The Flemish Beers route
8 days / 7 nights | Self-guided cycling tours
Belgium is famous for its many different beers. Belgian beer brewing dates to the Middle Ages, when even children drank beer because water could make you ill. Today there are over 200 breweries still in operation. Many popular beers, from refreshing white ale to bolder tripels and quadrupels can be traced to Belgium. On this cycling holiday you will discover the origins of several of Belgium’s best beers, all the while enjoying the lovely surroundings these beers come from. You will cycle through the woody Campine region, past famous Achelse Kluis abbey, crossing the border into the Dutch province of Noord Brabant.
Level 1: This is an easy cycling trip on relatively flat terrain, suitable for people with little or no cycling experience. Daily cycling distances span roughly 30–50 km. A 3-gear bike should suffice.
Day 1: Arrival Genk
Organize your own trip to Genk, where you will receive a friendly welcome at your hotel, situated in delightful Molenvijver Park.
Day 2: Genk – Heeze (Cycling 75 km / 47 miles)
On quiet roads, make your way to Bocholt, home to Europe’s largest beer brewery museum. Here you will discover the whole procedure leading up to a perfectly poured pint. Continue past Hamont to Beverbeekse Heide nature reserve consisting of wetland, woods and patches of heath. Then make a stop at Achelse Kluis: St. Benedict’s Abbey and adjacent brewery, shop, gallery and inn. The brewery, closed to the public, is one of the few places in the world where Trappist beer is still brewed, now under the supervision of two remaining monks, Cistercians of the Strict Observance or Trappists. After a well-earned Tripel, in the sunshine outside the inn, proceed through Leenderbossen woods to the villages of Leende and Heeze. In the evening, go for a pleasant walk on the grounds of Heeze Castle.
Day 3: Heeze – Turnhout (Cycling 65 km / 41 miles)
On today’s route you will traverse the Brabant Campine / Kempen region. Enjoy woods and fields of heather (come in August to see the heather in flower!). Stop off in Brabant towns Valkenswaard and Bergeijk. Back in Belgium, the route passes close to Postel Abbey where beer has been brewed since 1611. Have a break in Arendonk and then end the day in Turnhout, a town historically linked to the production of playing-cards. Check out the museum!
Day 4: Turnhout – Antwerp (Cycling 70 km / 44 miles)
Your first stop is picturesque Merksplas where you can pop in at the visitors’ centre to find out all about former Merksplas-Kolonie, a corrective institution where able-bodied vagrants and beggars were taught farming skills and made to work the fields. Later on, pass Oostmalle and Malle on the way to Westmalle where you will in a well-deserved Trappist beer at the café across the road from the abbey, before continuing on your way to the cosmopolitan city of Antwerp.
Day 5: Antwerp – Leuven (Cycling 64 km / 40 miles)
As you leave Antwerp behind, your surroundings will become progressively quieter and greener. If you are into military heritage, stop off in Mortsel to visit Fort no. 4 of the originally eight Brialmont Forts (1860-1864) that made up the defensive line of Antwerp. It is built in brick with sandstone decorations and stands on an island surrounded by a ditch and glacis. Cycling towards Leuven you will pass the festival grounds of Rock Werchter, an annual four-day festival held at the end of June / beginning of July. The Rock Werchter Experience Centre can be found in the village of Rotselaar. As you approach Leuven on your bicycle, you will encounter some gentle slopes. Leuven is a friendly and attractive university town. In the evening, have your taste of the good life alongside of the local bon-vivants. Admire the lovely architecture of the Town Hall and library. Go for a walk through the quarter known as Groot Begijnhof, a beguinage.
Day 6: Leuven – Diest (Cycling 48 km / 30 miles)
This wonderful leg of the tour takes you to Diest. In Tielt-Winge you will find Vlooybergtoren, a viewpoint with a difference: a rusty flight of stairs that ends in mid-air and looks like it will topple over at any minute. A little farther on, you will find Haksberg Castle amid 3.6 hectares of vineyards. Their wines are named after birds that can be found in the local Hageland region. Your next stop is Belgium’s most important pilgrimage site, Scherpenheuvel, which boasts the oldest central-plan domed church in the Low Countries. Crown your day in beautiful Diest, a town that has ties to the Royal House of Orange. As yet undiscovered by mass tourism, it will probably be your biggest surprise on this holiday. Have a look around the courtyard beguinage, one of the oldest, most beautiful and best preserved in the Low Countries. Amble along the River Demer which flows through town once again, after having been covered up since the 1960s. A boardwalk, a cycling path, steps and seating invite the townspeople to spend time by the water.
Day 7: Diest – Genk (Cycling 53 km / 33 miles)
The last leg of this tour takes you to several special and unique places. Cycling on today’s flat roads won’t leave you breathless, but the landscape surely will. Firstly, you will cycle to Schulermeer lake, that offers an array of water sports. Next, you will cycle to De Weijers, also known as Land of 1001 Ponds. Slalom your way around the manmade fishing ponds, marvelling at the colourful vegetation and keeping an eye out for special species of amphibians and birds. Your next stop is in Bokrijk, an open-air museum which covers country life from 1910 to the 1960s, offering workshops in all kinds of historical skills and crafts. Towards the end of the day, get ready for the most bizarre experience of this holiday: Cycle on path a that runs for 200 meters right through a natural lake. You will be at eyelevel with the surface of the water, moving in total harmony with the ducks.
Day 8: Departure from Genk
After one last hotel buffet breakfast, your bicycle holiday will come to an end. It is time to make your own way home.
Please note: All cycling distances stated above are approximate only.