Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Travel Dream List: Holland’s Gardens and Tulip Fields in Spring

Even though tulips (and tulip mania) originated in Turkey, Holland has long taken since over as the place for growing tulips and other flower bulbs.

Each spring the country is ablaze with blossoms. Many of these are along Holland’s Bloemen Route (Flower Route), a 25 mile scenic drive between Haarlem and Leiden. The most famous place to view the flowers is Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, which is open from mid-March until mid-May. There are a number of other gardens in the region (including Hortus Botanicus, one of the world’s oldest botanical gardens, located in Leiden) and, during the growing season, many fields are open to tourists. (Most fields are used to grow bulbs, rather than cut flowers, and the flowers are cut-off shortly after peak bloom.) The world’s largest flower auction is also held in Holland, in Aalsmeer, and tourists are welcome to visit here as well.

As in my own garden, different bulbs bloom at different times during the spring. In Holland the show begins by February with the first crocuses and continues through May as the daffodils, narcissi, hyacinths, and tulips come into bloom. The tulips are most likely to be at their best in April, although there will be some in bloom from March through May. Of course, many summer flowers are also grown in this area too, making it lovely over a long season.
photo by Alessandro Vecchi from Wikimedia Commons
This region is just an hour from Amsterdam, between that city and The Hague. It features a number of charming historic cities (many with canals) and would be a good vacation destination even without millions of tulips in bloom. There is also a floating flower market in Amsterdam, where one can indulge in a little more tulip mania.

Of course, for those with less interest in the flowers, Keukenhof and the surrounding area would make a nice single day trip from Amsterdam.

While the area can be visited as part of a guided tour or on your own via bus or private vehicle, it seems ideal for biking and bikes are readily available for rent. There are also biking tours through the area, including the enticing Country of Tulips Tour. Along with guided bike tours, there are many providers of build-your-own tours. It is also possible to put together your own tour.

My plan is to someday spend at least a week here during April, staying at local inns or B&Bs and biking through the area. As a photographer, I want be able to take time to really see and capture the beauty of this time of year under different types of light and weather conditions.

Travel planning resources:
•  Holland flower fields page  
•  Flower Route from National Geographic's Drives of a Lifetime Series 
•  Guide to Seeing the Tulips near Amsterdam at About.com   
•  The Flower Fields Along the Boemen Route at CondĂ© Nast Traveler
•  Cycling the Dutch Tulip Fields from TravellingTwo  

I’d love to hear your advice on visiting Holland during tulip season.

More travel dreams

1 comment:

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