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Picturesque Villages and Nature Reserves
7 night self guided bike tour in Holland
Sail and bike along the coast of the Ijsselmeer. Once a salty sea, now the largest sweetwater lake in all of Holland! Discover this unique part of the Netherlands aboard a magnificent and comfortably furnished sailing ship, and riding excellent cycle paths and tracks. Cycling can be done on your own or by joining a tour leader, whichever you desire.
Up until 1932, the IJsselmeer was an inland sea called the Zuiderzee. Since the Middle Ages, the area played a major role in the economic development of the Netherlands, but was also often severely flooded. A 32-kilometer long dike, finished in 1932, put an end to the flooding and turned the salty sea into a sweetwater lake. Along its banks many picturesque, historical harbours and trading towns, centuries-old polders (fields of reclaimed land below sea level) and beautiful inland villages are still witness to a rich seafaring past. The Ijsselmeer’s now sweet water is home to a huge diversity of birds, plants and fish.
You will visit many of the historical towns and polders on both the western and eastern banks of the IJsselmeer. The tour also leads you through various Dutch national parks and gets you as far as the province of Overijssel. On the final day, the ship sails back to Amsterdam while you can relax on board. The tour does stop for a last short bike ride through the Oostvaardersplassen—a nature reserve known for its rewilding, meaning that the area is left alone to create its own natural balance of animal and plant life.
If you feel up to the challenge, you may – instructed by the experienced crew – lend a hand during navigating and raising of the sails on board your ship. Of course, you are just as welcome to relax and enjoy the fresh air, sailing, and scenery.
- Harbour town of Volendam
- Rides through beautiful Friesland
- Weerribben-Wieden National Park
Learn more about guided tours.
Day 1: Arrival to Amsterdam | Cruise to Volendam
Your week of sailing and cycling starts in Amsterdam. The crew welcomes you on board at 2:00pm. Once all guests have checked in, the ship sails under motor to Volendam. From the port of one of these former fishing villages, a short warm-up ride leads you through the rural nature reserve of Waterland with its many villages.
Overnight in Volendam.
Day 2: Cycle Volendam loop | Cruise Volendam – Hoorn (19 miles/32 km or 31 miles/51 km)
A very Dutch start of the day: you cycle to a nearby, family-run cheese and clog shop for a short demonstration of cheese and clog making, and of course a cheese tasting. Continue pedaling along the dikes to Purmerend, in the heart of a polder named De Beemster, 11½ feet (3.5 meters) below sea level. It was created more than 400 years ago, when the Dutch transformed an inland lake into pasture land. Divided into a tight geometric pattern of squares and quadrants, it is recognized by UNESCO as “a creative masterpiece.”
Your next destination is Edam, a lovely town whose lanes and canals deserve a stroll. Edam is known worldwide for its cheese covered in red or yellow wax. This practical solution keeps the cheese fresh for a long time, so 17th-century sailors could take it on their voyages or trade it for spices and other riches of the East.
Via the main dike of the IJsselmeer you arrive at the promenade of Volendam, where the ship is docked. You will have some time on your own to check out the souvenir shops. After dinner, let the historical city center lure you into a digestive walk. Later in the evening, the ship sails to Hoorn.
Overnight in Hoorn.
Day 3: Cycle Hoorn – Enkhuizen| Cruise Enkhuizen – Urk (17 miles/28 km or 24 miles/39bk km)
Through small rural hamlets and villages, today’s ride brings you to Enkhuizen. Pass by windmill De Krijgsman (The Warrior), the highest windmill in the province of North-Holland and one of a handful of old Dutch windmills still in use to produce flour commercially. The area is also known for its many greenhouses, where vegetables are grown.
In the 17th century, Enkhuizen was one of the wealthiest cities in Holland, thanks to its harbor that shipped then-costly spices from Asia. Be astonished by the stately mansions, canals, churches and city walls that to this day reflect the city’s rich history and wealth.
This afternoon, we sail across the IJsselmeer to the port of Urk. Today, you may have the opportunity to assist the captain in sailing the ship! Or you can simply relax on deck, enjoy the journey, and watch the marine life. After arriving in Urk, you can stroll through the narrow streets and alleys. The houses of this picturesque village were built close to one another on elevated grounds to help protect them against the water levels.
Overnight in Urk.
Day 4: Urk - Vollenhove (23 miles/37 km)
After breakfast, the ship will bring you to the "new land" of Schokkerhaven, where your bike tour through the polder begins. Cycle on a paved path to the former island of Schokland. Since the reclamation of the Northeast polder in 1942, Schokland - just as Urk - is no longer an island. This former island was added as an UNESCO cultural heritage site in 1995. Your bike ride will continue to Vollenhove, another charming, former fishing village.
Overnight in Vollenhove.
Day 5: Vollenhove - Giethoorn (22 miles/37km or 30 miles/49 km)
From Vollenhove, you will cycle along paths through open countryside leading you to the small town of Blokzijl. Entering the Weerribben-Wieden National Park, the largest freshwater wetland in northwestern Europe and a peaceful oasis for plants, animals, and humans alike. The path takes you through the center of the park and far away from roads, immersing you in the tranquility of the region. Keep your eyes peeled for kingfisher or an otter (the symbol of the park)!
As you continue cycling, you pass through Kalenberg, a village that could only be reached by boat until the 1950s! A twisting route will then take you through an agricultural landscape of narrow strip fields surrounded by dikes and into the lovely town of Giethoorn, known as the "small Venice of the North".
Overnight in Giethoorn.
Day 6: Cruise Giethoorn - Lelystad
Today you can enjoy a full day of sailing and relaxing on board. You will have another opportunity to help the captain sail as the ship sails out of the narrow channels toward open water. By early afternoon, the Elizabeth will arrive in Lelystad, capital of the province of Flevoland that was entirely reclaimed from the sea. After docking, enjoy the evening at the Captain's Dinner.
