From: $1,280 USD
This tour begins and ends in Amsterdam but will take you north to the distinctly rural Island of Texel after visits to the architectural jewels of Edam, Hoorn, Enkhuizen and Alkmaar, as well as the fascinating outdoor museum, Zaanse Schans. In the 17th century this extensive area was recovered from the sea with the use of hundreds of windmills – many still in working order today. You will get a strong sense of the 17th century Dutch prosperity in Enkhuizen, Hoorn and Volendam. Later, you’ll sail to Texel, an island with thousands of sheep and a magnificent nature preserve that makes it a bird lover’s paradise. Back on the mainland, the route will take you over small dikes and quiet country roads through vast polders and along beautiful sand dunes stretching from Schoorl to Bergen. Alkmaar is the capital of cheese making and has its own cheese market and historic Waag (weigh house). In the tulip months of April and May, you will also cycle through miles of colorful fields.
On Thursday afternoon you will be expected between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on your boat located close to the Amsterdam Central Station. After storing your luggage and meeting your cycling companions, guide, captain, and crew, you may join an optional bike ride around the northern part of Amsterdam. Dinner on the boat will be followed by a preview of the cycling itinerary for the upcoming week.
We will leave Amsterdam early. A ferry will take us to the Amsterdam Noord quarter and soon we will be cycling through the rural area of Waterland. In this soggy peatland, the houses and villages are hardly above the level of the water. We will visit the former isle of Marken.
It was only in 1957 that this island was connected to the mainland by a dike, and it’s retained its own particular character. The inhabitants are the only ones allowed to use their cars, so Marken can only be visited on foot or on bike. Our route continues to the historic village of Monnickendam, which received its municipal charter in 1355. We will continue along the Gouwzee dike to Volendam. Originally Volendam was a small fishing community. It started as a settlement when the nearby town of Edam dug its new, shorter waterway to the Zuiderzee in the 14th century. The old harbor became superfluous, a new dike was built, and soon farmers and fishermen settled down. In the second half of the 15th century a new village grew up: Volendam. After our visit, we will sail north towards Hoorn. During the evening walk we will get a good impression of this city with its rich past. The attractive city of Hoorn was given a municipal charter in 1357. In addition to Amsterdam, Edam, Monnickendam, Enkhuizen, and Medemblik, Hoorn was a major harbour in the 17th century. Ships sailed from here for the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), America, Scandinavia, and the Mediterranean.
Today we will continue on the dike with a wonderful view over the Markermeer on our right and West-Frisian villages on our left. The recently built dike from Enkhuizen to Lelystad (in the Noordoostpolder) will appear on the horizon. This was meant to be a polder dike for a huge new polder: the Markerwaard. However, the plans were never executed and over time, perception changed and the environment and fresh water supply became more important. Today the dike is there, but no polder. Today’s trip will end in Enkhuizen, a town which came into existence when two adjoining villages amalgamated. It was given a municipal charter in 1355. In the Golden Age, Enkhuizen had grown so much that its harbor was well-known internationally and the beautiful gables, town hall, and richly decorated churches all date from these times of growth. At the end of the 17th century a decline set in as a result of the wars with England and the growing importance of Amsterdam as a sea trading city. When the Zuiderzee was closed off in 1932 (by the Afsluitdijk) the herring fishing industry ended. In Enkuizen, you can visit the open-air Zuiderzeemuseum. This museum, which consists of indoor and outdoor parts, shows the history of everyday life around the Zuiderzee until the middle of the 20th century. Amongst other things, exhibitions can be visited on the reclamation of the Zuiderzee, whale fishing, and the rich history of the United East Indian Company. Most emphasis is placed on the period between 1880 and 1932, and the distinctive smell of fresh tar, smoked fish, and peat-heated stoves wafts down the alleys between the 130 buildings.
