Frisian Frolic – Family Cycling Holiday

Scenic family-friendly cycling on wonderful, well paved, flat bicycle paths through the picturesque provinces of North Holland and Friesland; visits to the historic seaports of Enkhuizen and Medemblik on the IJssel Lake (the former South Sea) and to picturesque Stavoren, Sloten, Bolsward, Joure and Sneek in Friesland; a soothing ferry ride from Enkhuizen to Stavoren; the Zuiderzee Museum, a fascinating open-air depiction of life in 17th and 18th century Holland and a guided tour in the Castle Radboud in Medemblik. Tour is 7 days and 6 nights in length with two nights each in Enkhuizen, Sneek and Oranjewoud. The tour is limited to 14 people!

Daily Itinerary

Day 1: Enkhuizen – Roundtrip – warm-up ride
Our tour starts in Enkhuizen, a lively, historic, beautifully preserved 17th century seaport, an easy train ride from Amsterdam or Schiphol Airport. A very short (ten minutes) walk will bring you to our charming hotel near the harbor, a few steps away from Enkhuizen’s bustling shopping center. At 2:00 PM we’ll gather for a short orientation meeting in the lobby of our hotel followed by “bike fitting” and a “warm-up ride” in the picturesque surroundings of Enkhuizen. Dinner tonight is in the restaurant of our cozy hotel.

Day 2: Enkhuizen – Medemblik – Enkhuizen – 35 miles
Today we cycle to historic Medemblik, passing by some small, quaint villages with beautiful 17th and 18th century “Stolpboerderijen”, typical farms for this area. Medemblik has a charming center with a small but picturesque harbor, a typical Dutch flourmill “de Herder”, many small museums and great café’s for lunch. After lunch we’ll visit the Castle Radboud, originally built by Earl Floris V at the end of the 13th century to control the Westfrisian population (this part of North Holland was called West Friesland). It is a strong, square castle, in good condition since its fine restoration in the 19th century. A “medieval” knight will guide us around and tell us all about the castle and the fascinating Middle Ages. After our visit we’ll return to Enkhuizen along the curving sea dike, with its magnificent views on the IJssel Lake, the former South Sea. Dinner on your own tonight in one of Enkhuizen’s many restaurants.

Day 3: Enkhuizen – Stavoren – Sneek – 32 mile
Today we’ll leave West Friesland and bike to the landing for a pleasant one-hour ferry ride over the IJssel Lake to unusual Friesland. Holland’s most northern province is a region of lush green farms, boat filled waterways and scenic lakes. Friesland is truly special! Imagine skillful, puffing skaters in the wintry landscapes of the Elfstedentocht, a 125-mile long ice-skating race looping through 11 towns in Friesland. We’ll likely see a number of “Skutjes,” the Frisian sailing ships used commercially throughout the 18th and 19th century and still popular with local Frisian sailors today. We’ll also encounter quaint hamlets built on earthen mounds to protect them from flooding and beautiful fortified towns all along the way. Friesland has many handsome 17th century houses and picturesque farms arrayed with prototypical Frisian cows munching in peaceful meadows. Occasionally entire town centers have been designated a historically protected area. The Frisians even speak a language of their own that is not a dialect of Dutch! We’ll disembark in Stavoren, a tiny harbor village and the oldest city in Friesland. It received its city rights in 1118. Arriving in the harbor we’ll find some cute streets where you can wander around and feel like you’re back in the 17th century. After a coffee we’ll begin the day’s pedaling, first on top of a dike and then over quiet bike paths through the forested area called Gaasterland and then on to the Friesian Lake District with its quaint little villages. We’ll cross a number of little bridges over shimmering canals and admire the sleek sail boats “floating” on the lakes like elegant, alabaster swans. We’ll stop for lunch in Sloten, the smallest of the 11 towns of the Elfstedentocht but the best preserved. It is a fortified town that got its town right s in the 13th century and was favorably located on the trade route from Stavoren to Germany. The town has remained the same throughout the centuries mostly because the population of 700 has fluctuated little through the years. In the center admire the beautifully preserved historic merchant homes along the tree-lined central canal and have a tasty lunch in one of the many charming small café’s. In the afternoon we visit lively Lemmer, another attractive Frisian water sports center before we reach our quiet hotel just outside of Joure. You can read, write postcards or have a drink in the former horse stables, now a tastefully decorated lounge with a variety of plants.

