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Forest walks to restore your vitality

Forest walks to restore your vitality

What are the benefits of forest walks? Fresh air and the scents of the forest, mindfulness, forest bathing, wildlife and birdwatching. Read on to learn how forest walks can improve your life and discover the best western European forests to visit!

Forest walks to restore your vitality

Why nature needs to step into our everyday life

Trees, it seems, have an uncanny ability to restore our vitality. They give us oxygen, which we need to live, and they absorb carbon dioxide, which is one of the main greenhouse gases responsible for climate change.

But that’s not all. Forest walks have been shown to boost our immune system, improve our mood and reduce stress levels. In fact, there’s even evidence that being around trees can help us live longer, healthier lives.

So why isn’t everyone rushing out to spend time in the forest? It’s simple: life gets in the way. We’re so busy with work, family and other commitments that it can be hard to find the time to take a leisurely stroll among the trees.

Sometimes choosing a forest to explore and planning in that forest walk is half the struggle. We've compiled a list of our favourite European forests to explore by foot below.

The Netherlands

If you're looking for a forest to explore in the Netherlands that offers long walks and a true experience of nature, then you should consider visiting one of the following forests: 

Amsterdamse Bos

A great option for a forest walk is Amsterdamse Bos. This forest is located just outside of Amsterdam and is perfect for those looking for a dose of nature without having to travel too far from the city. With over 9 different trails to choose from, Amsterdamse Bos has something for everyone and is a favourite for Amsterdam locals on walks with their dogs.

Het Heuvelrug National Park

This forest is located in central Netherlands, near Utrecht and is known for its extensive walking trails. The forest also has a rich history and is home to many ancient trees.

Veluwezoom National Park

This forest is located in the eastern part of the Netherlands and is known for its stunning landscapes. The forest is also home to a large number of wildlife including deer, wild boar and red squirrels.

Another great option for a forest walk is the neighbouring Hoge Veluwe National Park, which is home to the world's largest museum dedicated to modern art, the Kröller-Müller Museum.

Oostvaardersplassen

This reserve is located in the central Netherlands and is known for its expansive meadows, wetlands and forests. The reserve is also home to a large number of birds and other wildlife.

‘t Witven National Park

Finally, visitors to the Netherlands should consider visiting ‘t Witven National Park. This park is known for its abundant wildlife, including deer, foxes and badgers. The forest also has numerous walking trails, making it perfect for an afternoon walk or longer hike.

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Belgium

Belgium is home to many incredible forests, making it the perfect destination for a nature-filled getaway. From towering trees to peaceful meadows, there's something for everyone in these stunning natural spaces. Here are some of the best forests in Belgium to visit for long walks or hikes:

Forêt de Soignes

The Forêt de Soignes is one of the largest forests in Belgium, and it's easy to see why it's such a popular spot for visitors. With over 22,000 acres of forest to explore, there's plenty of space to stretch your legs. The forest is also home to a number of beautiful lakes, so you can cool off with a dip after your hike, if the weather permits.

Ardennes Forest

The Ardennes Forest is perfect for those looking for a challenge, with its steep hills and rocky terrain. But the effort is worth it when you reach the top of the forest and are rewarded with breathtaking views. The Ardennes is also home to many wildlife species, so keep your eyes peeled for some furry (or feathered) friends during your hike.

Bois de Boulogne

The Bois de Boulogne is a serene spot in the city of Brussels, and it's perfect for a peaceful stroll or hike. With over 2,000 acres of greenery to explore, you'll feel like you've left the city behind entirely.

Eupen-Malmedy

This forest is situated in the east of Belgium and is popular with both locals and visitors. With its rivers, lakes and streams, it's perfect for a refreshing walk or hike.

Waterloo

This forest is located near the famous battlefield of Waterloo and is perfect for history lovers who want to combine their love of nature with a bit of education. There are plenty of trails to choose from, making it ideal for a short walk or a longer hike.

The Lesse Valley Forest

The Lesse Valley Forest is located in eastern Belgium, and is one of the most picturesque forests in the country. It is perfect for a peaceful stroll or a more vigorous hike, and there are plenty of places to stop and admire the views. The forest also has a number of rivers and streams, which make it especially beautiful in the springtime when they are full of melting snow.

The Hautes Fagnes Nature Reserve

The Hautes Fagnes Nature Reserve is located in the Ardennes region of Belgium. This reserve is known for its rare plants and animals, as well as its stunning landscapes. There are several marked trails to follow, making it a great place to explore on foot.

