Just 20 minutes outside the gritty and urban city of Charleroi, the Pays Des Lacs region comprises 1,800 hectares of forest and lakes that is perfect for nature lovers and those who enjoy active holidays. From zip lining to beer tasting, this region offers so much variety in things to see and do, and is a perfect getaway for families, couples, and groups. If you are looking for a destination that will allow you to relax, but won’t leave you feeling bored, this is just the place!
Here is everything you need to plan a great trip to this stunning part of Belgium…
- How to get to Pays Des Lacs
- Where to stay
- Explore Thuin and try local wines
- Visit Château de Chimay
- Try Trappist beer & get a look at how it’s made
- Explore the lakes by bike, kayak, or paddleboard
- Go zip lining across the lakes
- Take a ride on a steam train
- Go for a beer and chocolate tasting
- Try some adventure sports
- Take a hot air balloon ride at sunrise
- Have a sunset dinner on the lake
How to get to Pays Des Lacs
The closest airport to the Pays Des Lacs region is Brussels Charleroi. Ryanair fly directly to Charleroi from 83 destinations around Europe with fares starting from as little as €11 each way. Below are the flight schedules from Dublin, Manchester, and Edinburgh – to find flights from other airports you can search Ryanair.com.
- Dublin – Charleroi
- Summer ’19 Schedule: 4 weekly flights (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday)
- Winter ’19 Schedule: 3 weekly flights (Monday, Friday and Sunday)
- Manchester – Charleroi
- Summer ’19 Schedule: 2 daily flights (Monday to Friday); 1 daily flight (Saturday and Sunday)
- Winter ’19 Schedule: 9 weekly flights (double daily flights on Monday and Friday)
- Edinburgh- Charleroi
- Summer & Winter Schedule: 5 weekly flights (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday)
From Brussels Charleroi airport, the easiest way to get around is to rent a car as the sights and towns that are worth visiting are quite spread out. You can rent a car from RentalCars.com for around €25 per day from the airport.
Where to stay at the Pays Des Lacs
We stayed at the Golden Lakes Hotel, which is located right beside the Eau d’Heure lakes with stunning views of the water from each room. Double rooms start at €70 per night with a buffet breakfast included.
Bicycles can be rented from hotel reception to explore the lakes, and water sports such as paddle boarding and kayaking are available just a short walk along the lakeside.
Explore Thuin and try local wines
Just 20 minutes outside Charleroi, Thuin is a picturesque medieval city with winding cobbled streets, stunning hanging gardens, and a UNESCO listed belfry. Spend a day or two wandering through the streets, stopping in at the little cafes and restaurants for coffee or some locally made wine. You could even pop into Clos Des Zouaves winery for a tasting during your visit.
To get to Thuin from Charleroi, you can either rent a car from RentalCars.com and drive or take the S63 train from Marchienne-Zone to Thuin station.
Visit Château de Chimay
Chateau de Chimay is the traditional home of the princes of Chimay. The castle has been owned by the Prince of Chimay and his ancestors for centuries, and it is open to the public for tours during part of the year. If you’re lucky you may even meet one or more members of the family on your tour!
Try Trappist beer
Trappist beer is a special kind of beer that is brewed within in the walls of Trappist monasteries by the community of monks. Most of the income generated by this activity is devoted to the needs of the community and social works. There are just 14 monasteries in the world that produce this type of beer, and the second largest one can be found in Chimay.
If you would like to try these famous beers and learn more about how they’re made, you can visit the ‘Chimay Experience‘ which invites you to dive in the heart of its permanent exhibition and discover the production secrets of the Chimay trappist beers and cheeses. Take a tour of the Notre-Dame de Scourmont Abbey where the monks live, and learn about their lifestyle and the foods and beers they create.
Explore the lakes by bike, kayak, or paddleboard
Espace Fun offers kayaking, windsurfing, stand-up paddle boarding – both for beginners and those who are a bit more experienced. They have a small lakeside ‘beach’ area with a bar, deckchairs, relaxation area, and even Beach volleyball.
Perfect for families, or those who like to keep active on holiday, this is a great place to have a fun day full of different things to do. There are also regular activities like yoga and music that take place here.
Go Zip Lining
Located on the shores of the Plate Taille lake at the Eau d’Heure Lakes, the Natura Parc is an adventure park comprising several tree climbing courses, zip lines including two return trips above the lake, a pendulum jump, a free fall and many other activities.
If you feel like an adrenaline rush, try one of the fun experiences here and have a memorable few hours during your trip. There are various activities that are suitable for children, so this is great for families, and they also offer packages for stag and hen parties too.
Take a ride on a steam train
Set in the former international station of Treignes, the steam railway museum presents a precious record of Belgium’s rail and industrial history. This would be a fun activity for young kids, as you get the opportunity to ride a steam train through the stunning Belgian countryside. You can enjoy the stunning scenery as the train rumbles through the region, and stop close to the border of France to stretch your legs and go up front to meet the train drivers.
The museum also organises themed events where you can eat dinner on the carriages – there is an upcoming valentine’s day meal that is available right now.
Go for a beer and chocolate tasting
Located in the tiny rural village of Romerée, the Eaux Vives brewery is an opportunity to discover the brewer’s art and try some local beers & chocolate. Set in a stunning barn that dates back to the 18th century, almost four years of work were necessary to restore the building to what it is today.
Take a tour of the brewery and learn how a beer gets its colour, alcohol content and foam and discover the different beers they brew here.
Try some adventure sports
Spin Cablepark is for adrenaline junkies and water lovers who want to add a little adventure and excitement to their trip to Belgium. This adventure park offers two nautical ski lifts, so you can try your hand at water skiing, wakeboarding,
kneeboarding and wakeskating. The cable pulleys allow you to try these activities without a boat, which makes it a little easier for beginners.
Spin also offers fun escape rooms, flyboarding, and SUP yoga if you want to try something different. There is accommodation on site if you want to spend a few days trying everything on offer, and there is also a restaurant, bar, and barbecue area.
Take a hot air balloon ride at sunrise
Start the day with a scenic ride above the stunning scenery in the Pays Des Lacs for an experience you won’t forget! Ballon Evasion offers 2 hour sunrise or sunset hot air balloon rides all week, to allow you to see the region at its best. Group and private rides are available, and there is the option to add a glass of bubbles to your experience.
Have a sunset dinner on the lake
Le Tri-Marrants restaurant in Froidchapelle is located on the shore of La Plate Taille lake with a panoramic view of the lake. You can enjoy a delicious meal with locally-sourced ingredients while watching the sun go down through its floor-to-ceiling windows. There is also an outdoor terrace for the warmer months!
We ate here on our first night in the region, and it was the perfect start to our time at the lakes. We sampled local cheese, wines and beers, along with delicious main courses while watching the sky change from blues to oranges and pinks as the sun went down.
Tri-Marrants is engaged in a “Sustainable & Responsible” cooking process. They source ingredients directly from farmers, recycle and compost waste, and use disposable straws rather than plastic. They also offer vegan and vegetarian options.
Those are my top things to see, do, eat, and drink in the Pays Des Lacs region of Belgium. Next time you feel like recharging your batteries, hop on a flight to Charleroi and get back to nature!