When it comes to tourism, one of the great things about the Netherlands is its compact size, allowing for full-day sightseeing tours across much of the country. While Amsterdam is the most popular destination and the main base for Netherlands vacations, the glorious countryside and historic small cities are a must for a true Dutch experience. Read on for our top travel recommendations right across the country. To make the most of your time in the region, check out our expert tour guides who can plan the perfect private tours for you.
The Keukenhof Gardens is dubbed the ‘Garden of Europe’ for good reason. It is the largest flower park in the world where over seven million bulbs are planted annually, including over 800 different types of tulips.
The master horticulturists of Keukenhof create a living canvas of vibrant colour and every year it has a different theme, so there is something new even if you’ve been before. The gardens are designed by true artists, creating a sea of flowers that overwhelms visitors with the colours and scents of fresh flowers.
Keukenhof does not only have tulips though; there are daffodils, orchids, roses, lilies, and many other flowers spread across various gardens and pavilions. It attracts over a million visitors each year, with the vast majority coming from mid-March to mid-May when the tulips bloom. The park is only open during this period, so unsurprisingly it can get busy. To avoid the crowds, visit the gardens early morning or in the evening on weekdays. However, if visiting with kids, weekends are the best option. There is a kid-friendly petting zoo with farm animals, a scavenger hunt, and even a maze.
During the summer the garden of Keukenhof Castle is awash with over a hundred different types of flowering dahlias and it hosts the Keukenhof Dahlia Days festival in August with various horticultural activities.
The Wadden Islands
Did you know you can go island-hopping in the Netherlands? The Wadden Islands (also called the Frisian Islands) are a little-known mini-archipelago of fives small inhabited islands off the coastline. There are regular ferry services from the mainland and inter-island ferries connecting the islands of Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland, and Schiermonnikoog.
Texel: About one third of the largest Island is a protected nature reserve. There are over 30km of long, wide sandy beaches and hilly sand dunes. Climb the 150-year-old Texel lighthouse for outstanding views across the island or visit the Shipwreck Museum to learn about its colourful maritime history. A must-visit is the seal sanctuary and Sea Aquarium at Ecomare.
Ameland: This island is more tranquil in comparison but has arguably the best variety of activities, especially for kids. Enjoy tractor rides across the wide beaches, seal watching: boat tours with a guide, sport fishing, bike tours, and mudflat hiking. This is an adventurous activity during low tide where an experienced guide is required. It is even possible to walk between the islands.
The Canals of Amsterdam
Any Netherlands trip is elevated with a leisurely cruise of Amsterdam’s iconic waterways. The canals are the city’s heartbeat and is by far the most comfortable way to enjoy a city tour. There are over 100 kilometres of canals in Amsterdam and sightseeing from the water offers a whole new perspective on the city.
A one-hour boat trip with an insightful guide commentary is a great introduction to the city and will help you get acquainted with the major sights. Other options include flexible hop-on-hop-off boat services, or why not do it yourself and rent a small pedal boat?
The beauty of cruising the canals is the opportunity to combine two passions; historic sightseeing and fine dining. A luxury riverboat dinner cruise gives you the chance to taste the flavours as well as see the iconic landmarks.
Many people know about the world famous Delft Blue pottery, but less so about the historic small city where Delftware originated and is still produced today, four centuries later. For more on the iconic earthenware (and Dutch history in general) visit the Royal Delft Experience to learn about its origins and watch demonstrations of Royal Delftware pottery painting.
Continuing with art, Delft is the hometown of legendary painter Johannes Vermeer, and his influence is still widely felt across the city. The Vermeer Centrum showcases the life and works of Vermeer and the wider Dutch Golden Age of painting. Delft, with its Royal House of Orange history, has a very charming Old Town. Wander or cycle along canal banks, see the Oude and Nieuwe Kirk churches, the grand 17th merchant houses, and sleepy courtyards.
If you are spending just a few hours in Delft, discover the city from the water. Take a canal taxi boat which visits all the main photogenic tourist spots. These can be flagged down from the canal banks. Delft is a well-known university town so expect plenty of vibrant pubs, cafes, and busy markets.
De Hoge Veluwe National Park
De Hoge Veluwe National Park is one of the largest areas of natural wilderness in the Netherlands, but relatively little-known to foreign travellers. Still, it is one of the most accessible places to view wildlife in their natural habitat. It spans 5,400 hectares of forests, heathlands, sand dunes, marshland, and ponds. Getting around is easy thanks to free bicycles available to use. There are 40 kilometres of cycling paths to spot wild boar, red deer, roe deer, and mouflon wild sheep.
The park organises ‘walking safaris’ with a resident wildlife tour guide, and you can even go on an overnight safari and sleep under the stars, depending on the time of year. Hoge Veluwe is also an important bird sanctuary. Early morning and late evening are the best times to spot birds and there are numerous camouflaged observation posts placed throughout the park.
It's unique in being one of only two privately owned national parks in the Netherlands. At its centre is the impressive Kroller-Müller Museum and sculpture garden, which boasts the largest private collection of Van Gogh paintings in the world.
This is just a small sampling of what could be in store for you on your Netherlands adventure. The country is so much more than a weekend in Amsterdam, with many unique regional differences to discover. One of our expert tour guides will introduce you to all the many eclectic experiences with tailor-made private tours around this small but dynamic country.
Image Source: https://unsplash.com/