The Eifel National Park

The Eifel National Park is located in the German-speaking area of Belgium. This park is known for its dramatic volcanic landscapes and hiking trails. There are several different routes to choose from, making it a great destination for a day hike or longer hike.

The Hoge Kempen National Park

The Hoge Kempen National Park is located in eastern Belgium near the Dutch border. This park is known for its heathland landscapes and walking trails. There are several different routes to choose from, making it a great place to explore on foot.

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Germany

Germany is a nature lover's paradise, with forests covering nearly one third of the country. There are many different types of forests to explore, from the dense and dark Black Forest to the magnificent redwoods of the Teutoburg Forest. No matter what your interests are, you're sure to find a forest in Germany that suits you. Here are some of the best forests in Germany to visit for hikes, birdwatching and forest bathing. 

The Black Forest

This mystical forest is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Germany. The Black Forest is home to many ancient trees, some of which are over 800 years old. The forest is also home to many different species of animals, including wild boar, deer and red squirrels. This dark and atmospheric forest is one of the few remaining old-growth forests in Europe. With towering trees and a thick canopy that blocks out the sunlight, it's easy to lose yourself in this magical place.

The Teutoburg Forest

This forest is located in northwestern Germany and is home to the largest concentration of redwoods in Europe. The Teutoburg forest is a beautiful place to go for a hike or a bike ride, and it's also a great place to see wildlife.

The Bavarian Forest

The Bavarian Forest is another popular forest in Germany. This forest is located in southeastern Germany and is home to many different types of trees, including spruce, fir and beech. The Bavarian Forest is also home to several different types of animals, including deer, wild boar and red foxes.  It's known for its dense woodland and tranquil atmosphere, with plenty of hiking trails throughout, making it a great place to get out and explore nature. The Bavarian Forest is also home to many different kinds of birds, so it's a great destination for birdwatching. 

The Rhine Valley Forest

The Rhine Valley forest is a beautiful forest that offers stunning views of the surrounding valley. There are numerous hiking trails throughout the forest that offer different levels of difficulty, so there is something for everyone. In addition, the forest is home to many different types of birds, making it a great place for birdwatching.

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France

When it comes to forests, France has a lot to offer. From the thick, lush forests of the north to the sunny, Mediterranean forests of the south, there is a forest for everyone. Here are some of the best forests in France to visit for walking and outdoor activities:

The Foret de Fontainebleau

This is one of the largest forests in France and is located just outside of Paris. This forest is perfect for a day trip from the city and offers a variety of walking and hiking trails as well as a lake for swimming and plenty of places for bouldering fanatics.

The Foret des Landes

The Foret des Landes is located in southwestern France and is the largest forest in Europe. This vast forest is perfect for those who love nature and offers numerous walking and biking trails as well as canoeing and horseback riding.

The Calanques National Park

This stunning forest located on the Mediterranean coast of France and is home to dramatic cliffs, crystal-clear waters, and dense forests. This park is perfect for those who love hiking and exploring as there are many trails to choose from.

Vosges Mountains

The Vosges Mountains are located in eastern France and are home to a number of forests. These forests are perfect for hiking, mountain biking, and skiing in winter. In the winter, the area is also popular for skiing and snowboarding.

The Massif Central

This is a large plateau in central France that's covered in forest. It's a great place for hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing.

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The physical and mental benefits of forest walks

When it comes to finding ways to relax and restore your vitality, there are few activities that can compete with forest walking. Not only is spending time in nature good for your physical health, but it can also have a profound impact on your mental wellbeing.

There are a number of reasons why forest walking is so beneficial for your health. For starters, being in nature has been shown to reduce stress levels and promote feelings of calm and relaxation. Walking in the forest also gives you the opportunity to get some fresh air and exercise, both of which are important for maintaining good physical health.

But the benefits of forest walking don’t stop there. Studies have also shown that spending time in nature can improve cognitive function and memory, decrease anxiety and depression, and even boost self-esteem. So if you’re looking for a way to restore your vitality, make sure to add forest walks to your routine!

What is forest bathing?

We all know how good being in nature can make us feel. We have known it for centuries. There is something about being in the forest that just makes us feel good. It is restorative and healing.

But what exactly is this feeling? And why does it happen?

