Here is a great way of discovering Belgium on foot or by bicycle. The government of Wallonia got the idea of rehabilitating old, disaffected railways by removing the tracks and asphalting them over. Along the main rivers (the Meuse, Sambre and Ourthe) old towpaths were converted into long riverwalks. Rest areas where installed along the way. The result is wonderfully convivial and family-friendly network of 5 main routes and dozens of minor ones crisscrossing southern Belgium's picturesque landscape.

The longest route, known as RAVel 1 (290 km), goes all the way from Comines, a village at the border of France (and de facto suburb of Lille) to Maastricht in the Netherlands, passing through Tournai, Mons, Charleroi, Namur, Huy and Liège.

The RAVel 2 stretches from Mariembourg, bordering France's Champagne region, to the beer-famous Hoegaarden just across the boundary of Flanders. Its middle part, the Meuse valley section between Dinant and Namur is one of the most scenic in Belgium, if not in Europe.

RAVel 3 and RAVel 4 are both in the flatter Hainaut region. RAVel 5, on the contrary, is the hilliest and woodiest of the five main routes. It sinks deep in the Ardennes forest from Liège to Durbuy.

Simplified map of the RAVel network

You can find a more detailed map on the offical website

The RAVel is also suitable for roller-skaters and horse-riders.

It is possible to ride draisines on 14 km section along the Molignée valley between the villages of Warnant, Falaën and Maredsous (practical information, not on the above map, but close to RAVel 2 near Dinant). Pedalling on these old-fashioned auxiliary rail vehicles is quite an experience, heightened by the beauty of the surrounding forest. If you decide to give it a try, you could combine a visit of the nearby medieval ruins of Montaigle in Falaën, then finish the day by eating cheese and drinking beer at Maredsous Abbey.