The Netherlands is a beautiful country. Obviously I am a bit biased as it is my home country, but look at the pictures! Nope, the Netherlands has no mountains or waterfalls, but there are beautiful forests, heather fields, sand dunes, beaches, cute historical villages, castles, flowers, windmills, art and much more. So where to go if you have got about a week in The Netherlands and you would like to enjoy nature? Here is my top 5, in random order.
The Veluwe is a beautiful green area in the middle of the Netherlands, part of the Gelderland province. The Veluwe is known for its beautiful nature with lots of forests, several National Parks and more than a 100 lakes and pools. The right place to be for peace seekers and nature lovers! Hoenderloo is a great base to explore the area, right at the northeastern edge of National Park De Hoge Veluwe. The Veluwe is a favorite holiday destination of many Dutch couples and families, but it is big enough not to notice.
- Explore NP Hoge Veluwe and and NP Veluwezoom by bicycle or foot, routes are clearly indicated or visit the local Tourist Information Office first to get a map
- Ride your bicycle along castles in the cute villages, stop for lunch or a cup of coffee.
- Check out the Kröller Müller Museum with its unique collection (Van Gogh, sculptures, etc.)
- Visit Paleis het Loo (palace), its beautiful garden (open until Sep 29) and Kroondomein
- Encounter monkeys like you never did before at the Apenheul in Apeldoorn
- Horse lovers: join a group ride out in western style with The Mill Ranch in Ede
- Enjoy a super relaxing day at Thermen Bussloo, the best wellness resort of the Netherlands
- If you have got more time left, the Soesterduinen sand dunes are worth a detour
Stay @ Aan de bosrand (‘On the edge of the forest’) in Hoenderloo
It is possible to visit the Veluwe as a day tour from Amsterdam, but obviously it is worth spending more time...
Drenthe is beautiful, peaceful province in the northeast of the Netherlands. Full of forest, heather, walking and biking paths, charming small villages, etc. We love to stay at authentic B&B’s in old farms, more specifically in the National Park Drentsche Aa. Use Gasselte, Eext or Gasteren as a home base and discover all the tranquility Drenthe has to offer. I visit Drenthe a few times a year, always a pleasure! Locals are friendly. It is becoming quite a trend to move from big cities like Amsterdam to Drenthe, to raise a family or start a B&B for example.
- Walk or bicycle though the beautiful National Parks and forests, see map at the bottom of this article, the routes are clearly indicated
- Swim and/or enjoy a picnic at swimming pond ‘t Nije Hemelriek in the middle of the forest
- Check out the 54 hunebeds, prehistoric stone graves older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids
- Visit Camp Westerbork to learn more about the WWII in the Netherlands
- Relax for a day in the saunas and garden of Sauna Thermen Zuidwolde, there is a cave sauna!
- Join a daily forest ride organized by horse riding school Manege Gasselte
- Go to Groningen, Assen or Emmen if you feel the urge of shopping
- Lots of fun things to do with kids too, such as: WILDLANDS Adventure Zoo in Emmen, Pretpark Drouwenerzand (theme park) and Speelpark Sprookjeshof in Zuidlaren
- If you have more time, consider a detour to Giethoorn, a very picturesque water village (warming: beautiful yet touristy and potentially crowded, especially in high season)
- De La Sablière B&B in Gasselte
- De Violier in Eext
- B&B Gasteren in Gasteren
- Resort Hof van Saksen for families with young children
The Twente region is part of the Overijssel province, in the central east of the Netherlands, close to the border with Germany. Enschede is the biggest city of the province, located in the so-called Twente region. A beautiful region that I try to visit as much as possible, really one of my top favorites! There are many areas where you can walk or ride your bicycle through beautiful pieces of nature. So relaxing! The people are super friendly too! Enschede is home of the Grolsch beer brewery and a lively student city.
- Take a walk or ride your bicycle at De Lutte, Rutbeek, Witteveen, Hof Espelo, Buurserzand, Aamsveen, Haagse Bos, etc. There is even a 5-day pilgrimage called Hilligenpad.
- Have a cup of tea and something sweet at Tea house ‘Sprakel in the forest’ in Lonneker
- Visit picturesque Ootmarsum with many historical buildings, local artists, Open Air Museum
- Take a ride with Holzik Stables though the surrounding area of Twente University
- Sip and taste wines at Hof van Twente, one of the largest vineyards of the Netherlands
- Sweat and relax at the saunas of Saré in Oldenzaal, a lovely wellness!
