Located in the heart of the Belgian Ardennes are a spectacular natural complex of caves. The natural phenomenon were carved out by the Lesse river, which ends abruptly not far from the village of Han-sur-Lesse in a sinkhole known as the gouffre de Belvaux (the Belvaux abyss).
Now, if you’re anything like us, you may well be thinking “I’ve had my fill of visiting caves and admiring impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations”.
And that’s fair enough.
We have visited many a cave system during our travels and while there’s no denying that they can be impressive, I wasn’t sure I need to visit another one when we visited the Wallonia region of Belgium.
But that’s where I was wrong. The Grottes de Han (the Cave of Han or Caves of Han-sur-Lesse) are absolutely beautiful caves and a major Belgian tourist attraction.
Disclosure: We were guests of the Belgian Tourist Office – Wallonia for the purpose of producing this guide. This post may contain affiliate links. I have been or could be if you click on a link in this post compensated via a cash payment, gift or something else of value for writing this post. See our full disclosure policy for more details.
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- Why you should definitely stop at the Caves of Han
The Domain of the Caves of Han
The Han Caves are located on the outskirts of the village of Han-sur-Lesse, a pretty village with a handful of shops, restaurants and cafes (as well as a good-looking ice cream shop that was sadly closed when we visited).
Today between 250-300,000 visitors travel to the caves every year but these are not a modern phenomenon; visitors have been coming to these caves for centuries.
During the 18th century the Caves of Han were a popular tourist spot and visitors would come here to explore the caves by torchlight. At one point one of the enormous caverns had even been turned into a bar and tourists could sit and quaff champagne while enjoying the otherworldly view.
But it turns out they weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the caves. A museum on site displays evidence of people using the caves for centuries. Roman coins have been found, rosary beads in the shape of skulls and tinware thought to belong to a band of bandits who terrorised the region in the 15th century.
This museum sits at the entrance to the caves and is well worth a visit. The displays are fantastic at bringing to life the caves’ long history and the huge variety of visitors and inhabitants that have passed through the large network.
Visits to the caves today are by guided tour and while these are predominantly either in French or Dutch (Flemish), there’s no need to worry if you don’t speak either of these languages. Unlike some guided tours where you are bombarded with facts, figures and dates, these tours explain just the right amount and really, for the most part, the vast chambers and beautiful rock formations speak for themselves.
Highlights from our visit include the recreating a torchlit descent in one of the gigantic caverns and the sound and light show. Yes, I know, sound and light shows can sometimes be a bit ‘meh’ but this one is truly spectacular.
The show is called Origins and promises visitors a journey through time “back to the origins of the Earth”. Held nearly 110m underground, the 360degree show has it all; lights, animations and music and is, quite simply, spellbinding.
The tours of the caves usually last just over one hour.
The Wildlife Park
Also on site is a Wildlife Park that spans 250 hectares and is home over 650 animals including the European Big 5; the European bison, the wolf, the brown bear, the wolverine, and the lynx.
Other animals that you’ll spot on your way around include wild boars, wild forest reindeer, the Black Stork, grey wolves, Alpine ibex and the great grey Owl.
We toured the park by Safari bus, which was easy and fun (and avoided any moany children asking how much longer they would have to walk for!).
There’s commentary in French and Flemish but again, you don’t miss out on that much if you don’t speak either language. The highlight came towards the end of the tour when we got to stop and see the brown bears that call the park home. Granted, the bears were all snoozing when we stopped by, but they were impressive nevertheless.
The bus stop for the Safari bus is almost opposite the exit of the cave.
The museum at the Grottes de Han
Entrance to this small museum is included in your ticket price and is well worth visiting. I’ve already mentioned how good I thought the museum was but I’m saying it again here. If you want to really understand what part of history these caves have played in this area of Wallonia in Belgium then take a wander through this very comprehensive exhibit.
The museum explains the history of the caves and how divers have managed to extract such a huge and valuable collection of items that detail the numerous people who have used the caves throughout time. Other items on display include bits used for horses dating back to the Bronze Age, bronze pins once used to secure garments and Roman spoons.
How to book tickets to the Grottes de Han
Tickets are best booked on the official website of the Domaine des Grottes de Han. Book your timed entrance to the caves and to the wildlife park online and you’ll be able to waltz straight to the front queue for the tour of the caves.
Once you’ve booked your ticket you will receive a QR code, giving you access to the caves and the safari bus. The caves and park do get busy during peak season so it’s well worth booking your slot in advance.
Where to stay at the Caves of Han-sur-Lesse
The caves can easily be visited on a day trip from Dinant or Durbuy but to really make the most of the park I recommend adding it as a stop on part of a longer Belgium road trip and staying at the neighbouring Cocoon Village. This glamping site opened in 2021 on the site of a former camp ground. Now a selection of roomy bell tents are on offer for two night stays, sleeping a maximum of five people – on beds with duvets!
The tents are large and comfortable and there is a communal shower and bathroom block as well as a place to do your dishes. Ah yes, despite this being a ‘glamping’ site, you are still very much expected to cook your own food (or go to a restaurant in town) and clean up after yourselves.
There are BBQ spots dotted around the campsite and you can either bring your own food or the village has pack of BBQ supplies including sausages, burgers and fish (veggie options are also available). And, if your BBQ skills leave a little to be desired like us, there is someone on hand to help get the charcoal started!
The tents do come with tea and coffee making facilities and there’s a microwave in the common areas if you need to heat up baby bottles or food.
If you would just rather eat out (!) then Cocooners get a 15% discount at a number of restaurants and snack bars (lunch and afternoon only).
One of the things that we enjoyed most about staying in the Cocoon Village were the breakfast baskets. Every morning staff put out numbered baskets that correspond with the tent filled with breakfast goodies (bread, pastries, yoghurt and fruit). You can either enjoy your breakfast in the communal area or back at your tent – each tent comes with a set of table and chairs for eating outside (or inside, if the weather doesn’t play ball).
The Cocoon Village is lovely, however, with ping pong tables and badminton on offer as well as a small playground and board games available to use in the lounge area. Breakfast is served in a basket, which you can take back to enjoy at the table outside your tent or in the communal area.
If you become a Cocooner (yes, that’s a thing!) then you are located just moments away from the entrance to the caves; the line for the century-old tram that transports visitors runs alongside the camp site.
Stay at Cocoon Village and you get free and unlimited access to the caves, wildlife park and onsite museum. The village also organises fun Cocoon workshops and activities – these must be booked in advance.
If that all sounds a little too tame then the park also offers eight Tree Tents, suspended above ground within the wildlife park itself.
Cocoon Village is open from April (weekends only until July) until September and the some weekends in October. A two night stay is required.