March ushers in the birth of springtime in the Netherlands - This 10-day trip gives us more time to cycle flower fields and beautiful countryside in both North and South Holland! A perfect bicycle tour to capture the best of "typical Dutch". We'll harbor in the famous Golden Age cities of Haarlem, Leiden, Delft, bustling Rotterdam and cheese town of Gouda. Here we enjoy the famous flower auction and Keukenhof Gardens, Delft pottery visit, and tour of an organic cheese farm and working windmill. We then sail north to famous Alkmaar to ride along the North Sea coast and dunes in search of flowers, then enjoy their Friday cheese market!
Our trip starts Thursday at 11a.m. when you are welcome onboard Flora, settle into our cabins, and head off sailing out of Amsterdam to a beautiful lake in the village of Kudelstaart.
While sailing we will enjoy snacks and a talk about our tour. After docking we fit bikes and go for a short ride around the town. We celebrate the evening with a Welcome Dinner and introduction of guests and crew.
We leave our boat very early and cycle a few miles to get first peak at the workings of the famous Flower Auction of Aalsmeer - largest in the world. We will witness the exciting process in which millions of flowers and plants are bought and sold to be shipped to countries all over the world.
From here you enjoy Holland Green Heart cycling through blossoming fields and polder landscapes criss-crossed with lovely canals. After a pause for Dutch coffee and cake we enter Gouda through the Goudse Hout (woods)- a recreational area surrounded by a huge lake that we cycle across like we're floating on the water while gazing upon a beautifully preserved grassland landscape.
We enjoy the rest of the afternoon to visit the quaint city center and enjoy a tour of the 123-meter long imposing St. Janskerk (St. John’s Church) with its world-famous stained-glass windows.
A trip to the south of Netherlands is not complete without a visit to the largest port in the world. Since its devastation in WWII, Rotterdam has become a center for modern architecture and showcase of city urban development.
Then there is the impressive Old Harbor and Delfshaven- oasis of history and culture within the modern city- and point from which the Pilgrim Fathers left for America in 1620. We'll be cycling through the Alblassarwaard- a pastoral landscape dotted by small towns and windmills. Time permitting, we hope to see Schoonhoven - founded in 1280 and called Silvertown because of its famous past in Silversmithing.
We stop at amazing Kinderdijk for a photo-op. Honored as a World Heritage Treasure by UNESCO in 1997, 19 sturdy mills were built in 1740 and preserved to this day- a concentration of this number found nowhere else in the world.
Via a short waterbus ride we arrive in Rotterdam and enjoy a fun Saturday afternoon!
We cycle out of Rotterdam in the quiet of Sunday morning. On our route we stop in Schiedam, a charming medieval village with the tallest windmills in the world, still grinding grain to make famous Jenever- a type of Gin.
Our short route today takes us quickly to Delft. Dating back to 1075, Delft is known as the birthplace of Golden Age artist Johannes Vermeer, home of William of Orange, father of the Netherlands, and center for production of blue Delft Pottery.
We will visit the Royal Blue Delft Factory to see firsthand the artwork and production of fine porcelain in the world-famous Delft tradition, then head to the old town for a guided walk.
We leave Delft through a beautiful green forested area and then farmland where we stop at Lidia and Teo's Farm- The Vierhuizen. The Van Leuwens run a nine-generation milk farm- now prized for their organic Gouda cheese. We'll take a tour, learn how cheese is made and buy things to take home from their lovely shop.
Just a few miles more and we reach Leiden, an unusually preserved Golden Age city. An early Roman city founded on the Rhine, Leiden is the birthplace of painter, Rembrandt, and home to the first University in Holland (1575) which has developed into a world-famous center of science.
Of special interest is that in the 16th century, botanist Clusius brought the first Dutch Tulips into flower here. Also, Leiden was home to the famous English separatists, and highlights of their life here is featured in an interesting Pilgrims Museum.
