Sometimes you don't have to go far to see the wonders of nature (or is it magic?) at work. I've never seen her, but I've heard rumours of an old fairy who, once a year in April, visits the Hallerbos. Bored with dull Winter colors, she sweeps her magic wand and transforms the entire forest into a sea of purple. Once this has happened, people from everywhere make their way to the forest to see the miracle before it fades.
Look a bit closer and you'll see the purple colour comes from thousands of flowering bluebells that fill the air with fragrance. They are the ones who have granted Hallerbos its nickname of 'The Blue Forest'.
Also outside 'bluebell season', Hallerbos is worth a visit. The forest, among the largest of Flanders, is home to some giant Seqoia trees, making it a nice spot for a hike all year round. The forest has not always been this large, as during WWI a large section had been destroyed. Thanks to a big-scale replanting after the war, the Hallerbos survived and it has been thriving ever since.
How to visit?
The forest is very large, so you might want to check the official website where you can download a digital hiking map. The Bluebell Trail will lead you right through the heart of the Bluebell Forest. The paths are easy to follow and offer great views of this beautiful explosion of violet and blue.
Remember to stay on the paths while walking through the forest, because walking amongst the flowers can prevent flowers from growing there the next year. Even if you think you're walking through a gap in the flowers or a path that someone else has made, you're destroying the future of next year's flowers. There are many opportunities to get close-up photos of the flowers without getting off the path.
When to visit?
The bluebells bloom around mid-April, but it is impossible to predict when exactly they will flower, as this depends on how warm or cold Winter and Spring have been. The official Hallerbos website can help you plan your visit, as they publish regular updates about the different stages of blooming. In order to fully experience the magic of the blue carpet, it is important to plan your visit wisely, because if you come too early the flowers will be too sparse and if you come too late, the beech trees will have too many leaves, blocking the light, so the flowers start to wither. The forest is at its best during the 7-10 days following the blossoming of the beech leaves when the sun shines through the leaf canopy creating a magical play of light.
When the flowers are in bloom, many people will flock to the forest, so if you can, avoid visiting in the weekend for a more peaceful experience. Even though this purple color spectacle attracts large crowds, the 542 hectares large forest is so vast you will always be able to wander somewhere quiet. Make sure you have lots of memory on your camera and lot of time for a long hike around the forest.
Feeling hungry or thirsty from the hike? Order a local beer and/or dish at De Smidse, a former farm and paper mill turned into a restaurant and beer bar.