Amsterdam is a wonderful city, but so is the countryside around it. You don’t have to drive very far outside the city to experience the whole of Holland and her beautiful landscape. Expansive meadows dotted with windmills, and fields full of flowers are just a sample of the sights you will find.
Just to the north of Amsterdam is a gorgeous area with long beaches, showcasing some of Holland’s famous tulip fields. Explore the Wadden Island of Texel and quaint the village of Zunderdorp. Along the way, you will find the smaller towns of Alkmaar, Enkhuizen, and Hoorn. Stop in Enkhuizen and visit the Zuiderzee Museum. It’s a beautiful open-air history museum and easy to reach by train from Amsterdam. And if you are driving, it makes a great day trip just to drive the countryside and stop whenever the mood strikes you, with no set schedule.
Most of the tulips in the country can be found in Noord-Holland. From the small city of Petten to Nieuwe Niedorp, and from Alkmaar to the coastal city of Den Helder, it is almost as if there is one big tulip field when they are in bloom during Springtime. And surrounding it all are windmills, dunes, rivers, and Noord-style houses. Tulip season is generally from the 21st of March until the 10th of May. Most people try to come the last week in April, as that is the peak of it. But of course, that all depends on the weather, and mother nature does not always run by such a strict clock.
The tulip bulb area of Bollenstreek in the region of Lisse is also worth checking out. They are the oldest cultivation grounds, and we will soon be offering tulip tours to this region. Remember, tulips are not the only flower to be found here. Along the way, you will find other types of flowers throughout the Spring and Summer. Be sure to look out for them!
National Parks and Forests
The country is packed with quite a diverse array of natural landscapes located all over. National parks have been cropping up since the 1930s, with no shortage of outdoor activities to enjoy. From forested hills to desert-like sand dunes, there is much to experience for nature lovers. There are hills that have been carved from Scandinavian glaciers, and canals formed by centuries of peat cultivation.
For an off-the-beaten-path day drip from Amsterdam, drive north to Alkmaar and then on to Schoorl, where there is a nature reserve along the dunes. To get the full effect, spend the night in Alkmaar for two days of relaxation and quiet from the big city, as you explore the dunes and surrounding landscape. There are hiking and biking trails, so if you prefer, you can rent a bike in town and explore that way.
About a 1.5-hour drive east of Amsterdam is Hoge Veluwe National Park. Located in the Gelderland province, this is a cyclists’ dream, with bike stations posted throughout the park, and at three of the entrances. The visitor’s centre offers nature-spotting trips and safaris, and there is also a museum, with the largest private collection of Van Goghs in the world.
All of the national parks are community assets, run by conservation groups or by the Dutch government. Most all have visitors centres that educate guests about the surrounding areas and is an excellent way to enjoy the whole of the Netherlands.