Our day’s tour starts on the IJsselmeer dike, which we will leave behind to go through a nature reserve and some typical West-Frisian villages. Then Medemblik will come into sight – the oldest city of West-Friesland (1289) with an illustrious past, and the Radboud castle which dates from the 13th century. After Medemblik, our trip continues through the Wieringermeer, the oldest of the IJsselmeer polders. At Oude Zeug we’ll board and sail to the isle of Texel.
Today you will have the option to choose from multiple route lengths. The isle of Texel, which is one municipality, is the largest of the Dutch Waddeneilanden (Wadden islands). The average length of Texel is 20 km and the average width 8 km. The first human inhabitants may date from the Middle Stone Age (8,000-4,500 BC). Texel also attracts many bird-watchers. In springtime, about 80 different birds breed here, mainly in the dune areas, but all in all about 300 different species have been spotted on this island.
As early as the 16th and 17th centuries Texel sheep cheese was well-known abroad. This wasn’t the usual white cheese, but a special green cheese, colored by the juice of boiled sheep droppings that were stirred through the milk. If you want to try some, don’t worry: this was forbidden by the Dutch Food Inspection Department in 1930 for hygienic reasons. A tour around this island with its numerous cycle tracks is well worth the effort.
The ship will take us back to the mainland, where we will disembark in the city of Den Helder, a Dutch naval port situated at the mouth of the Noord-Hollandskanaal. Today’s route will take us through the dunes. In the months of April and May, we will first cycle through the flower bulb fields around Anna Paulowna, the centre of the North Holland flower cultivation. We will pass by the unique nature reserve Het Zwanenwater (The Swans’ Water) with its lakes and boggy hollows in the dunes. A little further on we will cycle on the Hondsbossche Zeewering (Hondsbossche Sea Dike) with a spectacular view of the North Sea. We will enter the area of the Schoorlse Duinen (Schoorl Dunes) where we will find the highest dunes in the country. During the last century many pine trees were planted here so now it’s a rather woody region. Bergen is an artists’ village which attracts many painters, writers, and architects. Our final destination for today is Alkmaar, also called the City of Cheese. Its weigh-house, for the weighing and trading of cheese, was the first in the country.
You will have the choice of cycling the whole of the day’s journey or staying on board till Zaandam. Alkmaar‘s famous Friday cheese market starts at 10 a.m. After leaving Alkmaar, we will head on through the “droogmakerij” land with the 17th century towns of Schermerhorn, Graft, and De Rijp. The last stretch will take us through ’t Twiske (the Twiske) Leisure Park. Since the beginning of the Christian era the peat region around the Zaan had been used for cattle grazing. In the peatland, ditches were dug to help drainage. The dried peat was used as fuel. Once we’re back at the barge in Amsterdam it will be time to take leave of our bikes. In the afternoon there will still be time to go into town, and after dinner you may want to finish your trip by going on a city walk or one of Amsterdam’s canal boats.
Our tour concludes after breakfast, with departure before 10 a.m.
Green = Open | Yellow = Limited | Red = Full
Prices are per person in US dollars & inclusive bike rental
The accommodations listed below are examples of those usually used on the tour. Depending on availability, you may be booked in a different accommodation of equal quality.
A well maintained, comfortable 24-speed hybrid bicycle is available free of charge for each participant. Men and women’s models are available in sizes appropriate to your height. The bikes come with helmets, grip shifters, hand brakes, carrier bag, lock, repair kit, water bottle holders, water bottle, and bike insurance. Electric bikes can be rented for this tour ($130 per person).We advise you only to rent an electric bike if you have first tried one at home. They’re heavier than regular bikes and therefore can be difficult to maneuver. In addition, you can rent children’s bikes, child seats, bike trailers, and tag-alongs.
The cook prepares all meals: a substantial breakfast and a three-course dinner of very good quality. A packed lunch may be prepared after breakfast. Tea and coffee will be ready when you arrive on board in the afternoon. There’s a bar on board with reasonably-priced beer, wine, and soft drinks. If you have special meal requirements, please mention this when booking. In the case of a Vegan/gluten-free and lactose free diet there is an additional charge of $85 per week.