North Holland is known for its beautiful monumental cities: places like Amsterdam, Haarlem, Alkmaar and Hoorn. But the province also has plenty of nature reserves, where you can see wild horses grazing and hear birds chirping. It’s perfect for cyclists! If you like biking on flat terrain, you can cycle through the meadows, but there are hilly places too. For example, cycle through the dunes near Alkmaar or the forests on the Wadden Island of Texel.
The cycling and boating tours “North Holland landscapes and seascapes” and ‘‘Northern Tour of Holland’‘ go through landscapes that are all very different. Here are our top five.
1. North Holland Dune Reserve
The North Holland Dune Reserve is one of the largest nature reserves in our country. On the cycle paths there’s a good chance that you’ll encounter Scottish Highlanders cattle, Exmoor ponies or Konik horses. These grazers keep the grass short so that the area does not become overgrown. In the south of the reserve there are dune grasslands rich in calcium carbonate, where dune star moss does well. On the other hand, north of Bergen aan Zee, the soil is poorer in calcium. There, crowberry, creeping willow and grey hair grass grow. There are also coniferous and deciduous forests, some of which are very old.
Waterland is a low-lying peat meadow area, intersected by ditches and canals. The level is more than one and a half meters (5 feet) below sea level. The subsoil originally consisted of peat, but, over time, due to flooding from the Zuiderzee, a layer of clay sediment collected on top of the peat. Northeast of Amsterdam, you’ll cycle over narrow bridges through a water-soaked landscape. There are also plenty of ferries. Very atmospheric, for example, is the ferry at Holysloot. Old farms, cows in the meadow: you couldn’t find a landscape that’s more Dutch than this! It looks a bit like a landscape painting by one of the old Dutch Masters.
After the storm surge of 1916, it was decided to close off the Zuiderzee (a large shallow bay) from the sea by building a huge dike called the Afsluitdijk. This is how the IJsselmeer (Ijssel Lake) was created. There are now plenty of cycle paths along the coastline. The best of these are on top of the dike. Very large numbers of water birds forage and molt here, in particular birds that feed on fish or other creatures from the bottom of the lake. You can spot grebes, cormorants, smew ducks, common mergansers, little gulls, common terns and black tern. The newly-created nature island De Kreupel is located about 7 kilometers (4 miles) from the coast of Medemblik.
4. Texel Dunes National Park
The Wadden Island of Texel is also part of North Holland. Nowhere else in the Netherlands can you find so much variety in landscapes. Texel Dunes National Park has colorful heathlands, salt marshes, wet dune valleys, dry dunes, deciduous and pine forests and extensive sandy beaches. Cycle paths take you to the most beautiful places. On the southern tip of the island, for example, lies the beach called De Hors, which is very desert-like. Because wind and water have free play on this bare sandy plain, beautiful patterns are created in the sand.
5. Wadden Sea
The Wadden Sea is one of the largest tidal areas in the world. The landscape changes completely twice a day. One moment there are miles of vast mud flats; the next moment everything is under water. The weather is often fierce and difficult to predict. Due to its unique geological and ecological value, the Wadden Sea is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. During a boat trip on the Wadden Sea you have a good chance of seeing seals, and, with a bit of luck, you might see a porpoise, which looks like a dolphin.
Join us on a journey
Interested in a trip through North Holland? Contact us today and join us on a cycling and boating experience through our own country. Boat Bike Tours has several tours that go through North Holland, including “North Holland landscapes and seascapes.” Sail on one of our boutique ships (Flora, Gandalf or Sarah) with space for up to 24 guests. After a bike ride, enjoy a beer or glass of wine on board, and relax in your comfortable cabin.
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