Most times of the year, Hallerbos is a beautiful but unremarkable forest in central Belgium, near Brussels. However, in mid-April and all through May, it turns into the Blue Forest, a fairytale-like natural attraction unlike any other.
The Blue Forest of Belgium gets its intriguing name from the vibrant carpet of bluebells that replaces the usual brown floor of the forest. Imagine millions of flowers covering the ground as far as the eye can see and you can get a pretty good idea of what this place is like in full-bloom. Bluebell forests are not unusual in Europe, but what makes Hallerbos unique is the density of the flowers that make its floor look like a living carpet.
Photo: Max Mayorov
Located in Belgium’s Halle municipality, between Flanders and Wallonia, Hallerbos Forest is a 569 hectare natural park owned by the Belgian State. The first recorded mention of its existence dates back to the year 686, but it was almost erased off the face of the Earth, during WW1, when the Germans removed most of the trees. Thanks to the reforestation operations that took place between 1930 and 1950, the magic of this place was preserved, and we can still witness it today.
Photo: Jean-Fracois Schmitz
As a rule of thumb, the best time to visit the Blue Forest is mid-April, but the precise time of flowering is heavily influenced by weather. For example, if late March is unusually warm, then the bluebells could be appearing in early April. Luckily, the official Hallerbos Forest website posts frequent updates on the blooming of the bluebells, especially as the flowering stage approaches. Keeping an eye on these is probably the best way to make sure you visit this beautiful place at just the right time.
Photo: Debashish Gupta
One thing you have to remember when visiting the Blue Forest is staying on the clearly marked walking paths. The soil and bluebell carpet are extremely fragile, so trampling on them can cause severe damage. In order to keep the Blue Forest looking in pristine condition, straying off the paths is strictly forbidden, even when taking professional photos.
Photo: Vanvelthem Lionel
Unfortunately, not everyone abides by these simple and reasonable rules. This year, officials in charge of Hallerbos Forest announced that tourists had caused irreparable damage to the bluebell carpet. “There are now innumerable bare patches and empty spaces where flowers have been trampled. So much beauty that has been destroyed forever. Incomprehensible. There is clearly something lacking in the manual for smartphones and other digital cameras, a line about taking pictures in nature: Do not destroy nature,” they wrote.
Words don’t do the beauty of the Blue Forest justice, and even photos struggle to capture the vastness of this living sea of bluebells. The best way to experience this natural wonder is in person, but of you do get the chance to travel to Hallerbos, don’t ruin its beauty out of selfishness.
Photo: Vincent Brassinne
Photo: David Edgar
Photo: Christophe Couckuyt