The Netherlands in April and early May is ablaze with spring colors of tulips in full bloom. The awe-inspiring flower display is a must see. With its endless miles of paved bicycle paths and flat terrain, cycling is ideal, relaxing, and safe for cyclists of all ages. If you’re a novice biker or just don’t want to spend as much time in the saddle, this tour might be ideal for you. The cycling itinerary is not more than 28 miles per day which provides time for other fun activities: museum visits, people watching in outside cafes, relaxing by the sea, or wandering through an old town center. The emphasis of this tour, however, is tulip viewing during bulb season. Bring your camera and be ready for some of the most memorable photos in your collection!
- Biking through beautiful sand dunes to the university town of Leiden
- Standing before the organ Mozart played in Haarlem’s St. Bavo church
- Daydreaming through the fairytale town of Gouda
- Relaxing at a canal-side cafe in Amsterdam
When you arrive on board the ship at 2 p.m., you can put your luggage away in your cabin and then enjoy a cup of coffee or tea while becoming acquainted with our guide, crew, and, of course, your fellow passengers. At 2.30 p.m. we’ll leave Amsterdam, cruising on the river Amstel to Ouderkerk a/d Amstel. From Ouderkerk we’ll cycle our first kilometers through the polder Ronde Hoep to Uithoorn. At dinnertime, the program for the next day and the routine for the rest of the week will be explained.
From Uithoorn we’ll continue our tour over country roads, banks and channels through the Green Heart and polders to the city known for its cheese: Gouda. Today we stop in Gouda. Anyone who’s been to Gouda not only thinks immediately of cheese, pipes, treacle waffles, and earthenware, but also of stained glass windows, a picturesque town hall, and romantic canals. Gouda is a real old-Dutch town with a virtually intact town center. As on most days, after dinner we’ll take a walk through the city.
From Gouda we’ll cycle past scenic polders via Kinderdijk to Rotterdam. Kinderdijk has the largest group of windmills in the Netherlands. The windmills were still actively used until 1950. These days, a large pumping station is responsible for controlling the water level in the polder. Here you can visit a windmill. In Rotterdam we’ll embark and from there the ship will take us to Delft, the town famous for its “Delft Blue” pottery. Also worth a visit is the Prinsenhof Museum, housed in the former St. Agatha’s monastery. In 1572 William of Orange chose the convent as one of his residences. It was from here that he led the revolt against the Spanish tyranny of Holland. Balthazar Gerards, a Spanish sympathizer, murdered Orange on the steps of the Prinsenhof on July 10, 1584. Two bullet holes in the wall of the stairs bear witness to this event.
From Delft we’ll cycle in the direction of the Hague, through the Haagse Bosch, a large park, and past the Royal Huis ten Bosch Palace. A tranquil cycle path through the dunes leads you to Wassenaarse Slag. Here some remains of the Atlantikwall can still be seen. Five bunkers are connected by tunnels nearly 3,000 feet long. Now the underground network serves as a bat reserve. Continuing through the dunes, we’ll come to the old fishing village of Katwijk aan Zee. The old inhabitants of Katwijk still speak their own dialect, “Kattuks.” Following the course of the Oude Rijn (Old Rhine) river we’ll cycle to Leiden. Leiden boasts 14 museums, including an archeological museum connected with Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. Our ship is moored near the Zijlpoort, a gate that once formed the city walls.
Today we’ll visit the Keukenhof gardens, the most beautiful spring park in the world and the place where spring breaks in Holland. In the Keukenhof, various gardens and styles can be found: the English Landscape Garden, the Historical Garden, the Natural Garden, the Japanese Natural Garden, the Formal Garden, and three special color gardens. Spread throughout the entire park there are approximately eighty sculptures from well-known Dutch artists. There are also several other art objects, including the collection “Surprising Tulips.”
From Leiden we’ll cycle through wonderful flower beds in the direction of Haarlem. From March to May the bulb fields are blooming, starting with daffodils and followed by hyacinths, tulips, and lilies. Once in Haarlem we’ll make a short tour through the city to see some typical “hofjes” (almshouses), old houses around a central courtyard that used to house elderly people. These hofjes are definitely worth a visit. Haarlem, which gave its name to Harlem, New York, is a lively city with good shopping possibilities. Our ship will be berthed in the city centre, with a view of St Bavo’s Church and easy access to the Grote Markt with its many outdoor cafes.
