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An awesome 11-Day Tulip Tour between Holland and Belgium
One week is simply too short a time to fully enjoy Holland and Belgium, especially during the tulip season. The solution? An 11-day tour!
This longer bike and boat tour still features all of the favorites: Amsterdam, Holland's bustling capital, Bruges, the artistic gem of Belgium, and of course lots and lots of tulips in between.
You will have nearly two weeks to cycle through stunning countryside, cruise on the emblematic canals, delight in the local gastronomy, and ENJOY!
- Zaanse Schans open air museum
- Keukenhof flower garden
- Frans Hals Museum
- The Kinderdijk windmills
- Tulips and flowers
- Delft pottery
Day 1: Amsterdam - Zaandam
Check-in will begin at 3:30 pm. Be sure to arrive on time because the Merlijn will set off at 5 pm for Zaandam. The crew will welcome you on board with a complimentary drink and information on the barge and the route. In the evening, you'll have the opportunity to walk around Zaandam.
Day 2: Zaandam - Haarlem (19 mi or 31 mi/30 or 50 km)
After your first breakfast on board, you can test your bike and do some sightseeing in ‘the Zaanse Schans’ famous for its open-air museum and windmills. Perhaps you will want to visit one. You will then bike from Zaandam to Haarlem. After crossing the river with a ferry, the route leads through the beautiful flat landscape of Holland. The Merlijn will moor in Haarlem, and from here, there are 2 options:
1. Extend your bike tour with a loop through the dune landscape.
2. Soak up the history and culture of Haarlem! Explore this historical city with a visit to the ‘Frans Hals’ museum or the ‘St. Bavo church’, both cultural highlights.
After dinner, go out and sample the famous local “Jopen” beer.
Day 3: Haarlem - Cruquius - Keukenhof - Leidschendam - Delft (34 mi/55 km)
Flowers, flowers, and more flowers! Get ready to pedal through the oldest tulip fields of Holland, including a visit to the incredible Keukenhof gardens! The Keukenhof is one of the world's largest gardens, where each year nearly seven million flowers bloom in spectacular fashion. Hyacinths, narcissus, and of course, tulips all debut their striking colors. You will continue on to Leidschendam where you will board the Merlijn again to navigate to the city of Delft. Well known for Delfts Blue ceramic, this city also played an important historical role with the Royal House. After dinner, there will be an evening walk through the city to showcase the highlights.
Day 4: Delft - Rotterdam - Kinderdijk - Dordrecht (25 or 37 mi/40 or 60 km)
You will spend more time in Delft including a visit to ‘the Royal Delft’, the world of Delft Blue. After your visit, you'll pedal again through the Green Heart of Holland. Soon you will reach Rotterdam, a city which is internationally known for its modern architecture and design. You pedal the highlights of this bustling place while following the well-paved bike paths. A quick ferry crossing will bring you to Kinderdijk. This impressive row of large windmills forms an iconic Dutch image that is popular with many photographers. The best way to see this open-air museum is by bike! The route then leads to the town of Alblasserdam. From here you have 2 options:
1. Take a fast ferry, arriving at the Merlijn in Dordrecht.
2. Extend the tour and bike to Dordrecht:
Dordrecht is one of the oldest cities in Holland and its history, wealth and culture are still clearly visible. Not only is the historic city center of Dordrecht home to around 1,000 monuments – but they are also splendidly used as restaurants, museums, and theatres.
Tonight you will enjoy Dutch cuisine in one of the local restaurants in this charming city.
Day 5: Dordrecht - Willemstad - Tholen (28 mi/45 km)
You'll have a cruising breakfast while motoring along to the old fortress town of Willemstad. You'll have some time to enjoy your surroundings before the cycling begins. The polder landscape will accompany you to Tholen. The town of Tholen has a rich history and is a must-see for visitors to Zeeland. In addition to dozens of national monuments, it harbors large sections of city walls and other fortifications that can be found around the town center.
Day 6: Tholen - Antwerp (12 mi or 31 mi/20 or 50 km)
Today's cycling options are short so you can enjoy Antwerp as much as possible. You'll start pedaling after breakfast and upon reaching Antwerp, you have two options:
1. Board the Merlijn and navigate through Antwerp’s picturesque harbors to the docking place in the old center. Lunch will be served on board and you'll arrive early enough to explore the city and cultural highlights.
