Cycling The Dutch Tulip Fields
If you’re lucky enough to be in Holland around mid-April, there’s only one place to go on your bike: the tulip fields.
That’s exactly where we headed a couple weekends ago.
We’d heard wondrous stories of what we’d find. Tulips, daffodils and hyacinths, as far as the eye can see. That’s what they told us at the tourist bureau, in any case. They even have a name for the route most people take through this part of Holland. It’s called the Bloembollenroute or flower bulb route. In our minds, we added a few windmills and blue skies to the description of flowers and we came up with a scene something like this.
Being new to Holland (we only moved here 6 months ago) we weren’t sure exactly where to see the tulips, so we needed a little help.
First, we bought the cycling-specific Falk map for the Zuid-Holland-Noord region (€7.95) between Den Haag and Amsterdam. It marks dozens of tulip fields in the area between Sassenheim, Lisse and Noordwijkerhout. We also picked up Fietsen Vanuit Den Haag, a book with 9 bike routes around The Hague, including a day trip through the tulip fields (available in book shops and tourist bureaus in the region). Apparently, you can also buy a map of the flower fields from the tourist office in Lisse, if you’re passing through.
After figuring out where the flowers were, we decided to include a short stretch along the water. It’s nice to have a bit of diversity in any tour and a drink by the beach also goes down well after a day on the bikes. Putting all of this together, we came up with this (click on the map to see it on Bikely):
We set off on Sunday afternoon and the first part, through the parks of The Hague, was quite pleasant. You pass through forests, along canals and through some of the wealthiest districts in the area. After about 20km, we came alongside the Smalspoor Industrial Museum, with its narrow gauge railway and pretty location by a lake. It’s a popular place for locals to walk their dogs and you can also grab a coffee here.
There were no tulips yet though, so we carried on, zigging and zagging along the canals and through the not-so-impressive Rijnsburg and Voorhout, until we finally started to see some tulips. Once the flower fields started to appear, they were everywhere. The air was rich with their scent and we kept on stopping to take pictures.
These scenes repeated themselves over and over, although we never did see that ‘perfect’ photo we’d dreamed of, with the windmill in the background and the canal and the blue skies. In this area, you’re much more likely to see a greenhouse in the background. In fact, it was quite hard to take a picture without a greenhouse in it. This was our best attempt – a field of hyacinths with a lone red tulip.
After some time, we came near Lisse and the famous Keukenhof Gardens. Now, let me offer some advice. If you’re cycling this route and you want to see the Keukenhof Gardens and the fields in the nearby area, DO NOT come on a Sunday. By the time we got within a couple kilometers of the Keukenhof, we felt like we were at Disney World, not in Holland. There were tour buses lined up in their dozens, large groups of tourists on rental bicycles. At one point 300 Harley Davidson motorbikers passed us, forcing us to stop and cover our ears until they passed. The whole area around the Keukenhof was packed and not really enjoyable. Things clear out a lot just 5km from the Keukenhof and you have plenty of fields to choose from, so just stay away, unless you’re visiting during the week, when it’s probably much more tranquil.
By now we were craving a slice of apple cake with whipped cream (a Dutch specialty) and a cup of coffee but that proved surprisingly hard to find. Outside of the main towns, there’s very little for the weary cyclist. We had to swing away from the Keukenhof and all the way to Noordwijkerhout before we found refreshment at an ice cream stall. We made a mental note to pack our own apple cake next time.
From there, it was out to the beachside town of Noordwijk aan Zee. To get there, you have to climb one of the few hills around. It’s really just a forested sand dune that stands between the water and the rest of the country. It’s not very long though and it’s nice to get a view of the flower fields from up high, through the trees.
Now we were ready for a beer, and – frankly – we were also ready to get away from the tourists. As it turned out, there was also a festival going on at the beach so it was very crowded but we did get to see a great parade of flower-decorated vehicles, which tells you just how important flowers are to people in this area. We were really taken by this flower-covered bicycle.
After a drink by the beach, it was back home again, via Leiden and the bike paths that lead to Den Haag. All in all, a good day out, though perhaps not quite with the picture-perfect photos we’d been hoping for. Anyone know where we can find a windmill with our tulips?
When To Go: It depends on the season. Anytime from mid to late April is usually peak tulip time. The flowers can extend into May. If you go on a weekend, expect it to be crowded around the Keukenhof.
Where To Go: There are many places to see the tulips in Holland but the area we explored is roughly between The Hague and Amsterdam. If you wanted to get the train to a nearby spot and start exploring, we’d go to Lisse or Voorhout.
What To Bring: Bring some snacks and a little more water than you might normally take for a day trip. There aren’t really any cafes when you’re in the tulip fields. A jacket is good if you plan to divert out to the sea. It’s almost always windy!