The Quintessential Netherlands Experience
Lake IJsselmeer was once a bay called Zuiderzee, which was part of the North Sea. In 1916 another large flood plagued the area, so local leaders decided that a dike should be built to cut off the Zuiderzee from the rest of the North Sea. That dike was finished in 1932, and over time, the IJssel River's fresh waters pushed out the saltwater that was in the lake. Before 1968, residents turned some areas within the lake into polders, which are sections of land that can be used for various purposes. However, much of the area was still covered with water, and today it's mostly used for recreation. A lot of the fishermen who lived in the villages along the Zuiderzee changed their professions and started working in the tourism field. You'll hear all about it as you cycle this route.
Your trip through the various villages along the Zuiderzee will transport you back in time to the Golden Age of Holland, which was during the 1600s. This was when the Dutch led global trading through their shipbuilding and map making industries. The Dutch East India Trading Company ran a huge fleet of trading ships that traversed the seas, going from Holland to places all around the world, selling various spices like cloves, nutmeg, pepper and tulip bulbs. The company was the first multinational company in the world. Merchants from the Netherlands grew their wealth rapidly, built stately homes, and sponsored science and the arts. You'll also see the beautiful coast of the North Sea, including its gorgeous sandy beaches and strings of dunes, which serve to protect the low-lying area from water while also providing a home for numerous species of plants and animals. The landscape of this tour also includes several windmills and a stop in Amsterdam.
Day One: Arrival
This cycle tour of Lake IJssel and the North Sea begins in the small village of Bunnik, which can be found in the province of Utrecht. Bunnik Railway Station serves visitors arriving from Amsterdam or Arnhem, while the village is readily accessible by road. To ensure you start the cycling portion of this tour well-rested, the first night is spent in a hotel in the village, with free parking provided as standard.
Sample hotel: Hotel Mitland or Carlton President
Day Two: Utrecht to Amsterdam (67 km)
The opening leg of this tour takes in the city of Utrecht, peaceful countryside, beautiful river vistas and the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam.
After breakfast head to Utrech with its unique wharves and picturesque canals, including the old canal of Oudegracht. The Museum Quarter offers plenty of history in which to submerge yourself, while the quieter shopping streets offer a great chance to indulge in a bit of window shopping. Be sure to check out the stately homes and pavilions that can be found on the banks of the River Vecht. These impressive structures hark back to the Dutch Golden Age, when multitudes of merchants traveled these waters.
After exploring the city, head out along the course of the River Amstel which will take you all the way to the Amsterdam. Here you'll find a wealth of attractions and entertainment. From the prized Canal District to the world-famous Red Light District, there's plenty to be seen here. For an enchanting evening, try to catch a canal boat tour.
Sample hotel: Hotel Westcord Art
Day Three: Amsterdam to Alkmaar (62 km)
Day 3 of the tour takes in more of the region's beautiful landscapes, including historical architecture, quaint villages and the North Sea.
Evade the lure of Amsterdam and head north of the city to the Zaan region. Named for the river that flows through these parts, you'll find prime examples of the region's rich industrial heritage as you travel, including plenty of industrial architecture.
During the 17th century, Amsterdam was a global leader in the shipping industry, and imported and exported a wealth of different products. More than 600 industrial mills - including saw mills and water mills - could be found in the region, while shipbuilding, weaving, carpentry and other crafts enabled the production of cloth, paper, tobacco, paint, candles and a host of other things. The Zaans Museum in Zaandam offers an opportunity to learn more about this intriguing and profitable time. If you visit the museum be sure to also check out the nearby open air museum of Zaanse Schans, which is home to an array of windmills and lovely green wooden buildings moved here from across the country. Cheese making, tin making and clog making demonstrations are regularly provided to tourists.
Back on the saddle, head for the North Sea coast with its almost endless sandy beaches and windswept dunes. Enjoy the scenery before stopping at Alkmaar for the night.
Sample hotel: Grand Hotel Alkmaar or Golden Tulip Alkmaar
Day Four: Alkmaar to Enkhuizen (55 km)
Day 4 of the tour takes a coast-to-coast route from the North Sea to Lake IJssel, capturing more stunning scenery and intriguing history along the way.
