Lommel Sahara hiking

Hiking in the Lommel Sahara: Belgium’s Only Desert

The sun’s out, the birds are chirping, and the temperatures are slowly climbing back up. The perfect time to lace up my hiking boots again! This time, I’m heading to Lommel to try out a hiking trail in the Lommel Sahara! Lommel… what? Yep, you heard it right — the one and only desert of Belgium can be found in Lommel! Moreover, since late 2023, Lommel belongs to National Park Bosland, one of the 4 National Parks in Belgium.

Did you know it’s also the warmest place in Belgium? You’ll find a beautiful lake surrounded by sand dunes and pine trees that offer just a touch of coolness. I tackled the 12 km long red hiking trail, but if that’s too much for you, there are luckily a few shorter alternatives. You can also follow the 3.1 km blue children’s trail or the 5.9 km long orange trail. Ready? Let’s go!

Note: this blog post was sponsored by Tourism Lommel. It contains my own experience hiking the Lommel Sahara.

Starting at Parking De Soeverein

The start of the hike is at De Soeverein, a large sports complex in Lommel. There’s ample parking here, and it’s free to park. Although, it can be tough to find a spot during the busiest summer months. But not to worry, from the summer of 2024, there will be a brand new car park near the Gate of Bosland, an equally new work of art that will be the gateway to this piece of nature.

Right across from De Soeverein, the hiking area of the Lommel Sahara begins. You’ll follow a dirt path marked with a brown sign ‘Sahara’ to start the hike. From here, you’ll also start to see the red triangles that guide the hike. If you’re doing one of the other hikes, just follow the path until you reach the forest. All the other hiking routes start here.

Tip: Need a quick restroom break before starting your hike? Pop into the sports center cafeteria. There are public toilets there.

The Lommel Sahara Red Hiking Trail

Once you reach the forest of pine trees, the hike really begins. This is also a paradise for kids, as they’ll find plenty of fun installations made from willow branches, a piece of art by Will Beckers, and a small playground. If you’re doing the red hike, you’ll soon leave this wooded area behind and head towards the Sahara itself. The forest gradually gives way to sandy soil, and before you know it, you’ll be trudging through the sand towards the lake of the Lommel Sahara.

Good to know: Due to the sandy ground, the hiking trail is not suitable for strollers. If you insist on bringing a stroller, be prepared for a lot of effort.

Instead of heading straight to the lake, take a left just before and stroll through the sandy landscape. Don’t worry, you’ll pass by the lake halfway through the hike. With the sun on my face, an occasional butterfly fluttering by, and the chirping of birds, this was the most idyllic part of the hike for me.

Later on, you’ll reach a paved bike path that takes you through a bit before diving back into the heath and forests. This stretch takes you through a pine forest that until not too long ago served as a shooting range. You’ll come across some peculiar abandoned structures here, like bunkers where they tested projectile impacts, a demolition pit where explosives were detonated, and a strange-looking pyramid where anti-personnel mines were tested. Nature is gradually reclaiming these structures, making many urbex enthusiasts’ hearts beat faster. Including mine!

Once out of the forest, you’ll head straight for the lake of the Lommel Sahara this time. You’ll walk along a section of fenced-off heath, inaccessible to hikers to give the animals some peace, but it offers a beautiful view. In the distance, you’ll also spot The Giant of Bosland, an impressive lookout tower that you’ll pass by later.

Upon reaching the water’s edge, enjoy the perfect reflection of the clouds in the water surface on a sunny day. Just be careful, as the lake suffers from a type of blue-green algae that can be toxic. It’s best not to touch the water and keep your dog from frolicking in the lake. A stroll on the ‘beach’ or soaking up some sun, however, is still possible!

Continuing along the beach, you’ll head back into the forest. Here, you’ll also come across a lookout hut that offers a beautiful view of the lake and its fauna and flora. Be sure to stop here and enjoy it. Not far ahead, you’ll finally reach the lookout tower, The Giant of Bosland. This 30-meter-high tower offers breathtaking views of the surrounding Lommel Sahara. But if you’re afraid of heights, you might want to think twice before climbing the tower’s 144 steps. Once at the top, take your time to soak it all in. Don’t rush!

Once back down, continue on to the pedestrian bridge that leads you over the Bocholt-Herentals canal. Here, you’ll walk the final stretch of the route through beautiful heathlands and even more surrounding forests. Not much later, you’ll cross the canal again, passing by Café Den Engel. It’s the perfect time to stop for a refreshing drink on their terrace just before the end of the hike. Eventually, the red triangles will lead you back to De Soeverein where you started the hike.

Tip: For a delicious lunch or a satisfying snack, take a quick detour into Lommel itself and stop by Happy Seasons. I enjoyed a delicious warm tomato soup there after this hike!

Good to know:

  • Dogs are more than welcome but must be kept on a leash.
  • Hiking with a stroller is not recommended. The sandy ground makes it very tiring to push the stroller.
  • Swimming is not allowed in the lake. It’s best not to touch the water as there are dangerous blue-green algae present.
  • The forest paths can be muddy. Sturdy hiking boots that can handle a bit of dirt are recommended.

Staying Nearby

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