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The Ardennes

If you’re looking for outdoor activities, fresh air and greenery, head for Belgium’s southeastern corner. Here you’ll find meandering rivers that are ideal for low-intensity kayaking. A whole series of dramatic cave systems have been sensitively equipped for visitors. Forested hills and deep valleys shelter appealing small towns topped by picture-perfect castle ruins. And in midwinter the slopes that edge the Hautes Fagnes fenlands might get enough snow to offer a weekend or two of skiing. As winter comes towards its end, the fabulous carnivals of Stavelot, Malmédy and Eupen burst with revelry. OK, so some of the Meuse Valley cities look dauntingly grimy, but scratch the surface and you'll find history, great hospitality and a wealth of attractions hiding history beneath the careworn exteriors.

Major towns are accessible by train and bus, but to really appreciate the rural highlights you’ll need a car or strong cycling legs.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout The Ardennes.