In May 2018, Catherine and I cycled the Best of Holland - Boat & Bike tour, which certainly lived up to its name!
Starting and finishing in Amsterdam, this seven-night tour takes in beautiful polder landscapes and interesting towns along the way. This was my tenth Freedom Treks’ tour and I found it to be a great option for those who want to combine easy, flat cycling in the day and relaxing in style on a luxury barge in the evening. Read on to discover what I loved about this cycling holiday.
Our floating home for the week was the premium Magnifique II barge, whose staff spoilt us with their fantastic international cuisine, personal and professional service and very friendly hospitality. The cabins were spacious for a barge and you have the option of upgrading to upper deck suites with panoramic windows.
One of the things I enjoy the most about a boat & bike holiday is the shared camaraderie in the evenings, discussing the day's adventures over a few beers with people from many different countries, and this holiday certainly delivered this. The excellent selection of Belgian Trappist beers on board may have helped, but I maintain it is because, in the words of our Dutch guide, "People who cycle are good people!”.
Cycling in Holland
Cycling for the Dutch is not a hobby but the norm, an integral part of their everyday life and culture. Being on a bike in this country was a joy and a revelation. The bike is king; from having priority at most roundabouts to a seemingly never-ending network of great cycle paths and well-signed routes. It is a fantastic illustration of how all countries should prioritise the bike.
The route of this tour generally takes you through rural scenic parts of Holland, so we saw an abundance of all kinds of wildlife as we cycled along flat cycle paths beside the canals and rivers. I particularly enjoyed spotting herons as we rode.
The visual highlight of the tour was certainly cycling through the Kinderdijk, the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site with 19 windmills in a row. We learnt from the knowledgeable guides that the windmills were originally built to pump water to prevent flooding.
You will visit many interesting towns during the week. Our personal favourites were the historic Dordrecht that sits on three major rivers, the popular harbour town of Volendam on the shores of the Lake Ijsselmeer and pretty Leiden, the birthplace of Rembrandt, where it was a joy to return to sit by the canal and watch the world go by with a beer. Of course there is Amsterdam too, where we recommend spending at least an extra night to make the most of the canals, architecture, famous museums and cafes (for coffee!)
Guides, Route Notes & GPS
The great thing about having two guides on board is the choice of a daily long or short ride, which also ensures that the cycling groups are smaller. Daily briefings help you decide which option is best for you.
Although this is a guided tour, we chose the option of using both the route notes and GPS routes on an app on our phones. The GPS routes were an excellent bonus and we liked the way it beeped if we ever went the wrong way! GPS is not a necessity as the routes have clear signposting, but it gave us the freedom, confidence and flexibility to explore at our own pace on occasions which we enjoyed.
Why Should You Go?
I loved the flexibility of deciding whether to cycle a shorter or longer route every day, then riding in small groups along easy routes with flat terrain, through beautiful landscapes & interesting towns. I also enjoyed the camaraderie & sociability of a boat, the fantastic food that is lovingly prepared onboard and the luxury of staying on a premium barge.
This extremely popular tour runs between April and August (excluding June). Cabins sell out quickly, especially on the upper deck, so book early to secure your place!
We flew to Amsterdam, which has a major international airport and flight options from around the world.
If you would like to know more about this bike tour in Holland, please visit the tour page.
Alternatively, make an enquiry online or speak to one of our team by telephone on +44 (0)1273 224066 (office hours (UK time): Monday to Friday: 9am - 5.30pm)