Bike through the tulip fields of Holland
Spring in Europe is almost magical. After long months of dreary cold, the days begin to slowly warm and lengthen. Barren trees and fields sprout buds and begin to change from brown and gray to shimmering hues of green and gold. There’s no better place to catch this transformation than Holland.
A little history
The spectacular tulips lining the fields in Holland actually originated in the 11th century in the Ottoman Empire (present-day Turkey). Brought over as a gift during the mid- 1500s, tulips became a status symbol of wealth and prosperity. The intense saturation of bold colors in the delicate petals were unlike anything seen in northern Europe during that time. Tulip trading became frenzied and at one point, the precious bulbs (especially the multi-color variety) were used as currency.
Today, the Netherlands contributes to more than two-thirds of the world’s flora market. During the peak months of March- May, visitors from all around the world flock to the uber-famous Keukenhof gardens located in Lisse (approximately 30 minutes south of Amsterdam). With more than 7 million flowers in bloom, Keukenhof is absolutely worth a visit. However, with 1.4 million visitors expected, you may have to throw some elbows to get the perfect shot. Because of the crowds and the desire to create a more peaceful and leisurely atmosphere, the park is closed to vehicular traffic — including bicycles. But if you’re looking for a bit more adventure and a lot more personal space, hop on a bike and head to one of the other nearby noteworthy tulip regions.
Kop van Noord-Holland
Roughly an hour north of Amsterdam lies a quintessentially Dutch region — Kop van Noord-Holland. Cruise the trails between the sandy dunes of Petten and the northern town of Den Helder. Not only will you be able to catch a glimpse of the world’s largest single-bulb tulip field, the mostly flat routes take you through lush farmland, along coastal waterways, and past windmills and light houses.
Just to the east of the capital city is the Flevoland region. Set along some of the most fertile fields in Western Europe, this province is home to more than 5,000 hectares of tulip fields. Vibrant, colorful carpets of flowers line the Netherland’s longest tulip route. Visitors can bike well-maintained trails through the dazzling landscape. Novice riders can enjoy a leisurely 10-kilometer ride, while more adventurous and experienced cyclists can traverse the 50-kilometer route from Dronten through Lelystad into Zeewolde. Many tulip farms offer pick-your-own flower fields, and also have plenty of activities for families with youngsters.
Know before you go: Biking tips
You’ve got your route picked out, enough space on your phone, transportation and lodging are booked, so let’s go! Hold up … there are some important things to know before you hop on a bike in Holland. Here are a few tips to get you started:
● If you’re not bringing your own bicycle, there are plenty to rent. Many bike or outdoor shops, as well as tourist information centers in town will rent bikes to visitors. You’ll need a photo ID or passport, and a small deposit may be required when renting outside of the more well-known and populated areas.
● The best time to rent a bike is in the morning when the shops open. Avoid crowds in the afternoon and catch the sights in the morning light.
● If you’re used to wearing a helmet and don’t feel comfortable without one, bring your own. Helmets are not required by law in the Netherlands and are often only worn when racing.
● Not all bicycles are built the same. Don’t be shy in asking the shop personnel for a demonstration of how that particular model works. Most bikes have a locking mechanism (be sure to engage it any time you park it) for theft prevention.
● If you’ve been to Amsterdam, you quickly learn that bicycles often have the right of way in the Netherlands. Be sure to cycle on the right-side of the road and only on bike paths.
● Holland is famously flat, which can be a bit deceiving. What it lacks in hills, it makes up for in wind and sometimes rain with gusto. Layer up and check your weather apps before hitting the trails.
● When you come across amazing flower fields, don’t automatically jump off your bike and run into the field for a selfie. Many of the farms are working fields, and don’t appreciate their flowers being trampled on. Take the photos from a slight distance or head to a picking farm for the up-close and personal shots.
Even if you’re not big into cycling, taking a spin through the enchanting flower fields of Holland is an experience you won’t soon forget.
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