From Haarlem we’ll sail to Spaarndam, a picturesque village on the edge of Haarlem, in the direction of Amsterdam. Spaarndam’s name comes from the dam built in the Spaarne River to limit the danger of flooding from the sea. A statue of Hansje Brinker can be found on the IJdijk. Hansje is a fictional character from a 19th century American novel who saved the Netherlands from flooding by putting his finger in the dike. The Buitenhuizen ferry will take us across the North Sea Canal, and from there we’ll cycle to the Zaanse Schans. The Zaanse Schans, with its traditional weatherboard houses, warehouses, and windmills, may give you the feeling of stepping back into the 17th or 18th century. This open-air museum is still a lively neighborhood where people live and work. Amongst other things, a cheese farm, a clog maker, and an old bakery can be visited here.
Our tour concludes after breakfast, with departure before 10 a.m.
Dates & Prices
Color Key :
|2018 Tour Dates|
|Apr 7–14||Liza Marleen|
|Apr 14–21||Sailing Home|
|Apr 28–May 5||Zwaan|
|May 5–12||Anna Antal|
|May 5–12||Sailing Home|
Great staff, guide, scenery, and food. Loved the dinners and getting to pack my own lunch. Bert was great…loved the side trips to the Delft factory, Hague, and the float building spot. Appreciated stopping for coffee. Loved the different kinds of terrain: green fields with animals, canals, beautiful homes, acres and acres of tulips & hyacinths. Going to The Hague was a great treat, as was each side trip we took. Loved riding through the traditional village on the last day.
We have made two bike barge tours with Van Gough and enjoyed both very much. The guides are friendly, knowledgable, and fun. The barges are comfortable and the food is fantastic. Planning on more bike barge trips in the future.
It was a great trip. We found Holland fascinating, the barge comfortable and good for socializing, and the food excellent. The guide was very knowledgeable and the group was lots of fun. I loved the cycling, but I did find that cycling in the cities in Holland was a daunting affair, even with a guide, because of the car and bicycle traffic.
I was thrilled with all that we saw and did. The guide took us to places that were not listed in the itinerary, and having time in The Hague, getting to see The Girl with the Pearl Earring is just one example of a very, very special moment. This tour was “sensational” in that all of the senses were involved. Sight: the buildings, canals, stained glass, countryside, art, art, art, flowers. Hearing: the language, the commentary by the guide, the sounds of the countryside and the city. Taste: the incredible food! Touch: the smooth Delft pottery, the ancient stone buildings, the ride of the bike. Smell: the flowers, the food, and well, other “weeds.”
The guide had surprises for us several days: a mill which makes paper, a “castle” that used to control the water, a panorama painting. I was challenged just enough by the biking. It can be hard pedaling against the wind and biking in traffic, learning the symbols on the ground for traffic flow. I particularly loved the artwork and hurried with my museum pass on many days to catch an hour in an art museum before dinner. The leader was knowledgeable and considerate. The food was way beyond anything I expected. I also enjoyed the casual camaraderie of the group. The whole trip was wonderful on so many levels.
The barges listed below are examples of those usually used on the tour. Depending on availability, you may be booked in a different barge of equal quality.
26 people – The barge “Sailing Home” started cruising in 2001, specifically for Bike & Barge Tours in The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. This beautiful passenger ship can accommodate 26 overnight passengers and 70 day passengers. The interior of the salon and bar is decorated in a modern Victorian style and offers a lot of comfort. The “Sailing Home” has two floors. On the top floor you will find the salon, a roomy lounge a cozy bar, and a sun deck. The four-man crew of the Sailing Home consists of the skipper, sailor, cook and hostess. Additional amenities include a private bathroom in each cabin, as well as central heating and air-conditioning. Daily cleaning of the cabins is also provided.
