For this year´s longer Easter weekend we finally made it over to the Netherlands in the tulip season. We could not have picked a better time, the weather was sunny all the 4 days, with over 25C which is very unusual for this part of Europe. And having just returned from the Seychelles a couple of days before, we were more than happy about this summer feel. As we live close to Hanover, Germany, the way across the border was not all that long which made this a nice short road trip. The first proper road trip with our new LR Defender!
Places: Lisse, Keukenhof, Noordwijk, Scheveningen, Kinderdijk, Giethoorn
How: with our LR Defender
Stayed in: camp sites
OUR ROAD TRIP
Our first stop was LISSE, because I was really eager to see the tulip fields, so that had to be done first haha. Other than that, we really did not have a plan. As we spent 3 days AMSTERDAM last September, we left it out this time. We also did not stop in ROTTERDAM and UTRECHT (even though they were on the way), because we preferred the countryside. Especially with the Land Rover. Due to the nice weather we spent some hours on the beach in NOORDWIJK and had a wonderful and very spontaneous time in charming GIETHOORN before heading back home.
Altogether we drove around 1300km, we mostly avoided highways. The roads are great, they are free as well, we just needed to pay a few € for water channels crossings (car ferry). There are enough rest areas alongside the roads. The only place where we did not get a parking was Scheveningen, because it was super crowded and our car doesn´t fit into underground garages.
We set off on Thursday late afternoon, after work and spend the first night in a camping site at the STEINHUDER MEER, close to Hanover. The next day we slept very close to KEUKENHOF, where we found a FREE PARKING directly at the tulip fields. While sleeping in a car on the streets and parking places is officially not allowed in the Netherlands we heard that this was a place where it is being tolerated by the authorities. And we were not the only ones, there were at least a hundred (yes 100!) motorhomes and camper vans lined up. So, if you wish to sleep there (at your own risk), the road you are looking for is called ZUIDER LEIDESVAART.
After visiting the coast and Kinderdijk, we slept in a very nice camp / farm not so far from UTRECHT. We spent the last night in GIETHOORN. All the campsites were between 19-21€ per night for 2 persons and car, meaning we only spent 60€ on accommodation during this short trip. This is a perfect country if you like camping and lots of local people are doing it. It is worth calling a few hours in advance (especially on the weekends) to check if there is a place available.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO
LISSE TULIP FIELDS
The most typical sight in the Netherlands in Spring time, between April and May – the TULIP FIELDS. And one of the best places to see them is alongside the roads between LISSE and HAARLEM. Just remember, the fields are PRIVATE so simply walking between the flowers is not what the owners want to see. Often there are fences and in general it is not allowed. If you can´t resist, ask before you get that perfect Insta photo, if you really have to.
LISSE TOWN itself is a quiet one but there are a few shops and a nice central area with cafes, bars and restaurants.
Our typical BREAKFAST was coffee and a local delicacy – STROOPWAFEL. It can be filled with honey or caramel and it´s very yummy and filing. And sometimes with a wonderful view :).
KEUKENHOF is one of the LARGEST FLOWER PARKS IN THE WORLD and it is not to be missed during your visit. There are OVER 7 MILLION FLOWER BULBS in the park. Cafes, souvenir shops, restaurants, a windmill and many other things included. It is true that you can see the fields for free all around Lisse, but the park is worth the time and money despite that. If you book your ENTRY TICKETS online they are a bit cheaper (17€), PARKING on site is 6€. You can also walk (or go with a bicycle) from LISSE, it is not that far.
We were a bit undecided about weather we want to visit it, as we have seen the crowds the day we arrived to Lisse. Seriously, I have not seen so many tourists at one place for a long time. But since we woke up quite early the next morning we had the chance to BE AT THE GATE AT 8AM WHEN IT OPENS. It was perfect as there were not so many visitors yet and we got to enjoy it in a more peaceful atmosphere.
You can spend the whole day here if you want to walk all around and take pictures every 50 meters, but to be honest, after a while it all looks pretty much the same. We walked around most of the park, but did not go up the WINDMILL and did not take the BOAT RIDE. For those, there was an extra line and it would take too long.
