Out & About in Champagne

23 October 2019

An historic region, perfect for exploring the great outdoors

Out & About in Champagne - Fred Laures

Credit: Fred Laures

The illustrious past of Champagne is intertwined with the present with extensive champagne vineyards stretching southwards from historic Reims, the coronation city of France, in a stunning mosaic of straight lines and vistas. They travel over the hills to the south-east into the realms of the Knights Templar and the Counts of Champagne.  Continuing onwards, you will see the beauty of the varied landscape, exquisite orchids by the roadside, mysterious forests, bubbling brooks and an abundance of rare and wonderful wildlife – a land to explore by cycle, motorbike or foot, rewarded by a glass of bubbly at the end of the day.

Out & About in Champagne - Phovoir

Credit: Phovoir

Out & About in Champagne - Christine Tomasson

Credit: Christine Tomasson

Migratory birds:The great lakes of Champagne are magnets for migratory birds en route from their Nordic breeding grounds to over-wintering sites in Spain and Morocco. Created in the 20th century to control the flow of river water of the Seine and Marne, the low levels in autumn and winter are ideal landing grounds for cranes and other migratory birds such as wild geese, ducks and birds of prey who appear in vast numbers during November and December. Up to 250,000 cranes have been sighted at the Lac du Der alone – the largest man-made lake in Europe.

Out & About in Champagne - Sophie Martineaud

Credit:  Sophie Martineaud

By foot: With 3,125 miles (5,000 km) of sign-posted footpaths in Champagne and neighbouring Ardenne – both circular walks and long-distance routes, there’s ample scope for walkers, serious hikers or those wanting to explore the varied landscapes: great forests, deep valleys, open plains, hills, vineyards, lakes and rivers. Hiking sheets for 15 circular walks in Champagne and five in the Ardenne can be downloaded from the tourist board’s website.  There are also nine “Grand Randonnée” long distance paths running through Champagne and Ardenne with two of these being part of the old Pilgrim routes.

The three lakes of the Forest of Orient: Nestling in the heart of the Regional Natural Park of the Forest of Orient, these three lakes were created to control the flow of the Seine and Aube rivers.The largest, Orient, is designated for all non-motorised water activities, the Temple for nature and fishing and the Amanda for motorised activity. Together these three lakes offer over 12,000 acres of water to enjoy aquatic sports, bird-watching, walking and cycling.

Geo-caching: Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices and is an unusual and enjoyable way to explore areas and places that you would not normally access. Participants enter the GPS coordinates of a specific “cache” and follow the compass or map instructions to find the cache (normally a container with little treasures and a logbook) hidden at that location. The finder takes one of the treasures replacing it with one of their own and logs comments in the book. The experience is then shared online with other geo-caching fans. To join in, simply register at and choose the area you are interested in for a list of the caches in that vicinity.

The four lakes of Langres: Created in the 19th century to control the flow of water in the Marne-Saône canal from Champagne to Burgundy, these smaller lakes in Langresoffer a secluded environment for enjoying the water.
  • Lac de la Liez – the largest of the four lakes with a leisure base at Peigny
  • Lac de la Vingeanne – with a leisure base at Villegusien-le-Lac
  • Lac des Charmes – with a leisure base in the village of Charmes
  • Lac de la Mouche – reserved for nature and fishing.
At the gateway to Champagne and Burgundy, Langres (one of the 50 finest towns in France), with its high ramparts, its imposing towers and numerous church steeples, soars above the plateau – a fortified town with 12 towers, seven gates and 3.5km of ramparts.
Out & About in Champagne - Champagne-Ardenne Tourisme
Credit: Champagne-Ardenne Tourisme
On your bike:  In Champagne, there are 310 km / 194 miles of dedicated cycle paths, many of which are built along canal towpaths or disused railway tracks, offering a pleasant, flat surface to enjoy traffic free exploration. The region has developed a tourism cycle label – Champagne à Vélo – that guarantees the quality of over 100 accommodation partners and service providers, ensuring a warm welcome to cyclists and a safe place to store bikes. Many also offer special facilities such a bike cleaning, luggage transportation and even a picnic lunch on request!  Electric bikes to give that added boost to tired leg muscles are becoming more and more popular.
Out & About in Champagne - Phovoir
Credit: Phovoir
Out & About in Champagne - Reims Tourisme / C Manquillet-Coll, ADT Marne / P Maille-Coll / R Kiezer-Coll
Credit from left: Reims Tourisme / C Manquillet-Coll, ADT Marne / P Maille-Coll / R Kiezer-Coll
The Faux de Verzy: In the forest above the town of Verzy, a number of unique beech trees can be found, stunted in growth and having contorted and twisted branches with foliage that covers the tree like an umbrella. The effect resembles giant bonsai trees and are known as “Faux”. There are around 700 – 1,000 specimens growing alongside their straight beech companions – the exact cause of the mutation remains unknown. The curiosity of the site is that they can only be found within the confines of the ruined abbey walls dedicated to Saint Basle who lived as a hermit in the forest around 600AD.
Credit: Eric Corlay
For motor-bike enthusiasts, a selection of itinerarieshave been created by experienced bikers that will lead them along roads chosen for the scenery and places of interest. There are six motorbike routes in Champagne and one in the Ardenne available – each enjoying a four-page English language fact sheet including directions, distances, a map and sightseeing information. There are also useful tips on where to eat and stay.
International Wildlife & Nature Photography Festival of Montier-en-Der, 14th – 17th November 2019:  With more than 40,000 visitors in four days and around 100 exhibits, this festivalis a unique event in Europe for nature photography. It also serves as a meeting place between photographers, naturalists, associations and professionals, favouring debates and exchanges on the big environmental issues.
Notes to Editors: Champagne,in the Grand-Est area of France, is as varied and refined as the famous wine it produces. A land of kings and counts, of Cistercians and crusaders, of monasteries and masterpieces, artists and philosophers – the history and heritage of Champagne is embedded in that of France and is linked to the present by the inscription of its vineyards, houses and cellars on the UNESCO World Heritage list.