centre and to combine it of course with a delicious Rochefort Trappist beer.
Nature reserve Les Epioux: Instant Canada feeling
The domaine des Epioux is a nature reserve consisting of 5 ponds and several forests that together cover more than 1500ha. At the large main pond you can find the abandoned and protected castle of Epioux. You can completely relax here and we had the feeling that we were teleported to Canada. Highly recommended.
Historical and gastronomic tour of the Abbey of Orval
Do you already know the legend of the Abbey of Orval? The monastery is located on this site because Mathilde of Tuscany, then countess of Chiny (and aunt of Godfrey of Bouillon) dropped her wedding ring in a well. She begged God for help and a trout is said to have appeared with the lost ring in its mouth... Mathilde then exclaimed: 'It really is a val d'or here, a golden valley.'
This heavenly place will amaze you whether you are religious or not. The history of Notre-Dame d'Orval Abbey dates back to 1132(!), so there is a lot to tell on the spot. The museum is interactive and explains the architecture and history, as well as life as a monk. Explore the impressive ruins that survived the destruction of the French Revolution, or find a quiet spot in the peaceful garden. The brewing process is also explained in detail through an interactive presentation in one of the outbuildings. Cost of admission: €7 per adult.
👉 Do you have a question about our Trappist roadtrip in Belgium? Let us know below in the comments!
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