Day 4: Sint Nicolaasga – Sneek – Sint Nicolaasga – 34 miles
Today you have the option to take a rest day from biking. You can just relax or rent a small boat to visit close by Lemmer or one of the nature reserves in the area. If you decide to cycle our itinerary leads us to Sneek (or “Snits” as it is called in Friesian), the water sports capital of Friesland. In Sneek we’ll have a guided walking tour to acquaint you with this well preserved town. Sneek has an interesting Watergate (1613) and the “raadhuis” or town hall, which was built on a “terp” – an artificial hill higher than the surrounding land – to protect it from flooding. The Martini Church was constructed around 1500 and still stands proudly today for our admiration. There is also a Friesian Maritime Museum that traces the history of the Friesian sailing industry. For sailors the yearly Sneek Week in August is an event not to be missed! After Sneek we’ll bike on the wonderful path along the Sneeker Lake, one of the many scenic, manmade lakes located in Friesland. Dutch farmers, who dug the peat to burn as fuel centuries ago, artificially created these lakes. Now they are nature reservations for walkers, bikers and boaters only. In the afternoon we’ll pass through Joure, another charming small town, on our way back to our cozy hotel for a delightful dinner and a peaceful evening in the quiet surroundings.

Day 5: Sint Nicolaasga – Oranjewoud – 17 miles
An easy morning of pleasant pedaling through the watery green countryside with its many tidy farms will bring us to Oranjewoud, a prosperous, wooded suburb of bustling Heerenveen. Heerenveen is one of the larger towns in Friesland and is the “Mecca” for Dutch speed skating and home to a number of European and Olympic champions. It is also the home to the Heerenveen soccer team, the proud and sometimes rowdy standard-bearers of the province. The Friesian flag, with its diagonal blue and white stripes and heart-shaped red leaves, is always hoisted over the club’s home pitch in Heerenveen. Our four-star luxury hotel is serenely situated in the middle of the forest of Oranjewoud, just east of Heerenveen. The wide country lanes and stately mansions in this part of Heerenveen are reminiscent of the time when the Dutch Royal Family took up residence in Oranjewoud. We’ll have time to enjoy the hotel swimming pool and spa before a delicious dinner this evening in our hotel’s superb restaurant.

Day 6: Oranjewoud – Oldeberkoop – Oranjewoud – 34 miles
It will be difficult to leave our luxurious hotel but today we have planned a bike ride that loops to the east before returning “home”. First we’ll pedal past Huize Oranjewoud, the former estate of Princess Albertina Agnes of Orange with its attractive garden surrounding the estate. Later we’ll pass by Katlijk and Oudehorne on our way to the 12th century village of Oldeberkoop. Here we’ll admire its Roman style church also from the 12the century. After Oldeberkoop we’ll follow the meandering River Linde and arrive back in Oranjewoud for a leisurely late afternoon in the garden of our hotel. If the weather is agreeable, we’ll toast our Friesland hosts and enjoy our farewell dinner tonight on the hotel terrace.

Day 7:
Transfer to the train station in Heerenveen with direct connections to Amersfoort and from there to Schiphol Airport for your flight home or the next leg of your European vacation.

Getting There

Starting Point:
11:00 AM in the train station in Enkhuizen, a comfortable hour long train ride from Amsterdam or Schiphol Airport.

Ending Point:
The tour concludes the morning of day 7 after breakfast with group transfer to the train station in Heerenveen, which has a connection over Amersfoort to Schiphol Airport (two and a quarter hours). For last minute train schedules visit the website of the Dutch Railways, www.ns.nl.

Meals

You will enjoy daily breakfast and four dinners of superb three or four-courses. Lunch is not included in the price; most days we will dine in a local restaurant.

Prices and Dates

Check out our Tour Calendar under “Hotel Tours”

Tour Length

7 days/ 6 nights

Included
      – 6 nights lodging in three and four-star hotels with private facilities
      – 4 dinners and 6 breakfasts
      – Outstanding, personalized leadership by VGT’s owner and local Dutch guide
      – Support van
      – Daily route directions
      – 24-speed hybrid bicycles
    – All taxes and gratuities for the hotel and restaurant portions of the tour
Bicycles

24-speed hybrid Specialized bikes are included on the tour. Bicycles come equipped with: grip shifters, handlebar bag, bell, cage and water bottle, optional toe clips, optional rear view mirror and rear pannier. It is also possible to replace our pedals with your own “clip on” pedals. Helmets are not included; please bring your own helmet! We do have a few helmets available for rent for $20 for the week. If you wish to rent one, please let us know ahead of time.

Level of Difficulty

Daily cycling distances are 25-35 miles on flat terrain and on mostly separate bike paths. Level of Difficulty is easy. Because Friesland is so flat, it can be windy. Remember that the van is usually very close by and you can join the “lonely driver” if you need a break from riding!

Excluded

– Airfare
– Alcoholic and bar beverages
– Two dinners
– 6 lunches
– Independent sightseeing
– Transportation other than scheduled VGT transfers

Weather

Holland is close to the North Sea and has a moderate sea climate. Average daytime temperatures in September range from 55-65F. Rain is always possible in The Netherlands!

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