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Staycation in Haspengouw

Haspengouw, the fruit region of Belgium, is in our opinion the perfect region to enjoy a few days of rest or an adventure by bike. If you visit it in Summer, there is an abundance of fresh fruit (pears and apples) everywhere you look. In spring you can see the colourful trees blossom. Every season has its ups and downs. In this blog we take you back to the hot Summer of 2020, during our multiple-day cycling adventure in Haspengouw.

Fietsroutes in Haspengouw
Fruit trees in Haspengouw

Why Haspengouw?

In the summer of 2020 we were living in Kaulille, in Niels' parental home. This place always feels like coming home, but we hadn't been able to discover many regions by bike over there. Especially the southern part of Limburg with Tongeren, Sint-Truiden and Borgloon was still missing, so was about time to change this. Time for a cycling vacation in Haspengouw!

We mapped out a route using the cycling junction app (fietsknooppunten App) and were accompanied for two days by Sander, who normally would have cycled with us in Alaska. No Alaska for us in 2020, but we did enjoy the beautiful surroundings through the hilly landscape of southern Limburg. The heat wave that hit our country at that time pushed us to our physical limits and on day two we doubted to return back home. However, we persevered and eventually had a very nice cycling vacation in Limburg.

In this blog you can read why we think Haspengouw is the perfect region for a short staycation. We think you can cycle here in every season, but it might be nice to keep an eye on the blossom meter to check out when the fruit trees are at their best. In general, April / May is the best time for this, we found the summer just a bit too hot since you are cycling in hilly surroundings.

Cycling itinerary in Haspengouw

Our cycling route:

- Day 1: Kaulille to Hoeselt // 69km // 166 meters of altitude (ma)

- Day 2: Hoeselt to Borgloon // 40km // 367ma

- Day 3: Borgloon to Lummen // 48km // 305ma

- Day 4: Lummen to Kaulille // 72km // 190ma

Using the 'fietsknooppuntenapp', you can create a route in no time. Enter a start and end point and the route calculates itself. We prefer to look at the map to see what places you'll encounter and to add some cool viewpoints ourselves. Below is an overview of the junctions we followed during our trip.

Day 1: 203 - 205 - 209 - 206 - 245 - 247 - 248 - 05 - 274 - 309 - 308 - 316 - 300 - 305 - 92 - 91 - 243 - 98 - 82 -101 -103 - 84 - 200 - 85 - 108 - 519 - 123

Day 2: 123 - 119 - 109 - 110 - 107 - 111 - 116 - 117 - 132 - 156 - 157 - 536 - 158 - 159 - 537 - 151 - 155

Day 3: 155 - 154 - 152 - 153 - 162 - 161 - 169 - 168 - 134 - 135 - 189 - 147 - 150 - 175 - 176 - 194 - 195 - 313 - 312 - 318 - 319

Day 4: 319 - 523 - 329 - 330 - 345 - 503 - 341 - 342 - 515 - 258 - 257 - 256 - 254 - 253 - 241 - 202 - 204 - 203

Are you struggling to put together your own cycling itinerary? Give it some time and after a while you'll master it before you know. There are, however, also a few existing cycling routes which you can find or ask for at the tourist points. People are very friendly and helpful and will give tips and tricks for your cycling holiday. Feel free to get in touch with us as well if you need some help.

Why we love micro adventures close to home!

A cycling holiday and camping are inseparable for us. After a full day of outdoor cycling, there is nothing better than pitching our tent in the evening. For us, this is also the perfect way to reduce the cost of our travel budget and we love the adventure. A campsite can be very crowded in the summer months so we prefer not camping there. Wild camping is always our last resort when there's really no other option left.

Luckily, Haspengouw has another option for adventurous camping and that is to bivak. There are 5 bivak zones in Haspengouw of which we will test 2 on this trip.

Bikepacking Trip in Nederland
Art in Haspengouw - Helsh(ea)ven

Bivouac area Hooilingen (Hoeselt)

This bivouac area is nicely hidden among the fruit trees. Picking fruit is allowed here, perfect for making a fresh apple stew the next morning. There are three wooden platforms where you can pitch your tent, there is a compost toilet and you can make a fire in the fire pit. It is very quiet in the meadow area, the center of Hoeselt is 1.6 km away. The bivouac area is not situated at a cycling junction, so you have to deviate from the route. The nearest cycling junctions are 519 and 123.

