Discover the picturesque provinces of North Holland and Friesland on this scenic, family-friendly cycle tour led by VGT’s owner. You’ll bike along wonderful, well-paved, and flat bicycle paths, visiting seaports and towns as you take in the charm and history of the Netherlands. You’ll explore the historic seaports of Enkhuizen and Medemblik on the IJssel Lake (the former South Sea) and take a trip to other lovely towns including Stavoren, Sloten, Bolsward, Joure, and Sneek in Friesland. A peaceful ferry ride from Enkhuizen will take you on to Stavoren. There’s a lot to see and do during your visit to the Zuiderzee Museum, a fascinating open-air depiction of local life in 17th and 18th century Holland, and you’ll also enjoy a guided tour in the impressive Castle Radboud in Medemblik. Your tour lasts 7 days and 6 nights, with two nights each in Enkhuizen, Sneek, and Oranjewoud in lovely lodgings. This tour is led personally by Emma and a local guide, so you’ll be traveling with guides who really know the local area and can give you the best service VGT has to offer!
- Biking over dikes, past shimmering canals, and through the gorgeous forests of Gaasterland
- Discovering the history of an impressive castle under the guidance of a medieval knight
- Passing quaint villages and hamlets as you breeze through the picturesque, watery “Lake District”
- Enjoying a view over the picturesque harbor of Medemblik from a charming cafe
- Watching from the deck of a ferry as 18th century Frisian “Skutjes” sail past you
- Relaxing in your hotel spa out in peaceful Frisian forestland
Our tour will start in Enkhuizen, a lively, historic, beautifully preserved 17th century seaport, and an easy train ride from Amsterdam or Schiphol Airport. A very short (ten minute) walk will bring you to our charming hotel near the harbor, a few steps away from Enkhuizen’s bustling shopping center. At 2 p.m. 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 will be in the restaurant of our cozy hotel.
Today we’ll 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 – very important – great cafes for lunch. After eating, we’ll visit the Castle Radboud, originally built by Earl Floris V at the end of the 13th century to control the West Frisian population (this part of North Holland was called “West Friesland”). It’s a strong, square castle, in good condition since its 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 magnificent views on the IJssel Lake, the former South Sea. Tonight you can take your pick of Enkhuizen’s many restaurants.
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. It’s truly unique and definitely 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 “Skutsjes,” 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 there are beautiful fortified towns all along the way. Friesland has many handsome 17th century houses and picturesque farms arrayed with “classic” Friesian cows munching in peaceful meadows. Occasionally, entire town centers have been designated as a historically protected area. The Frisians also 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 Frisian 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’s a fortified town that got its town rights 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. In the center you can 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 cafes. In the afternoon we’ll 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.
Today you’ll 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 Frisian), 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 (dating from 1613) and the “raadhuis” or town hall is 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’s also a Frisian Maritime Museum that traces the history of the Frisian 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, man made lakes located in Friesland. Dutch farmers, who dug the peat to burn as fuel centuries ago, artificially created these lakes. Now they’re nature reservations for walkers, bikers, and boaters. 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.
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’s also the home to the Heerenveen soccer team, the proud and sometimes rowdy standard-bearers of the province. The Frisian 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 the area. We’ll have time to enjoy the hotel swimming pool and spa before a delicious dinner this evening in our hotel’s superb restaurant.
It will be difficult to leave our luxurious hotel, but today we have a bike ride planned 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. We can admire its Roman-style church, also from the 12th 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.
Your tour ends after breakfast, with a transfer to the train station in Heerenveen. There are direct connections to Amersfoort and from there to Schiphol Airport for your flight home or the next leg of your European vacation.
Dates & Prices
|2018 Tour Dates|
The hotels listed below are examples of those usually used on the tour. Depending on availability, you may be booked in a different hotel of equal quality.
Hotel De Koepoort
Hotel De Koepoort is the perfect home base for all trips in Enkhuizen and West-Friesland. Inside the ramparts of the old town there are 366 buildings, each with a separate story. Not only are the historical buildings and canals delighting, but the locals will also treat you with hospitality at the plentiful bars and cafes. You will enjoy the interior of the hotel, as well, featuring paintings by local artists and a fantastic view from the terrace.
Hotel De Oorsprong
Once used as a stable for Frisian horses, this historic building is now the modern and comfortable Hotel De Oorsprong. Because of its beautiful location in the woods, you can escape the city noise. The Frisian lakes are a beautiful landmark to check out, only 5 km away from the hotel. There are numerous possibilities for nature excursions during your stay at De Oorsprong.
Hotel Golden Tulip Tjaarda
Superbly located in a woodland area in the picturesque village of Oranjewoud, the Golden Tulip hotel is only a short trip away from some interesting sites. In nearby Heerenveen you will find the Belvedere museum featuring contemporary works by Frisian artists. When it comes to outdoor activities, guests will be spoiled for choice: in addition to extensive hiking, there are opportunities for swimming, sailing and fishing in the numerous Frisian lakes. The hotel itself also features a restaurant, bar, indoor swimming pool, and spa.
- 6 nights’ lodging in 3- and 4-star hotels
- 4 dinners and daily breakfasts
- 24-speed bicycle
- Outstanding, personalized leadership by VGT’s owner and local Dutch guide
- Support van
- Daily route directions
- Baggage handling
- All taxes and gratuities for the hotel and restaurant portions of the tour
24-speed hybrid Trek bikes are included on the tour. Bicycles come equipped with: grip shifters, handlebar bag, bell, cage, and water bottle. We have everything you’ll need in the van to make your biking experience more comfortable, including toe cages (no clips for clip in shoes), rear view mirrors, and rear panniers. It’s also possible to replace our pedals with your own “clip in” pedals. Helmets are not included so please bring a 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.
To rent an e-bike is also possible. Please inquire with us for the price. 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.
Daily buffet breakfast, 2 coffee breaks, 2 lunches and 4 dinners are included in the tour price. For the buffet breakfasts there’s an assortment of cold meats and cheeses, eggs, bread, croissants, jam, cereal, yogurt, fruit, coffee, and tea. For the two included lunches we’ll stop together in a local restaurant. For the other lunches we’ll be in a town with lots of choices of simple to extravagant restaurants. Dinners are 3-courses with either a set menu or a choice of 2 or 3 options. On the two nights when you are on your own for dinner, you can choose one of many delicious restaurant options within easy walking distance from our hotel.
We can accommodate many types of dietary restrictions including vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and dairy free. Please indicate these requests at the time of booking.
- Alcoholic and bar beverages
- Two dinners
- 6 lunches
We’ll meet at 11 a.m. in the train station in Enkhuizen, a comfortable hour-long train ride from Amsterdam or Schiphol Airport.
Your tour will conclude 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.