Stay @ Estate Wilmersberg in De Lutte (also fantastic for lunch)
North Holland province
Alkmaar is the smaller sister of Amsterdam, located just half an hour north. The center of Alkmaar has those charming canals and 18th and 19th century houses, fabulous shops, cheese market (Apr-Sep), nearby windmills, flower fields (Apr), beaches, etc. Visit other attractive towns and villages from Alkmaar by bicycle, car and/or train/bus. OK this one is not all about nature, but I don’t want you to miss the nearby highlights…
- North Sea villages Bergen aan Zee, Schoorl and Egmond aan Zee, Bergen restaurants
- Go walking, horse riding or mountain biking in the forest and dunes of Schoorl
- Visit the picturesque Zaanse Schans
- Go to Monnickendam, Marken and Volendam with traditional Dutch clothes photo shoot, stroopwafel workshop and eat fresh fish (kibbeling, lekkerbek or haring) at the harbor
- Hoorn and Enkhuizen with the Zuiderzee Museum (IJsselmeer used to be Southern Sea)
- Go cow cuddling at dairy farm De Kastanjehoeve (‘Chestnut farm’) in Beets near the Beemster
- Get pampered at Fort Resort Beemster sauna & wellness for a day
- Texel island is gorgeous and worth a day trip but ideally spend more time
- And yes of course Amsterdam
Stay @ Wolf Hotel Kitchen & Bar in Alkmaar
East Brabant & North Limburg
Southern provinces North Brabant and Limburg are definitely the most Burgundian areas of the Netherlands. To be honest, I always feel like I am abroad whenever I am in Limburg. The rolling landscape and the accent I cannot understand. But I do understand gastronomy; food, drinks, atmosphere, celebration of life. And that is what you will get in Noord Brabant and Limburg provinces, plus several great nature areas.
- Walk or bicycle around at the beautiful National Park De Maasduinen in Northwest Limburg, right at the border with Germany. It will be gorgeous in autumn colors!
- Enjoy National Park De Grote Peel on the edge of North Brabant and Limburg
- Admire the heather fields of either the Lieropse Heide (heide = heather) near Someren (Brabant) or the Leeremarckse Heide at Arcen (Limburg)
- Visit the castle and castle gardens of Arcen, a huge collection of flowers and plats
- Experience oriental style wellness at Thermen Berendonck in Wijchen, the youngest sister of the earlier mentioned Thermen Bussloo near Apeldoorn, but it is a bit far out; Arcen thermal bath is closer but less fancy
- Den Bosch (‘s Hertogenbosch) and Breda are my favorite cities of North Brabant, and Maastricht is a wonderful city in southern Limburg, but a bit far out to combine with the above mentioned natural hot spots
Stay @ De Maasparel in Arcen
The end of August up to mid September is a great time to go out and walk through the heather fields that are in full bloom!
More to see
Of course there is more to see in the Netherlands, a further selection:
- Friesland province including the Friesian Lakes
- De Keukenhof in Lisse (open March 21 – May 10, 2020)
- Bloemendaal aan zee
- Muiderslot and Kasteel De Haar
- Heather fields in Hilversum and Bussum
- Utrecht and Amersfoort
- Delft, Leiden, The Hague and Rotterdam
- De Achterhoek
- Terschelling and Ameland islands
For other saunas and wellness resorts, check out my earlier article Relax at my favorite saunas in The Netherlands.
How to get around
The easiest and most flexible way to go around The Netherlands would be by car, either your own (if available) or a rental car. For rental cars, I am a big fan of Sunny Cars. Most Dutch professional travel agents use them for their customers around the world and they are SMART! Sunny Cars is an all-inclusive, worry free rental concept with affordable, fair prices, great service and no unpleasant surprises upon pick up or drop off. Ideal, I use them all the time!
Alternatively there is public transport. Check the app or website of 9292, NS (train only) or use Google Maps for the route to take by train or bus. Make sure you get an anonymous OV chip card from the NS ticket machine at the train station to put money on, or another OV chip sales point. You swipe when upon arrival and departure of the train station or train track, this varies per station.
This mobile friendly map includes most things mentioned in this article and is smartphone friendly. You can use it easily via Google Maps. Click on the top left icon to open the menu. You can (un)select areas/categories to customize the map to your needs.
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I hope you find this article useful and that it will inspire you to travel to the areas mentioned. What is your favorite place in The Netherlands so far? Please feel free to ask a question or leave another type of comment below!
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