Belgium's Blue Forest | The Hallerbos
The Hallerbos is one of Belgium's best kept secrets. These magical woodlands lie near Brussels, the country's capital. Every year the floor of these woods is covered in a thick carpet of bluebells.
In recent years, the Hallerbos has become a hotspot for visitors from all over the globe who wish to witness this stunning spectacle by Mother Nature. It is no wonder the bluebell forest has also become a coveted location for landscape photographers. There are plenty of opportunities to capture stunning images no matter the weather conditions.
How to get to the Hallerbos
The Hallerbos lies near the small city of Halle, which is just south of Brussels.
If you are coming to Belgium by plane, you will probably arrive either at one of the country's two major airports, Brussels Airport (BRU) or Brussels South Charleroi Airport (CRL). From there you can either rent a car or reach the city of Halle by train.
By public transport
The railway station of Halle is closest to the Hallerbos. During the flowering season the city provides shuttle buses which navigate between the city and the forest.
Coming to the Hallerbos by car is probably the easiest, although parking can be tricky during the flowering season. Many parkings are closed off for the season and parking space is limited. Parking number 1 is your safest bet when coming during the bluebell season.
Early spring visit
While the bluebells usually start appearing during the second half of April, each year's flowering highly depends on weather and temperatures. But even if you come early, the Hallerbos is constantly evolving during Spring. It kicks off with patches of wild daffodils, followed by a carpet of white anemones. The forest floor then slowly transitions to the typical blue carpet that is so popular among visitors and photographers alike.
Peak season: the time of the bluebells
If you time your visit perfectly right you will witness one of nature's most impressive displays. While the forest is probably the place to be during spring for photographers from all over the world, no single image can do justice to the vastness and sheer abundance of bluebells that cover almost the entire forest. The absolute best time to visit the forest is when the carpet of bluebells has appeared and the beech trees have not yet gained their new leaves. This can often prove to be tricky. If temperatures are too low, the bluebells don't develop fast enough. If the weather is too warm, the forest canopy develops its leaves before the peak of the bluebells. Every season is different, so every year pictures taken in the forest turn out differently. This is without taking into account variations in weather. The Hallerbos looks amazing in almost any type of weather, may it be sun, rain and especially mist.
One thing is certain: If you haven't been to Belgium's Hallerbos yet, you should definitely add it to your Bucket list.
Photographing the hallerbos
When coming to the Hallerbos to make pictures there are a couple of things you should watch out for. First and most importantly: do NOT walk off the path into the bluebells. Anywhere you step on the fragile bluebells, the flowers won't grow again the following year. With increasing numbers of visitors, this number 1 rule has become primordial.
Concerning photography gear, you must bring a tripod. The forest can be very dark, especially during the early morning hours where the magic usually happens. Because it's so dark you will have to rely on making longer exposures of several seconds. So if you do not want all your pictures to be blurry, you'll need that tripod.
The most important lens to bring with your to the Hallerbos is a telephoto lens, such as a 70-200mm lens on a full frame camera. This might seem illogical, but having a long lens is important since it will allow you to isolate certain elements. And since you cannot wander off into the bluebells, a long lens becomes that more important.
If you wish to go home with some great pictures of the iconic Hallerbos, why not join a photo workshop that I am organising in collaboration with my friend and fellow photographer Alfonso Salgueiro Lora?
We have explored the Hallerbos thoroughly and during our workshops we will take you the forest's most beautiful spots.
So if you are not afraid of getting up very early in the morning and want to visit the magical bluebell forest with two experienced landscape photographers, this workshop is definitely for you.