Located in Northwestern Europe, with much of its territory below sea level, it’s no wonder why everyone talks about the Netherlands as a land of wonderful canals. However, that is just one of this country’s many appeals. There are hundreds of trails and rural cycle paths waiting to be explored, most of which are easily accessible from the country’s major cities. The country’s wonderful forests, dunes, and heaths are among the most beautiful natural landscapes in Europe and many have existed for thousands of years. As an avid traveler, Jeremy Wien observed during his trip, “The idyllic and vibrant nature of the Netherlands allows for any traveler to appreciate the country’s culture in a magical way.” So, here are the Must-See Sites for Nature-Lovers in the Netherlands.
Must-See Sites for Nature-Lovers in the Netherlands
Take your loved one to the best destinations and nature sites in the Netherlands. Below are the must-see sites for nature-lovers fortunate enough to visit Holland.
1. Island of Texel
Only a twenty-minute ferry ride from Den Helder, the island of Texel is a paradise for the beach- lovers with over 30 km of quaint, long sandy beach. And although Texel may epitomize peace and tranquility, that is not all the island has to offer. Texel is home to seven villages, each lovelier than the last, and unique nature reserves.
As Texel is the largest of Holland’s string of Wadden Islands, it is advisable to go with a tour group to get in as much as you can. Most tours depart from the EcoMare visitor center, then visit nature reserves (which together cover a third of the island), and observe the many different species of birds that pass this way.
If you plan on exploring on your own, the lighthouse is the Texel site not to miss. The bright red lighthouse is located in the north of the island and truly looks like it is out of a movie. The 150-year-old building offers a dreamy view over Texel and the neighboring island of Vlieland from its viewing platform. During the climb, there are plenty of plaques and places to stop and read about the fascinating history of the lighthouse.
2. Apeldoorn and Hoge Veluwe National Park
Once you have sufficiently explored the island of Texel, take the ferry back to Den Helder and head to Apeldoorn, a city known for being the perfect mix of city life and extraordinary nature views as it is home to the Hoge Veluwe National Park. Apeldoorn’s free white bicycles allow you to easily explore beautiful nature while cycling to the Kröller-Müller Museum, which is renowned for being the second to largest Van Gogh collection in the world. Also, for those more interested in a cultural experience over nature sites, Apeldoorn is best known for its former royal palace, which has been converted to a national museum: Palace Het Loo. However, the palace is currently under renovation and will reopen to the public in mid-2021.
As far as the Hoge Veluwe National Park, it consists of heathlands, sand dunes, and woodlands. Most of the landscape of the park and the Veluwe was created during the last Ice Age. However, the alternating sand dune areas and heathlands may have been caused by human utilization and exploitation of the surrounding lands. The Hoge Veluwe National Park forms one of the largest continuous nature reserves in the Netherlands, giving visitors plenty to explore.
Entering the park has been difficult in previous years as the park is surrounded by fences and required an expensive entrance fee. However, thanks to years of protest from cyclists and hikers, in 2007 a solution was reached by charging reduced fees for cyclists who spend only a limited amount of time within the confines of the park. Given Apeldoorn’s free bikes, this is the most common method of visiting the park, especially due to the fact that the majority of the park is inaccessible by car. Most of the park’s trails are easy and accessible for beginners.
It is also noteworthy that there are several buildings inside the park. The Kröller-Müller Museum houses the art collection of the Kröller-Müller couple and includes numerous important works by artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Odilon Redon, Georges-Pierre Seurat, Auguste Rodin, and Piet Mondrian among others. A second museum, Museonder, can be found at the park’s visitor center and focuses on the geology and biology of the Veluwe.
This park is definitely a great stop for those who are interested in learning about a country’s nature and culture in an easy and affordable way.
3. De Biesbosch National Park
Another excellent Dutch national park is the De Biesbosch National Park. Some may think two national parks in one trip is a lot even for nature-lovers, but the two parks offer completely different things. In contrast to Hoge’s sand dunes and heathlands, De Biesbosch is one of the last extensive areas of freshwater tidal wetlands in Northwestern Europe. The Biesbosch consists of a large network of rivers and smaller and larger creeks with islands.
De Biesbosch National Park is a unique freshwater delta comprising approximately 8,000 hectares of small rivers and streams. The nature reserve offers great opportunities for cycling, canoeing, sailing, or even just walking and spotting the array of wildlife native to the park such as beavers, sea eagles, and hundreds of types of birds.
Due to the number of activities available at the park, if you would like to stay the night, you can book a room at the park’s Ecolodge and spend the night amidst gorgeous nature.
4. Arcen Castle Gardens
For those who are not interested in the isolation a national park offers, the Arcen Castle Gardens are the place for you. On the German-Dutch border and located in the picturesque village of Arcen, the Arcen Castle Gardens constitute one of the most varied flowers and plant parks in Europe. In fact, there are over 32 hectares full of scents and colors, 15 unique gardens, historical parks, and a 17th-century castle.
There are many different sections of the gardens to explore. There is a large rosarium with its rose gardens, the Lommerreich (the mountain garden), the Mediterranean Casa Verde (home to olive trees and the oldest fig tree in the Netherlands), the Asian gardens, and the rhododendron garden in the shadow of the monumental castle. Each of these different gardens transports you into a different world with unique colors and scents, giving you an appreciation for all the cultures and countries that contributed that have influenced the Netherlands and are still present today.
There are tours available, or you can stroll the gardens on your own, taking in the beauty at your own pace. Additionally, you can treat yourself to 21 holes of mini-golf on the grounds at the end of your visit. This stop is truly a must-see.
It may seem like an odd choice for a nature-lover’s must-see list, but the Efteling amusement park’s history is deeply rooted in nature. Founded in 1935, Efteling is one of the oldest theme parks still in existence. Over the years, it has evolved from a nature park with a playground and a fairytale forest into a full-sized theme park.
The amusement park was opened officially May 31, 1952, and today, the attractions reflect elements from ancient myths and legends, fairy tales, fables, and folklore while remembering the park’s original intent: to capture the beauty and mystery of the local nature. It now caters to both children and adults with its cultural, romantic, and nostalgic themes, in addition to its wide array of amusement rides including six roller coasters. The success of Efteling has been attributed largely to its ride designs, architecture, and most importantly, its atmosphere. The park has always kept its surroundings in mind and has only marginally changed the neighboring nature over the course of its history.
The Efteling Theme Park Resort offers the Efteling hotel, the Efteling hotel, a theatre, a golf course, Villa Pardoes, and two-holiday villages. The park’s foundation also includes a young forest, a nature reserve, some grassland, and fields illustrating the importance of the park’s places of respecting nature that was so magical it was the inspiration for it in the first place.
This is a great site to see for those interested in observing how the Dutch take a more harmonious and green approach to developing their culture.
Although the Netherlands might be famous for its windmills, cheese markets, and wooden shoes, the landscape of the country is truly unmatched and worth all visitors appreciating.