All in all, it was worth to see it. There are many ORGANISED TRIPS to Keukenhof you can take from Amsterdam and other towns, including a BUS LINE FROM THE SCHIPHOL AIRPORT. I suggest buying tickets online to avoid the lines and come as early as you can, the best at 8am when it opens.
It was around 10am when we walked out of Keukenhof and we only had a loose plan on where to go next. Considering the beautiful sunshine outside we thought a stop at a BEACH could be a good thing to do. So we found this one in NOORDWIJK. The town itself is close by, but not directly at the coast so the beach was very peaceful and calm.
The Netherlands has a looong sandy coastline, protected by SANDDUNES. Make sure you only admire those from afar and don´t walk on them, it is prohibited in most places. Due to the ever present wind, you can rent of of these WIND PROTECTED AREAS if you want. We just had a nice walk and some rest on the beach. Too cold to swim in the sea for us, but some local kids were already jumping in.
The beach is perfect for long walks while enjoying the fresh air, if you have kids bring a ball. Many SHELLS to be found as well. There was a small shop and a restaurant at the beach entrance in case you get hungry. A nice place to spend a couple of hours.
After the most unsuccessful hunt for a PARKING SPACE IN SCHEVENINGEN, we decided to give up and drive to Kinderdijk. Otherwise Scheveningen is one of the most known BEACH TOWNS over here, with lots of HOTELS and things to do. Some other time. Luckily we enjoyed the beach earlier in the day anyway. Instead we spend the afternoon walking amongst these WONDERFUL WINDMILLS.
At Kinderdijk, this UNESCO SITE, you can admire 19 WINDMILLS set up along the WATER CHANNELS in beautiful nature. Again, we were so lucky with the weather, but therefore lots of other visitors had the same idea that day and the WALKING PATH was quite busy.
If you are VISITING IN THE WINTER this is a place to try out ICESKATING! When the WATER CHANNELS FREEZE people come from all over the country to do just that. Must be a really fun experience.
If you don´t like walking you can RENT A BICYCLE in the town or take a BOAT RIDE through the water channels. Walking is free though. There are 2 official PARKINGS, we did not have to pay, but it was a bit of a search to find a free spot. Lots of cafes and RESTAURANTS in the town itself.
Evening was approaching and we searched for a CAMPING nearby. There is a MOTORHOME PARKING very close, but without any facilities and we felt like a shower. We found a very nice camp site called PRINSENHOF, not so far from Utrecht. Quick sunset dinner & beer in front of our car and this eventful day was over. Good thing about the Netherlands is also, THE DISTANCES ARE VERY SHORT. Especially compared to Germany.
Next morning we decided to drive up to this cute village of GIETHOORN. They call it THE VENICE OF HOLLAND. Again quite a spontaneous decision, but that´s what is the best at road trips where you have nothing booked ahead.
We were lucky, there was a boat for us at the DE STOUWE CAMPING, we paid around 50€ for like 7 hours, which is also less than in the town. You get a map (don´t lose it, it helps you not to get lost in the channels) with DIFFERENT ROUTES. Depending on your time you can choose which ever you like. For a sunny day like this we wanted to spend the whole day outside.
If you are not so keen on DRIVING THE BOAT YOURSELF, you can also hop on a BIGGER BOAT with more passengers which takes you around on a GUIDED TOUR. Alternatively you can RENT A KAYAK, the locals have their own motor boats. We did the most of the channels and the BIGGER LAKE as well and of course made a STOP IN THE TOWN as well (there are some places where you can tie the boat and go for a walk).
There are lots of nice little SHOPS and GALLERIES, many many RESTAURANTS, a MUSEUM, CHURCH and lots of bridges. Everything is quite close as it is a small town, so walking around for an hour or two will give you a nice impression even if you do not get a boat.
This was a perfect little ROAD TRIP and for me, the best time to visit, because I really like these tulip fields. If it is your first time in the country you should definitely add AMSTERDAM, ROTTERDAM, DEN HAAG, UTRECHT, the windmills at ZAANSE SCHANS, one of the northern islands like TEXEL and other spots. There is so much to see for a relatively small country and you can easily spend a couple of weeks exploring all of it. Oh yeah and don´t forget to try their delicious BITTERBALLEN. We´ll be back soon!
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