Recent studies have shown that there are actual physical and mental health benefits to spending time in nature, and that these benefits are greatest when we are surrounded by trees. One of the explanations for this is something called phytoncides. Phytoncides are antimicrobial volatile organic compounds that are released by plants, especially trees, to protect themselves from predators and disease. When we breathe in these compounds, they boost our immune system, improve our mood and reduce stress levels.

In other words, being in the forest – or even just looking at pictures of forests – can help us to relax and to feel better both physically and mentally.

Tips how to choose the right season and place for your first walk in the forest

When it comes to choosing the right season and the perfect place for your first walk in the forest, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First and foremost, you need to make sure that the weather is conducive to walking. The last thing you want is to be caught in a downpour or snowstorm! Spring and autumn are generally the best times of year for forest walks, as the weather is more stable and the leaves are changing color, making for a beautiful scenery.

As for picking the right location, that will largely depend on your level of fitness and how far you're willing to walk. If you're just starting out, it's best to pick a shorter trail that isn't too strenuous. Once you get a feel for walking in the forest, you can gradually increase the distance. And of course, make sure to consult a map before setting off so that you don't get lost!

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Planning your forest walking trip

When it comes to planning your trip, there are a few things you'll need to take into account. First, you'll need to decide where you want to go. There are many different forest walks to choose from, so be sure to do some research and find the one that's right for you.

Next, you'll need to consider how long you want to stay and what time of year you'd like to visit. Some forests are only open during certain seasons, so be sure to check before you make your plans.

Finally, think about how you'll get there. You may be lucky enough to have a forest near your house, but for those who don't, we think it is well worth finding accommodation near your chosen forest to make your visit more comfortable and to immerse yourself in the experience of visiting that area. Hit the button below to browse campsites, cabins, glamping sites and more near forests. Next, consider what kind of equipment you'll need for your trip. Depending on the forest walk you choose, you may need waterproof clothing, snacks, water, sturdy shoes, a map, and a compass. It's your choice whether you decide to bring your phone or leave it at home! If you're planning on doing any camping or hiking, be sure to bring along all the necessary gear.

By following these simple tips, you can make sure that your forest walk is a success. So get out there and enjoy nature!

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What different types of forests you can explore in Europe?

There are many different types of forests you can explore, each with their own unique scenery and wildlife. Here are some of the most popular types of forests to explore:

1. Deciduous forests are found in locations with cool winters and warm summers. The trees in these forests shed their leaves during the winter and regrow them in the spring. Some of the most popular deciduous forests include the forests in the Western European Broadleaf Forests ecoregion in Western Europe and parts of the Alps It includes temperate broadleaf and mixed forests that cover large areas in France, Germany, and the Czech Republic, as well as more moderate-sized portions of Poland, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Belgium. 

2. Evergreen forests are found in locations with mild winters and cool summers. The trees in these forests do not shed their leaves, so they remain green all year round. Some of the most popular evergreen forests are found in parts of Europe such as Scandinavia, Scotland, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Switzerland.

Why should we consider more forest walks?

There are few things in life as restorative as a walk in the woods. Something about being surrounded by trees and fresh air can instantly make you feel more alive. If you're looking to restore your vitality, there's no better way than to head out for a forest walk.

Here are some of the top benefits of forest walking:

1. It lowers stress levels.

Studies have shown that just spending time in nature can help to lower stress levels. So if you're feeling stressed out, a forest walk is a great way to help you relax and feel more at ease.

2. It boosts energy levels.

If you're feeling tired or sluggish, a walk in the woods can be a great pick-me-up. The fresh air and gentle exercise will help to increase your energy levels and leave you feeling refreshed and invigorated.

3. It helps to prevent depression.

Spending time in nature has been shown to help improve moods and reduce symptoms of depression. So if you're feeling down, a forest walk could be just what you need to help lift your spirits.

4. Improves your cardiovascular health

This one's a no-brainer. Walking is an easy, entry-level way to up your physical fitness, without any daunting exercise equipment. The more steps you take a day, the better your overall health will be.

5. Increases your creativity and productivity

Walking is often relied upon by artists or writers experiencing a creative block. There's something about being outdoors without the confines of walls that makes your brain roam freely, without constraints.

6. Improves your sleep quality

Whether it's the relaxing scenery, scents or exercise, you'll often find yourself falling asleep and enjoying a healthy snooze until the morning after a long forest walk.

 7. Allows you to connect with nature and appreciate its beauty!

Especially if you live in a city, you owe yourself a trip to a forest every few weeks. What better way to reconnect with nature, than being surrounded by trees, birds and wildlife?

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