We depart Leiden into the flower fields for exciting cycling and photo taking. Mid way in our route we stop at Keukenhof Gardens to browse the blooming acreage for 2.5 hours. Our stop for the night is lovely Haarlem, capital of North Holland. Here we have time to walk the beautiful town center full of old Dutch architecture, a beautiful market place, quaint courtyards called hofjes dating back to 1300 and other Dutch sites to charm the visitor.
We hope to explore one of the interesting museums, maybe of painter Frans Hals or the Haarlem Museum with interactive film of the town's history.
We leave Haarlem following the ancient River Spaarne towards Alkmaar. Along our way we will cycle the dunes of the Kennermerland National Park, stop to visit the Brederode castle ruins from the 1300, while enjoying picturesque villages and horsefarms.
A fishing village from the 10th century, Alkmaar gained prosperity and cultural richness as one of the main headquarters of the East Indies Trade Company. We will explore this beautiful city on a tour with a town local guide.
Today the Flora stays in Alkmaar while we enjoy a loop tour to look for flower fields of North Holland. We head first to the old village of Schagen having their weekly community market. In place for centuries, the Dutch market has been a staple of the Dutch culture. Here you can buy anything from clothing to locally made and grown goods.
The soil and conditions in this area of Holland are perfect for Tulip growing. And, we will spend the next few miles searching for flower photo ops. We return to Alkmaar by the North Sea Dunes with a stop in the ancient town of Bergen.
After breakfast, we'll head into Alkmaar city center for the first cheese market of the season! This exciting tradition with porters wearing white dress and straw hats is not to be missed. Our next stop is the lovely village of De Rijp for a Pannekoeken (Dutch pancake) lunch treat from Suzie.
We next stop at the museum village Zaanse Schanse - a delightful old hamlet with characteristic green wooden houses, charming gardens, tradesmen's workshops, and historic windmills.
We cycle winding bike paths in the lovely nature area of Het Twisk leading to the short ferry into Amsterdam. Tonight we celebrate a special captain's farewell dinner!
Saturday morning we breakfast, say our goodbyes and disembark at 9 a.m.
The Netherlands terrain is mostly flat and we can experience some wind and rain which are factors that impact cycling. We recommend this trip for an active person and recreational cyclist who can enjoy a leisurely 25-30 mile/day tour averaging 10-m.p.h. on easy/flat terrain.
Leisurely for us means we are never rushing and like to "smell the roses" enjoying the sites along the way. We take advantage of the Netherlands excellent bicycle infrastructure and enjoy cycling, whenever possible, on dedicated cycle paths and separate on-road bike lanes.
We do not use the assistance of a support vehicle on our tours. We find our guiding system with Suzie as leader and Roger as group sweep has proven effective for enjoyment and safety. You are always welcome to take a break from cycling and enjoy time onboard sailing to the next destination - quite a delightful experience!
Please note that daily mileages indicated on the Itinerary page are averaged as closely as possible. Due to unforeseen circumstances such as docking changes, weather, road and nautical factors, we reserve the right to change routes in view of your safety.
Your trip starts in Amsterdam which is serviced by Schiphol Airport, located just a few miles from the city center where our boat is docked. There is both excellent public transportation and reasonably priced shuttle service available from the airport to the city.
As with all European trips, we advise our cyclists to arrive a few days early to acclimate to the time change, get acquainted with the new culture and sightsee beautiful Amsterdam.
We confirm your booking via email with a detailed Welcome Letter for your tour. In this letter you will find lots of pre-trip planning information like how to get to the trip start, pre-trip lodging in Amsterdam, weather, cycling in Holland, how and what to pack, international travel hints, tips on booking airfare, etc.
We are delighted to host our tour on the Hotel Boat Flora. The ship features comfy cabins with private bath, a lovely eating salon and lounging area, and outside deck to enjoy a drink and views of the water.
Please E-mail Suzie to inquire about openings and with any questions about this tour. We love to hear from you!