2. Continue biking to the Merlijn's docking location in Antwerp.
Antwerp is a hidden Flemish gem with its medieval streets, Renaissance monuments, and vibrant nightlife. It may be most famous, however, for being the home of baroque superstar painter Pieter Paul Rubens. Be sure to visit Rubens House and the Royal Museum to see thousands of Old Masters. Don't forget to take a peek at the still unfinished Cathedral of Our Lady, which started way back in 1351.
Day 7: Antwerp - St. Amands (22 mi/45 km)
Today the cycling takes you away from Antwerp, entering the St. Anna tunnel, to the other side of the Schelde river. From here, you'll continue upstream to Sint Amands. The bike paths are gorgeous, surrounded by lush scenery and the gentle flow of the river.
Day 8: St. Amands - Dendermonde - Ghent (22 mi/35 km)
You'll begin your day with a cruise to Dendermonde, where you'll continue biking along Schelde River once again. Your final destination is Ghent, a quirky and fascinating university city brimming with trendy, modern urban life. Ghent also has artistic importance, being home to the world-famous masterpiece—the Mystic Lamb by the Van Eyck brothers. The Merlijn docks a bit far from the city center, but after dinner, you will be transported to the city. You can even organize a boat ride through the canals for a supplement.
Day 9: Ghent - Bruges (24 mi/38 km)
You'll enjoy a sailing breakfast as the Merlijn navigates to Aalter. In Aalter, you will disembark and bike through the delightful Western Flanders countryside before reaching Bruges. Bruges is a picturesque fairy-tale medieval town, with romantic cobblestone streets, dreamy canals, and classic market squares. Nearly every corner features a chocolate shop or a cozy place to grab a beer, this city is a wonderful place to spend a day or two!
Day 10: Bruges, and bike tour to Oostende (34 mi/55 km)
Again you have two options for your ride today:
1. A guided bike tour that will take you to Oostende, the biggest and most popular town on the Belgian coast. Here you can enjoy the North sea, walk along the beach, and have a nice picnic lunch in the open air or in a seaside restaurant.
2. For those wanting to explore more of Bruges, leave your bike onboard and go sightseeing in the city. There is much to see and do, and be sure to eat some Belgian fries for lunch! Everybody returns onboard for the farewell dinner and your last overnight stay on the Merlijn.
Day 11: Bruges
Your tour officially ends after breakfast.
Bruges to Amsterdam
Day 1: Bruges - check in between 3:30 and 4:30
Day 2: Bruges - Oostende (55 km)
Day 3: Bruges - Moerbrugge - Ghent (38 km)
Day 4: Ghent - Dendermonde - Sint Amands (35 or 50 km)
Day 5: Sint-Amands - Antwerp (45 km)
Day 6: Antwerp - Kreekerak - Tholen (20, 50 or 70 km)
Day 7: Tholen - Willemstad - Dordrecht (45 km)
Day 8: Dordrecht - Kinderdijk - Rotterdam (35 or 55 km)
Day 9: Delft - Leidschendam/Leiden - Haarlem (55 km)
Day 10: Haarlem - Zaanse Schans - Amsterdam (42 km)
Day 11: Amsterdam
Day 1: Amsterdam to Haarlem (10 mi/6 km)
Official check-in begins at 1:00 pm but you can drop your luggage at 9:15 am to explore Amsterdam at your leisure. Lunch is not provided by the barge on this first day. At 1:30, you will have an introductory meeting with coffee followed by your first cruise to Haarlem on the North Sea Channel. You will cycle a short distance just outside of Haarlem to the mooring location in the city. Haarlem is a lovely city to take a stroll, as the narrow streets are lined by the monumental buildings built by master Lieven de Key. You'll enjoy a walk after dinner with the guides and a stop at a local brewery.
Day 2: Haarlem - Leiden (26 mi/40 km)
Your first cycling day is a special one! You will go from Haarlem to Leiden beginning with a visit to the Keukenhof. This flower exposition boasts 80 acres filled with 7 million tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, and many other flowers. Visiting this garden is a spectacular way to experience spring! You'll continue cycling to Leiden, the oldest university town in the Netherlands. Leiden is home to countless beautiful museums, canals, and ‘hofjes’ or inner courtyards.
