The Semois. The source of this river lies in Arlon in Belgium and the river makes its way through the Ardennes until it debouches into the Meuse in France. During its way to France, it flows past hundreds of magnificent landscapes. This blogpost focusses on the part of the Semois valley between Bouillon and Bohan (French border). We describe the best things to see and do and different options for hiking in this quaint valley.
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The most impressive landscapes and viewpoints in the Semois valley
Honestly, every viewpoint that offers a view over the Semois and the region is impressive. However, we had some favorites that we love to share with you:
This 31 meters high viewpoint near Bouillon is a must-see. To get to the highest platform, you need to conquer the 161 steps. But the view makes worth the effort! You get views over the Bouillon castle and the forest-covered hills. From the center of Bouillon there are several walks to this viewpoint and it takes about half an hour to get to the Belvedere. You can reach the tower by car, but its less advisable as there isn’t a lot of parking space and the road is very challenging. For navigation use “Rue de la Bichetour, 6830 Bouillon”.
Tombeau du Géant (tomb of the giant)
This viewpoint in the little town Bottasart is probably the most famous one and it’s classified as extraordinary natural heritage of Wallonia. It offers a splendid view over one of the most-visited meanders of the Semois. According to the legend, an impressive huge gallic hero (hence the name ‘giant’) refused being captured by the Romans and preferred to throw himself of a rock. The giant was buried at the top of the hill, completely surrounded by the river. The viewpoint is easily reachable by car, and there is a huge parking lot nearby. To fully indulge in the beauty of this place, we recommend you to undertake this short hike. It takes you from the viewpoint down to the river and back up to the viewpoint. That way, you are able to see the tomb of the giant from different perspectives.
Le Jambon de la Semois
This viewpoint is close by the town ‘Membre’. Jambon means ‘ham’ in English and it refers to the shape of this meander of the Semois. This viewpoint offers a spectacular view over the Semois valley and the hills that are part of the Membre-Bohan national park. The viewpoint is easily reachable by car, but we do recommend hiking this area! The hike is steep but definitely worth it. This hike was though but very beautiful!
Chaire à prêcher in Corbion
Another viewpoint over the Semois, but this time near the town Poupehan. During a relatively steep hike through the woods, you pass along different viewpoints and finally you reach the Chaire à prêcher (which means ‘pulpit’). The hike starts at Rue de la Grotte in Poupehan and the hike is well-signed.
The most impressive towns
Bouillon is one of the prettiest cities in the Ardennes and has a lot of old buildings and history to discover. The main attraction is the medieval castle, overlooking and protecting the city. But there is plenty more to see and do in Bouillon. If you’re in for a walk through the city to discover all its monuments and views, we recommend you to do the (free) historic city walk that starts at the tourism office in Bouillon. Just follow the information boards and learn all about Bouillons history and discover some magical places.
This town is the last Belgian town the Semois flows through during its way to France. It’s the perfect place to start some hikes in the nature park Bohan-Membre. An interesting thing to see here is the broken bridge that was destroyed during the World War II and that was never restored. Other interesting things to see is the Lourdes grotto that is a truthful reproduction of the one in Lourdes. Near the banks of the Semois, you can also find the ‘pierre à marier’ (wedding rock). According to the legends, a ritual was performed here, where newlyweds were bound together.
This quaint town is proclaimed as one of the prettiest towns in Wallonia and it seems like time stood still here. It used to be a tobacco village and different buildings and sheds are reminiscent of that time. In the village, there are different information boards next to several buildings. Another cool thing to do near Laforêt is the ‘Pont de claies’, a primitive bridge that is used in summer to cross the Semois. We enjoyed the walk that takes you from Vresse-sus-Semois to Laforêt.
Of course there are plenty more villages to see in the Semois valley, but the above were our favorites.
In need of some adventure?
Mountain bike trails
Hiking the Semois valley is definitely an adventure, but biking is even more adventurous. There are some splendid mountain bike trails to discover in the Semois valley. Keep in mind however that most of the trails need good steering skills.
Also kayaking is a good option to add some adventure to your holidays. There are different companies alongside the Semois that offer kayak trips. We choose for a descent from the Lesse starting from Bouillon to Poupehan (15 kilometers). We saw stunning landscapes and nature from our kayak and we definitely recommend kayaking the Semois.
Les Échelles de Rochehaut
This is a hike with different ladders that help you conquer some impressive height differences. The hike is only 5 kilometers, but can be intense. The viewpoints along the way however make up the effort. The hike starts at the church in Rochehaut and is called hike nr. 43. First there is a steep descent to the banks of the Semois. After the descent, the climb back to Rochehaut takes you along different ladders back to the church of Rochehaut.
Where to stay in the Semois valley?
Au Pied Du Château – Bouillon
Au Pied Du Château is an extremely cozy apartment for 2 persons that is situated 500 meters from the main attraction of Bouillon, the castle! And the view from the balcony is breathtaking. The apartment has 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, a dining area, a kitchen and a balcony.
Chez Elena & Filipp – Bouillon
Chez Elena & Filipp is also an authentic appartment, 500 meters from the castle of Bouillon. The apartment has 1 bedroom, 1 bath room, a kitchen and dining/seating area.
B&B Le Nid Doux – Vresse-sur-Semois
Bed and Breakfast Le Nid Doux offers rooms with a private bathroom. The accommodation has a garden, terrace and seasonal pool.
La Petite Passerelle à Mouzaive – Vresse-sur-Semois
La Petite Passerelle à Mouzaive offers a splendid view over the Semois river. The holiday house has 1 bedroom, a bathroom and kitchen. There is a balcony and a kitchen with BBQ.
How about vanlife in the Semois valley?
First of all, wild camping in Belgium is forbidden, but just spending the night is allowed. However, it is not easy to find a spot for wild camping. There are plenty of campings in the Semois valley, but if you are looking for free options, you have different campervan parkings. Unfortunately, the Semois valley is rather popular so during weekends and the holiday season, these campervan parkings are very popular.
Looking for other things to do in the Ardennes, then check our post
Matthias and Mieke