If you are an enthusiastic hiker, why stop hiking during your visit to Holland? In Holland you won’t find extreme landscapes. But hiking is a great way to discover Dutch cities, National Parks, polders, dunes, coastlines and river landscapes. There are many well signposted and/or documented trails all over the country, often accessible by public transport. So bring your hiking shoes and get moving!
Despite the fact that there are many hiking trails in Holland, it is difficult to find English route descriptions. But if you know how to use GPS tracks, a wealth of routes is waiting for you. In my blogs about hiking, I always link to one or more GPS tracks. If you want to find your own trails, there are a couple of handy websites that I often use. In this post I will explain how to use these sites if you don’t read Dutch.
In this blog I write about:
Contact the local tourist information (VVV) for routes
City trails are a great way of getting a feel of the town and discovering hidden courtyards or alleyways that you otherwise wouldn’t even notice. The most practical thing to do is to pay a visit to the local tourist information office. In Dutch they are called VVV. Often they have leaflets available with interesting trails and additional information. Sometimes these leaflets are available online, even though in my little random test of tourist information sites I noticed that they often refer to the Dutch leaflets, even from their English pages. Bad!! However I know for a fact that if you go by the office, information in English is often available, especially in the towns in the west of Holland.
Contact the information centers of the National parks for routes
If you are more interested in hiking in nature, why not visit one of the 21 National Parks in Holland. Information on their communal website is a bit basic, especially in English. The best overview I found was on the website I am expat. That contains links to the individual parks. Some of the parks publish hiking trails on their websites. Others will have leaflets available in their info center in the park.
Use websites to find GPS tracks
Wandelzoekpagina literally translates as “Hike search page”, and it is my favorite source of hiking routes. They offer a huge amount of free trails, all over the country, both in nature and in cities. Trails are kept up to date, so it’s wise to download trails shortly before your hike. Unfortunately the site is completely in Dutch, which might make hard for you to find your way around. If you own a GPS, this is still a very impressive source of information. Some tips:
- Use “zoeken op kaart” (searching on the map) to access a map of Holland with all hikes on it. Zoom in to the region you are interested in.
- When looking for GPS tracks, use the filter “GPS track beschikbaar” (GPS track available)
- In case you are traveling by public transport, use the filter “bereikbaar met OV” (accessible by public transport)
- Search results are available underneath the rather extensive search-box, you may have to scroll down
- GPS tracks are available on the individual route description pages
Another option is using the wandelnet website. This site specializes in long distance trails, and you will find many sections of long distance trails when searching on this site. But they offer round trips, and hikes from railway station to railway station too. As far as I know all trails have a description, a map and a GPS track that you can download for free, and the trails are kept up to date. You can easily search for routes by zooming in on the map.
RouteYou is an international hiking website, available in many languages, including English. That doesn’t mean that all descriptions are in English too, by the way. RouteYou is a platform website with user generated content. You can find some lovely routes here, but they’re not necessarily up to date, and may start at funny places, such as somebody’s front door. If you use it critically though it is an interesting source of hiking trails.
4. Regional hiking trail websites
Some provinces in Holland have created a network of hiking trails, that are connected by signposts with numbers on them. The idea is that you first create your route online, and then follow the numbers on the signposts. Here I will list the sites that I have found so far (and I will keep on adding when I find more)
- Wandelnetwerk Noord Holland (province of Noord Holland). Site is in Dutch. Enter the name of the town where you want to start your hike at the first screen.
- Wandelnetwerk Twente (eastern part of the province Overijssel). Scroll on the map.
Other hiking websites
I found the following websites with at least some descriptions in English. I can’t vouch for the quality.
- Outdoor Active, this is a website with hiking trails explained in English. If you want to download a GPS track you’ll have to register/create an account. I haven’t used their trails yet, so I’m not sure about the quality, but it’s nice that they describe the routes in English.
- All Trails is a bit like RouteYou in that it is based on user generated content. Routes contain a very short description in English. To download maps you will have to register.
- Wikiloc, easy to follow trails for your smartphone, but most descriptions are in Dutch
Use an app
I don’t use hiking apps myself, but I have found the following apps that might be interesting:
- WandelZapp, the app of website Wandelzoekpagina. You can download the app for free, but will have to pay per hike.
- Komoot: mind that this is not a free app. Lots of user generated content.
- Viewranger, paid GPS app. Most trails in Holland seem to have Dutch descriptions though.
If you really want to go for it, go on a hiking holiday in Holland. As an independent traveler you may want to organize this yourself. This is easy, as there are several well documented long distance trails in the Netherlands. An overview of all long distance trails in Holland is available at wandelnet.nl.
Unfortunately, the Wandelnet website is completely in Dutch, but it is quite easy to use. At the overview page you’ll find buttons linking to the different trails. Note that for some inexplicable reason some have been split in 2 or 3 parts. Once you have clicked through, you’ll see a map of that particular trail, and to the left of that links to the descriptions of the separate sections of about 20 to 30 km (in Dutch: “etappes“). On the mobile version you’ll have to switch between “toon kaart” (show map) and “toon lijst” (show list, of the sections). Each section has its own description, map and GPS track. All of these you can download for free! The trails are signposted with white/red marks that you will spot along the way.
Suggestions for long distance hikes in Holland
Pieterpad is the most famous long distance hiking trail in Holland. It connects the village of Pieterburen in the north to St Pietersberg near Maastricht all the way down south in 26 day hikes. If you’ve got the hang of it you could continue on towards Santiago de Compostela! This trail is very popular among Dutch people, due to the fact, I guess, that it passes through atypical Dutch landscapes, such as hills (that we call mountains) and forests. This may not be what you are looking for as a tourist. But the fun thing probably is that you will meet up with Dutch hikers, and that there is plenty of accommodation along the route. The flip side is of course that it is probably wise to book your accommodation in advance.
Zuiderzeepad is a roundtrip in 28 stages around the former Zuiderzee, now IJsselmeer. You will pass by famous historical harbor towns and fishing villages such as Volendam, Marken, Hoorn, Enkhuizen, Kampen, Harderwijk, Elburg and Amsterdam, and cross the 32 kilometer long Afsluitdijk (or just take the bus if you don’t fancy hiking on a dam all day) .
3. Nederlands kustpad
Nederlands Kustpad is a trail along the North Sea coast (and links to part 2 and a part 3), starting in Sluis, close to the Belgian border and terminating 725 kilometers further in Kostverloren, a village near the German border in the very northeast of Holland. You’ll pass by many dikes, the famous Delta Works, dunes, harbors and historical fishing villages.
Do you have favorite hiking apps or websites? Leave your suggestions below!