The naturally beautiful Dutch countryside is quite unique compared to most other countries and its features are something you come to appreciate the more time you spend there. We are talking about a nation that has almost a third of its land beneath sea level, no mountainous terrain at all, an amazing array of canals and dikes to manage the water levels, and lovely fields of flowers as far as the eye can see.
The Netherlands might be a comparatively small nation but it has a surprising 21 national parks, a high number when you also consider that France, a much larger country has only 11. It is also a country that is easy to get around and is very welcoming to tourists, even though so many visitors surprisingly do not venture past the largest city of Amsterdam. Whilst I would say that Amsterdam is certainly a lovely place so far as cities are concerned, it is beyond me to understand why people travel to the Netherlands and then fail to get out of the city to see the true beauty of this country.
Naturally Beautiful Dutch Countryside: My Highlights
No single post or article could really do justice to show how/why people rave about the rural areas within the Netherlands. When I was there, my fiancé James and I divided our time between meeting up with many of his family and getting around to see as much of Holland and the broader Netherlands as we could. I hope what I have chosen to include here will give you a taste of what there is to see beyond the sights of Amsterdam and encourage some further exploration.
The natural landscape
The Netherlands is known for being ‘as flat as a pancake’. There are no mountains as such and most of the country is virtually at, or near, sea level. One-third of the land is actually slightly below sea level, requiring the Dutch to become masters of water management to prevent much of their country from being submerged.
The lowest point below sea level can be found in ‘Nieuwekerk aan den Ijssel’ which is 6.76 meters below sea level whereas the highest point is the Vaalserberg, classed as a mountain with a height of just 322.4 meters (1,058 ft), close to the tri-border area where the Netherlands meets Belgium and Germany.
Traveling east in the country by train to Zutphen and then by car onto Deventer and Holten showed me just how flat the country is. At the same time, the vegetation was beautifully lush with deep shades of green with lots of farms and animals grazing. Everywhere I traveled I was so impressed with how clean the environment is.
The Dutch also take great pride in creating and caring for their gardens with so many wonderful manicured lawns, bushes, flowers, and water features. One such garden that James and I just loved was the garden that we saw at his brother and sister-in-law’s home, Peter and Maud. It was just so delightful and put our garden at home to shame. It made for such a lovely place to enjoy sitting and catching up with members of James’ family while we were lucky enough to see this part of the Netherlands.
A floral wonderland
The tulip is one of the most well-known icons of the Netherlands, a country that is the world’s biggest exporter of flowers, and seeing fields covered in tulips is indeed a beautiful sight.
There are a number of areas where flowers are cultivated including around Lisse, within the province of South Holland, where you will find Keukenhof Gardens. Located within an area known as Duin- en Bollenstreek, Keukenhof Gardens are acknowledged as the most famous and largest flower park in the world. This was such a beautiful place that I wrote a separate article detailing this wonderful experience to explore all through this amazing attraction.
Without a doubt people most associate Dutch canals with the famous Amsterdam Canals, known the world over as a wonderful asset to the Netherland’s largest city.
However, you would be making a big mistake if you assumed that canals only existed in Amsterdam. In fact, canals are a lovely feature of many Dutch cities and towns. Most notably I loved the canals in James’ family’s hometown of Delft. Delft is an exquisite medieval center famous in its own right for Royal Delftware, but it also is a lovely city with a beautiful canal right in the center.
Canals have been an integral part of many Dutch cities, towns, and villages for centuries now and are valued and maintained so well throughout the country.
The best collection of Dutch icons
A center boasting windmills, Edam and Gouda cheeses, traditional clog making, green-painted houses, and Dutch riverboats can all be found in one beautiful place. I am referring to the village of Zaanse Schans on the Zaan River, surrounded by lush countryside.
If you only had very limited time in the Netherlands, this is one place you could visit close to Amsterdam that would give you a great feel for traditional Dutch icons set within a gorgeous village. Here you can learn about how they make the famous cheeses and clogs, explore the windmills, hike the surrounding area and take a leisurely cruise on the Zaan river.
While the typical image of tulip-filled fields and farmland lined by canals and dotted with windmills and farmhouses certainly is to be found, the country also has a long and scenic coastline to explore.
There are some truly delightful, quality beaches all along the coast which locals and visitors alike enjoy. The more popular beaches are understandably close to the more populated centers. The most popular stretch of sand in Holland is Scheveningen beach, located between the Hague and the North Sea. It is a great place for walking, sun-baking and swimming with all the amenities of a large center but it is not a place for you if you don’t like crowds.
Of course, if you would prefer a quieter, more remote location, the Netherlands also has very many places to choose from along its entire coast with the North Sea.
Getting about to see the highlights
One of the great things about the Netherlands for tourists is that it is so easy to get around the entire country with modern, fast, clean, and efficient transport. Most signage is also in English and most people you meet speak English and are exceptionally friendly and helpful. Therefore, it is not hard at all to travel throughout the Netherlands either via public transport or rental cars with simple-to-use satellite navigation. Seeing places within the cities like Amsterdam and The Hague or getting out to experience the naturally beautiful Dutch countryside are all doable, irrespective of how long or short your stay might be.
Aside from the lovely countryside, the Netherlands also has some famous locations that you can tick off your ‘bucket list’ while you are there. Here are a few photos I have included of just a couple of things we enjoyed while we were in the Hague:
So, there you have some of my main highlights and memories from my time exploring the naturally beautiful Dutch countryside. I hope you would agree that the Netherlands is really such a lovely choice as a holiday destination for anyone interested in experiencing their unique landscape and culture. Have you visited the Netherlands or does this hold any appeal to you? Please share any thoughts you might have in the comments below.