Day 3: Leiden - Gouda (27 mi/41 km)
Today you will bike from Leiden to Gouda, and no trip to Gouda would be complete without a visit to a cheese farm! You'll have a guided tour of a traditional farm complete with a tasting and the option to buy some (sealed) products at the local shop. This area is lovingly referred to as the Green Heart of Holland, a fertile countryside dotted with farms, grazing cows, and lush vistas. Gouda is not only famous for the cheese but also the delicious Stroopwafels, a yummy treat you'll be sure to try. Don't forget to walk around The Markt, the central square with its iconic town hall.
Day 4: Gouda - Kinderdijk - Dordrecht (22 mi/36 km)
Between biking from Gouda and Dordrecht, you will stop at one of the most iconic sites in all of Holland: the Kinderdijk. The Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage site built around 1740, features 19 magnificent windmills. After your visit, you will pedal a little more to meet the Iris. You will embark and sail onwards to Dordrecht. During your crossing, you will be amazed at the fast ferries that are used heavily by commuters here. Dordrecht is your final destination.
Day 5: Dordrecht - Tholen, 25 mi. (40 km)
As you enjoy your breakfast, the Iris will navigate to Willemstad. Willemstad has the charm of a storybook village with a small historic quaint harbor and a scenic town square. Within a few steps of the dock is a row of restaurants where you can overlook the harbor while enjoying a refreshing beer. Today's destination is Tholen. While it is connected to the mainland, Tholen still retains its picturesque charm and boasts many fishing and boating relics from its colorful past.
Day 6: Tholen - Antwerp (20 mi/32 km)
Today you'll have the opportunity to see a unique landscape while biking through Wouwse Plantation, it is an otherworldly place of sand dune forests and fields of heather. Any history buff will enjoy the visit to the Canadian and British World War Two Cemetery. Arriving back on the boat, you will enjoy a cruising lunch to Antwerp, home to the famous painter Peter Paul Rubens. Many of his paintings are still in the city to be admired. Antwerp’s Golden age was in the 16th century when its trade blossomed and while walking the streets, you feel as if you have been transported back 500 years.
Day 7: Antwerp (10 mi/17 km)
You will have plenty of time to explore Antwerp today, including significant sights like the Cathedral of Our Lady, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. You'll have a full day at your leisure to visit museums like the Rubens House, which has many paintings in his old residence. If you’d like to bike, you can join your guide for alternative sightseeing.
Day 8: Antwerp - Dendermonde (32 or 20 mi/52 or 32 km)
Leaving Antwerp, you will make use of a path, tunnel, and elevators totally dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists. The Scheldt river will be your guide and you will make various river crossings via ferry. You will eat lunch in the garden of Castle Wisselkerke, a treat for sure! And this won’t be the last castle you see today. Your day ends in Dendermonde, a Medieval city loaded with important heritage. The town square is a perfect place to enjoy a real Belgian beer.
Day 9: Dendermonde - Ghent (25 mi/40 km)
The typical Flemish countryside will be your backdrop, through small towns, lakes, and castles. You will eventually arrive in Ghent. One of Belgium’s oldest cities and the historic capital of Flanders, Ghent has retained more traces of its past than most other Belgian towns. In the center of the city, you will find the 14th-century Belfry standing about 300 feet high. In the evening, a small boat will pick you up to see the city as most traders would have, from the water.
Day 10: Ghent - Bruges (25 mi/40 km)
You'll have more Ghent this morning, before getting on your bike for the last cycling stage. From Ghent, you will bike through forests and eat lunch at an old estate. Utilizing a rail-to-trail route, you will arrive in Bruges by bike. The Iris will be docked in the center so you can easily explore this delightful medieval town.
Day 11: Bruges
Today you'll say goodbye to the crew and your new-found friends after one last breakfast on board. You can leave your luggage until 12:00 and spend some more time in Bruges. The crew will be happy to arrange taxis and assist in your onward travel plans.
Surface and terrain
This guided bike and boat tour is rated as leisurely. You will cycle on dedicated bike paths and on country roads with low traffic. Sometimes, you may experience more traffic as you enter or exit the cities but rest assured motorists here are very accustomed to bikers. All distances are approximate. The itinerary is subject to change and sometimes without prior notice, as some waterways are prone to flooding or drought. The captain reserves the right to make changes.