The exact location of the bivouac zone: N 50 50.590 E 5 28.320

No reservation is required.

Bivouac area Speelboomgaard (Grootloon)

This unique bivouac area is located in a very popular spot, surrounded by various cycling and hiking routes. In high season you will never be alone here. Picking fruit is also allowed here. There are two wooden platforms where you can pitch your tent. There is a compost toilet and you can make a fire in the fire pit. The center of Borgloon is 1.5 km away. The bivouac zone can be found between cycle junctions 151 and 155.

The exact location of the bivouac area: N 50 47.470 E 5 21.220

No reservation is required.

Only a 5 minute walk from the bivouac area will bring you to the see-through church, ideal to the beautiful sunset. It's a work of art by Gijs Van Vaerenbergh and probably the most iconic spot you will see along the way on this cycling route.

The Green Divide - Prachtig uitzicht vanop de uitkijktoren
Reading between the lines at sunset - Borgloon

Rules for camping in bivouac places in Belgium

It is not unimportant to know that bivouac zones have some rules:

- You can only get here on foot or by bike, you are not supposed to camp here if you are by car.

- Silence, quiet and a one night stay are the guidelines.

- Groups of more than 10 people and occasional parties are prohibited.

- Respect the surroundings and the peace and quiet of any fellow campers.

- No noise (e.g. music).

- Respect nature!

- Take any waste back home.

- Cooking is allowed on a small burner or on a wood fire if there is a place for it.

Unfortunately, we have to report that we experienced multiple "violations" of these rules during our trip. At the bivouac zone in Hoeselt, we collected two (!) bags of garbage, food scraps and cigarette butts. Some people leave food behind in the hope it might be eaten by the next campers, this hardly ever happens so it is better to just take your leftovers back home. During the night some young people visited the campsite. Luckily they didn't make too much noise and once they realised we were camping, they were understanding and moved on quickly.

During the second night at the bivouac zone in Borgloon, we were less lucky. A large group kept us awake all night with music and laughter. We addressed this multiple times but unfortunately it's very difficult to debate with drunk people. We have to add that this was during the relatively strict corona measures and no pubs were open late. It is understandable that young people look for other places to have a good time together. Of course, it is a shame they misuse these beautiful natural places to do this instead of their own backyard.

However, we want to make people aware that such bivouac zones are extremely rare in Belgium. Every year bivouac zones are getting shut down due to the lack of respect for the rules. If we want to keep enjoying these unique places, it's up to all of us to respect the rules and be grateful that we can camp here. Leaving trash behind is never okay and if you want to party there are other places for that!

If you want more information about bivouac zones in Haspengouw, you can find it via this link.

Further tips for cycling in Haspengouw:

- There are plenty of villages and towns where you can provide supplies

- Rather not camp? Haspengouw has a wide range of hotels (not cheap)

- You can spend a unique night at the Tranendreef

- Be sure to have a drink in the fietscafeé Den Tuyter in Heers (bicycle junction 536)

- Enjoy "Art in the Landscape", not only Reading between the Lines and Helsh(ea)ven offer beautiful works of art

- Do you prefer a shorter bike ride instead of a multiple-day cycling itinerary? There are many day cycling tours to be found via vistlimburg

- ...

Welcome to my Garden

Another platform we used this trip was "Welcome to my Garden". Locals offer a place for your tent in their garden or sometimes you can even find a treehouse, poolhouse, etc. It is a great way to meet other people and overnight in a place you'd otherwise never see. On our way back home, we were able to spend a night in the garden of Beate and her family in Lummen. We pitched up our tent in their garden next to a small forest and after a splash in their fantastic swimming pond, they invited us for some nice take-away fries, lovely!

You can easily become a member of Welcome to my Garden through this link. You can also register as a host if you want to offer a local experience for cyclists and hikers. We love these platforms because of its open and easy way of communicating + it's a great way to save some money as well.

At the last day of this trip we stumbled upon a very special place "cycling through the maïs", in Paal (Beringen). A man-made maze through which you can cycle for about ten minutes, a special experience in Limburg!

Ben jij ook overtuigd om een fietsvakantie dichtbij huis te plannen? We zijn zeker dat je het geweldig zal vinden! Breng ons op de hoogte van jouw plannen en we helpen graag, veel fietsplezier.

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