Begin the day with a little exploration of Alkmaar, which is renowned for its traditional cheese market. Held each Friday between April and September, the market is wildly popular with tourists visiting the region.
Saddle up for a journey across the region to Enkhuizen, a journey that takes in the picturesque village of Schermerhornon the border of the Schermer and Beemster polders. Originally an island for whale hunters, the area was drained of water in the 17th century and transformed into the polders we see today. Outside of the village you'll spy three windmills, each of which was used during the drainage process. If you feel like getting an up-close look at the inner workings of these industrial behemoths, visit the Schermer Museum Windmill and watch the machinery in process.
Continuing on towards Lake IJssel, be sure to observe the many examples of historical buildings along the route, many of which again hark back to the Dutch Golden Age. Visit the picturesque village of Hoorn before arriving in Enkhuizen.
If the history of the region has captured your imagination, stop by the Zuiderzee Museum which boasts a recreation of a period village. Here you'll find craftsman in folk costumes and the chance to learn about the nautical history of the region. See how centuries ago Edam cheese, dried fish, grain and wine were shipped to and from Amsterdam along what today is a very quiet river route.
Sample hotel: Hotel de Koepoort or Hotel Port van Cleve
Day Five: Enkhuizen to Harderwijk (75 km)
Day 5 of this cycling tour offers the opportunity to see a marvel of urban planning as well as a host of scenic settings.
From Enkhuizen, head out along a 32 kilometer-long dike that will take you all the way to the town of Lelystad, named for the man responsible for the Zuiderzee Works, an expansive dam that cut off the Zuiderzee Sea from the North Sea. The damming system generated fertile polders and put an end to regular flooding in the region. Stop in at the Niewland Museum to learn more about this impressive land reclamation project and its impact on the surrounding area.
From Lelystad, continue on towards Harderwijk, paying close attention to the woodland, crop fields and other landscapes. This entire area has been designed and planned by man, giving it something of a marvelous feel.
Finish the day with a short tour of the Hanseatic town of Harderwijk, which was once a thriving fishing port complete with all the hustle and bustle. With the creation of the polders it's much quieter today, and perfect for unwinding after a long day of cycling.
Sample hotel: Hotel Monopole or BW Baars
Day Six: Harderwijk to Utrecht (64 km)
Day 6 of the tour takes in picturesque lakes, lush forests and one or two surprises along the way.
From Harderwijk, head out along the shores of the Randmeren (bordering lakes) en route to the village of Zeewolde. Founded in 1984, Zeewolde is one of the youngest settlements in all of the Netherlands.
After a short stopoff in Zeewolde, continue on towards Utrecht. Along the way you'll find yourself flanked by a lush forest which houses a few eye-catching surprises, including a castle, royal palace and a famous pancake inn. Be sure to stop in and try any of the latter's delicious treats. If you're feeling particularly energetic, the forest also houses a rope climbing experience.
This leg of the tour finishes once more in Utrecht, where delicious cuisine and comfortable hotel beds await.
Sample hotel: Hotel Mitland or Carlton President
Day Seven: Departure
Our tour of Lake IJssel and the North Sea has drawn to a close. After breakfast, it's time to pack-up and head home.
Total distance: 323 km
Average distance: 65 km
Shortest distance: 55 km
Longest distance: 75 km
Time in the Year
From April 1st to September 24th.
605 Euro per person
6 nights‘ double/twin room bed & breakfast accommodation in *** or **** hotels
Luggage transfer between hotels
Tour book with detailed route descriptions and maps
Panniers for carrying things you need on the road
Emergency hotline operating 7 days a week from 7:00 to 23:00
GPS (Only if you start & finish in Amsterdam) - 10 Euro
24 gear bike hire - 72 euro (for other options please go to our bike hire page)
Road Service - 16.50 euro
Bike theft insurance - 3 euro per day (6 euro for electric bikes)
Single room - 180 Euro
Half board accommodation - 180 euro
Extra night - 70 euro
Price does not include
Discounts / Group prices:
3 people sharing a room:
A child aged 0-4 sharing a room with their parents is free of charge
A child aged 4-11 sharing a room with their parents enjoys a 20% discount
3 people over 12 years old sharing a room enjoy a 3% discount
A group of 7-8 people enjoys a 7% discount per person
A group of 9 people or more enjoys a 10% discount per person