How to get there
Tour start and end
Nearest airports: Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) and Brussels Airport (BRU)
Nearest train stations: Centraal Station and Brugge Train Station
For tour starts in Amsterdam:
There is a direct train that leaves 6 times per hour from Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Central Station. It takes about 16 minutes. The price for a train ticket Schiphol Amsterdam is approx. €8 per person for a single journey.
A taxi from Schiphol Amsterdam Airport to the barge in Amsterdam takes about 30 minutes. It costs about €60. A taxi from the Central Train Station in Amsterdam to the barge takes about 5 minutes: Costs about €10.
To return to Amsterdam at the end of your tour, there is a train from Brugge station with possible stops in Brussels and/or Antwerp. Total travel time is approx. 4 hours. You may also take a train directly to Brussels which takes approx. 2 hours, for flights out of BRU.
For tour starts in Bruges:
If flying into Amsterdam Schiphol, a train to Brugge station takes around 4 hours. The docking location is situated approx. 400 meters from the station. This is a 10-minute walk or a short taxi ride.
If flying into Brussels, you must take a train to Brugges station which takes around 2 hours. From the train station, the boat is located around 400 meters which is approx. 10-minute walking distance or a short taxi ride.
To return to Bruges or Brussels at the end of your tour, you may take a train from Amsterdam Centraal.
Tips on getting to and from your tour.
From Amsterdam: Apr 22, 2023
From Bruges: May 03, 2023
From Amsterdam: May 03, 2023
Per person, double occupancy €2475 Single-use cabin (1 person/1 cabin) €4455
Per person, double occupancy €2510 Single-use cabin (1 person/1 cabin) On Request
Touring bike Included Electrically-assisted bike €270 Vegan diet €50
Touring bike Included Electrically-assisted bike €160 Gluten-free diet* €70 Lactose-free diet €70
*Please note that while these boats can provide gluten-free food, we cannot guarantee a gluten-free kitchen. Cross-contamination is possible.
- 10 nights on board
- Complimentary drink upon arrival
- 10 x breakfast buffets, 9 x packed lunches, 8 x three-course dinners
- Coffee, tea, & unlimited water
- Daily cabin cleaning
- 27-speed Sensa brand hybrid bike with hydraulic disc brakes, waterproof pannier, water bottle, towel, & helmet
- Tour guide
- All ferry & harbor fees
- Entrance to Keukenhof
- Entrance to Royal Delft
*Because of the steel construction of the ship, locations, & other factors, the Wifi signal speed may not be what you are used to.
- 10 nights on board
- 10 x breakfast buffets, 9 x packed lunches, 7 x dinners (6 x three-course dinners and 1 x four-course dinner)
- Complimentary glass of wine or beer with dinner
- Coffee (including café latte, cappuccino, hot chocolate) & tea
- Cookies and fruit
- Daily cabin cleaning
- 8-speed Giant touring bike with helmet, water bottle, & pannier
- Two cycling guides
- Entrance to the Keukenhof
- Cheese farm visit and tasting
- Visit St. Johns Church in Gouda and the windmill in the Keukenhof (if time allows)
- Visit Tholen windmill
- Beer tasting on board in Dendermonde
Touring bicycle - Sensa Superlite (or similar brand/model)
Unisex model with lightweight aluminum frame (4 different sizes).
All bikes have 27-speeds, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, and Sportourer FLX saddle.
The bikes come with a pannier bag, helmet, lock, water bottle, and towel.
Electric bicycle - Gudereit Brand (limited number)
The electric bikes feature 7-gears and a Bosch engine. The bikes come with a pannier bag, helmet, lock, water bottle, and towel.
Touring Bicycle - Giant Touring Bike from the LIV collection
Aluxx grade aluminum step-through frame and belt driven with an internal gear hub.
The bikes feature 8-speeds, hydraulic disc brakes, Selle royal Nuvola gel saddle, platform pedals, Giant 700x 45 multi-surface tires, and a rear rack. The bikes weigh 14.6 kg.
A helmet is included with the rental.
Electric bicycle - information coming soon!
Bike protection can be purchased at the time of booking. You can read more about that HERE.
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