Tulip Tour by Bike: Colourful Countryside
5 days / 4 nights | Self-guided cycle tours
This wonderful trip to the Bulb Flower District comes recommended from April to mid-May. This is the period you're most likely to strike lucky and see the tulip fields in full bloom, although nobody can predict exactly when spring will set in. Opening times for world-famous Keukenhof park vary slightly each year but fall roughly within this timespan. The historical cities of Amsterdam, Leiden an Haarlem are great places to spend an evening, at a pavement café perhaps, weather permitting. On the first cycling day, don't miss Cruquius (1852), a steam-driven pumping station, built with attention to aesthetic detail, and an important part of our industrial heritage. It was one of three pumping stations devised to drain Haarlemmermeer lake (170km²) which had the nasty tendency to expand and eat up more and more land and villages. The result was vast Haarlemmermeer polder which now harbours Amsterdam Airport, four meters below sea level. In the afternoon you will catch your first glimpse of the tulip fields. The second day of cycling is dedicated exclusively to those famous floral scenes, so you can enjoy them to your heart's content. The route is quite short allowing for time to visit Keukenhof park. The last leg of the tour takes you from Leiden right across the green meadows and glistening lakes of the rural Green Heart region to Uithoorn. From here the lovely River Amstel will be your guide back to Amsterdam.
Highlights: Colourful tulip fields, City of Amsterdam, Old town of Haarlem, Museums and historic city of Leiden.
Day 1: Arrival in Amsterdam
Get here early and opt to wander around the gorgeous and surprisingly peaceful seventeenth century canal ring area (World Heritage Site). If you like bustle, make your way to the city's famous squares: Dam, Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein. Should you prefer to roam off the beaten track, saunter up Brouwersgracht or hire a canal bike and find out what the city looks like from the water.
Day 2: Amsterdam – Haarlem (Cycling 53 km / 33 miles)
It may be tempting to linger in Amsterdam, but today is the day you get to see your first tulip fields! Set off early to leave behind the hustle and bustle of the lively capital and enter a region called South Kennemerland. Firstly, head for Cruquius, a steam-driven pumping station for a lesson in Dutch water management. Just after the village of Bennebroek you can catch your first short glimpse of the tulip fields. Then veer north and crown your day in the city centre of Haarlem. Look up at the typically Dutch facades on the market square. The city boasts a wealth of art, culture, monuments, restaurants and cafes.
Day 3: Haarlem – Leiden (Cycling 38 km / 24 miles)
Downtown Haarlem deserves to be explored thoroughly. We recommend a city walk to discover the city's hidden "hofjes". A hofje is a square of tiny almshouses set around an idyllic courtyard, often built by the church or by private charity to house single older women. Also dating back to the Dutch Golden Age, the works of Haarlem painter Frans Hals (group portraiture) and his townsmen including Jacob Ruysdael (land- and seascapes) and Pieter Saenredam (church interiors) are on display at the Frans Hals museum. In the afternoon get set for a colourful bike trip through the Dune and Bulb Region. Try to time this holiday before mid-May to capture the bulb flower fields in their full splendour! Tulips, crocuses, daffodils and hyacinths are grown here commercially (for bulb export) and temporarily transform the landscape into one of the country's best-loved tourist attractions. Should you want to spend a day at world famous Keukenhof flower exhibition, we recommend you book an extra night in Leiden. Leiden is our oldest university town. It has a very busy cultural events calendar and a friendly city centre with canals, monuments windmills and museums. The historical botanical gardens get special mention.
Day 4: Leiden – Amsterdam (Cycling 58 km / 36 miles)
Should you wish to see more tulips, we advise you book an extra night and do a round tour of the Bulb District. The route back to Amsterdam takes you past several lakes, across rural 'Green Heart', to the River Amstel. On the banks of this lovely river, you will encounter pretty villages and grand country houses. This is one of the greenest routes there is to get you right into Amsterdam back to your hotel. As you may have guessed, the city is named after the river. In the 13th century, Amsterdam started out as a fishing village by a dam at the mouth of the river. The oldest part of Amsterdam is around the Oude Kerk (Old Church). Known as Amsterdam's living room, it's the oldest building in the city.
Day 5: Depart after breakfast
Time to head for home, or on to your next destination perhaps?
Please note: All cycling distances stated above are approximate only.