Overnight in Lelystad.
Day 7: Cycle Lelystad – Blocq van Kuffeler | Cruise Blocq van Kuffeler – Amsterdam (12 miles/20 km or 18 miles/29 km)
In the morning, you can visit the Batavia Werf, an extraordinary shipyard, where ships with an important maritime history are taken from oblivion and returned to their former glory. You may also visit the outlet center of Batavia Stad, know for all of the famous brands.
After these options visits, you’ll disembark for your last half-day of cycling. You’ll ride through the Oostvaardersplassen—a nature reserve on new land left to find its own balance like nature did in old times on old land. Sections of the ride wind through forested areas, while others give you panoramic views of expansive reed beds and marshes. This is a birdwatchers’ paradise.
The ship picks you up in the small harbor of Oostvaardersdiep for the return voyage to Amsterdam. Celebrate this marvelous week around the Ijsselmeer while having a farewell dinner aboard the ship.
Overnight in Amsterdam.
Day 8: Amsterdam
After breakfast: End of the tour and disembarkation by 9:30am.
Surface and terrain
The terrain is flat and the cycle paths are mostly concrete or paved roads. Some days will include riding on hard-packed trails. If a guest does not wish to cycle, he/she can skip the bike tour and relax on board while cruising to the next harbor.
Full boat details coming soon
How to get there
Tour start and end
Nearest airport: Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
Nearest train station: Amsterdam Centraal Station
Tips on getting to and from your tour
Jun 10, 17, 24; Jul 1, 8, 15, 22, 29; Aug 5, 12, 19, 26; Sep 2, 9, 2023.
Season A: Jun 1, 2023 - Sep 8, 2023
Season B: Sep 9, 2023 - Sep 16, 2023
Per person, double occupancy Season A Season B Twin cabin €1149 €999 Single use cabin (1 person/1 cabin) €1724 €1499
Hybrid touring bike, 21-speed € 90 Electrically assisted bike (limited number, only on request) € 195 Helmet € 10
- 7 nights accommodation on board in a climate-controlled cabin in the booked category
- Full board: breakfast, picnic lunch, three-course dinner
- Use of bed linen and towels (change of towels daily possible)
- Welcome drink and speech on the first evening
- Experienced tour leader (multilingual) with daily briefings of the bike tours, some short walking tours, fully guided cycling tours
- Printed instructions and detailed maps for cycling tours (1 set per cabin); GPS tracks
- Daily complimentary coffee and tea till 4:00pm
Special dietary requests may be accommodated, but you may face additional fees. Please make requests in advance.
Bikes available to be rented (in advance at the time of booking) include:
- Hybrid touring bikes, 7-speed
- Electrically assisted bikes (limited number, upon request)*
- Children's equipment and tandems, in limited quantities (please inquire for pricing)
*More about electrically-assisted bikes >
Equipment included with bike rental:
- Pannier bag
You can bring your own bicycles (for a small fee and depending on deck space, please contact us for more details). However, the crew or tour operator are in no way responsible for any damage, loss or theft of such bicycles.
The bikes will have flat pedals.
In the Netherlands, bikers are not obligated by law to wear a bike helmet. Please bring your own – good fitting – helmet. Bike helmets are only available onboard with an advanced reservation. Please book your helmet via our booking form (€10 fee).
Bike protection can be purchased at the time of booking. You can read more about that HERE.
Maps are for information purposes only and reflect typical routes between overnight locations. They may not reflect your actual route.
★★★★★ HeidiLang June 6, 2019
This was an awesome trip!
The ship ('t Wapen fan Fryslan) was incredibly beautiful! Cabins were small as expected, but clean and comfortable. Bathrooms were sufficient and everything worked well. The crew was incredible! The Captain (and ship owner) is the most pleasant, calm, confident and capable seaman I have ever met (we are sailors, too) and really seems to care about his guests and that they have a good time and everything is safe. He was an awesome host! It is obvious that he puts a great deal of work and love into his ship, and everyone seemed to acknowledge, appreciate and respect that. And the captain owns the sweetest dog!
Our itinerary changed during the first few days, but it was fine. The biking was easy and some paths took us through beautiful farm country, through some nature parks and forests, and through some lovely little villages and towns. We are not hard-fast bikers, but we were able to keep up with the pack. You do have to cross some roadways, and some can be busy, but everything worked out well for our group. Also being a sailing tour, we sailed on some of the days and the ship is absolutely gorgeous under sail! The first mate was so helpful and instructed us as to what to do so we could help raise, lower and trim the sails. Oh, and yes, there is a Jacuzzi on board that was opened on some of the nights when we were docked at port. Luxury!
Meals were awesome as well! Good wholesome food elegantly prepared and presented! It was obvious that the chef took pride in the meals she prepared. Everything was delicious, and even my son, who is quite picky, ate most everything and was pleased with the meals! One night, the chef even put on a barbecue on the deck with many varieties of meats, each one specially marinated, with several side dishes. It takes an enormous effort to pull that off on a sailboat, where everything must be toted up and down between the galley and the deck. (Note: Guests who have preferences are advised on the website to arrange special dietary requests in advance. We did not feel it was necessary, and we were fine. The Dutch do not necessarily have salads at each meal, but meals are well balanced and there are ample vegetables served!)
Can't say enough about this trip! THE BEST!!
- What was the date of your tour?
- May 18
- How many tours have you completed?
- Difficulty (actual vs. expected)?
- As expected
- Who is this tour suitable for?
- Solo travelers, First-time bike tourists, Families with teens
- Do you recommend this tour?