14 people – The Zwaan specializes in bike and barge tours in the Netherlands and Belgium. On board of the Zwaan you find a cosy dining room, a sun deck/a deck for the bicycles. All 7 cabins are provided with running water (hot and cold), private shower and toilet, 220 voltage and central heating. Cabin layout:
2x Family-style room, 2/3 p with double bed + single bed
2x Friend’s-style room, 2/3 p with 3 single beds (one bunk)
2x Twin-style room, 2 p with two separate beds
1x Smaller cabin in front of the barge, 2 p with double bed
There is limited storage space in the cabin. We recommend 1 suitcase per person. You can slide the suitcase under the bed. The Zwaan is known for the high quality of the meals and the friendly atmosphere on board. The crew consists of the captain, chef and hostess for 14/15 guests.
This barge is very special because of the smaller number of cabins. It makes for a cozy and intimate experience as you can get to know your guide and tour-mates better in the small group.
20 people – The “Liza Marleen” is a luxury motor passenger barge, built in 1997-98 on the completely dismantled shell of a seafaring freight logger. The tastefully decorated lounge is equipped with an audio installation, television and video. In the evenings it is possible to come together in the spacious sitting area. In the Winter of 2015 to 2016 The Liza Marleen was converted to a more luxurious barge with twin beds and updated cabins.
Eight cabins have two low beds, which can be placed together. Two superior cabins are so spacious, that they can expand with 2 lower beds or a third bed and a cot. All cabins have a private bathroom with sink, shower and toilet, heating and air conditioning.
24 people – The Wending is a former freight barge that started a new life in the early nineties as a luxury passenger motor barge. In 2015 the barge was renovated. The Wending has a roomy and cozy salon, equipped with a complete music installation and TV. After a strenuous bike ride it is a great place to relax. The barge also has a small deck where you can sit in the sunshine.
The Wending has 10 double and 2 triple cabins. The twin beds are side by side. In the triple cabin one bed is placed over the other two. All cabins have a private bathroom and central heating with small windows which can be opened.
20 people – The Feniks was originally built in 1928 as a freighter on the Dutch, Belgium and French waters. In 1992 the Feniks was redesigned as a hotel passenger ship and put in service for several sailing holidays. On board you will find a comfortable and well lit saloon, where you can relax and have a good meal. Outside on the deck you will find various seats to take in the best views over the great landscapes. There is a sundeck to relax on; or you can sit under the awning which give you shelter from the sun. If the weather allows, the meals will be served outside on the deck.
All cabins have an individual bathroom with sink, shower and toilet. Cabins are equipped with central heating and 220 volt sockets. Washer and dryer available, as well as a hair dryer, shampoo, soap and everything else you need for a comfortable stay a board of the Feniks.
18 people – The Anna Antal is a former shuttle barge which was converted into a luxury motor passenger ship in the winter of 1994-95. In 2012 the saloon and cabins were renovated. The Anna Antal has a cozy salon/lounge, a sun deck, and a storage deck for the bicycles.
All cabins are provided with running water (hot and cold), private shower and toilet, 220 voltage and central heating. There is limited storage space in the cabin, so we recommend one suitcase per person. You can slide the suitcase under the bed.
- 7 nights on board the ship (sheets, blankets, and two towels)
- 7 breakfasts, 6 packed lunches and 7 dinners
- Coffee and tea on board
- 24–speed bicycle, incl. helmet, pannier bags, lock, water bottle, & bike insurance
- Admittance & public transportation to the Keukenhof Gardens
- Tour guide (multilingual)
- Route information and road book
- Ferry fares on the route
- Reservation costs
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. If you prefer to bring your own bike you’re welcome to do so at a discount of $85 each. Electric bikes can be rented for this tour ($115 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 gluten-free diet there is an additional charge of $60 per week. Please indicate this at time of booking.
- Drinks from bar on board or when cycling
- Admission fees to the various museums or places of interest
- Trip cancellation insurance
The barge embarks from the Oosterdok (next to the science center Nemo) near the Central Railway Station in Amsterdam. Departure time on Saturday is at 2 p.m.. If you want you can bring your luggage in advance, from 12 noon onwards. A map, detailed instructions, and the name of your boat will be provided after your final payment is received.