The Low Countries: Amsterdam to Brussels - Page 2

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Holland
All-Natural Carpeting: The tulip fields of Holland  (PhotoDisc)

Day 5: Lemmer to Harlingen (40 Miles)
North-lying Friesland is only a part of the Netherlands' Golden Circle, a ring of fertile, empty land around IJsselmeer. Sniff the tulips, so to speak, as you hop your way up the tiny villages of Friesland's western shore. In Rijs, hire a bike and cycle through the Gaanterland countryside or sail the Frisian Lakes near Hindeloopen. Ramble down streets of 16th- and 17th-century houses in Workum, or shop for traditional pottery in the ceramic-centric burg of Makkum. As you near the IJsselmeer Dam that marks the beginning of the Wadden Sea, turn east. Spend the afternoon canoeing some of the region's many lakes and canals—information on canoeing is readily available at local tourist offices—before crashing in seaside Harlingen, where you can learn about the town's fishing and shipping history by perusing its dykes and old storehouses.

Day 6: Harlingen to Terschelling (Via Ferries)
This morning, on the 90-minute car ferry (+31.56.244.2002; www.rederij-doeksen.nl) between Harlingen and Vlieland (+31.56.245.2700; www.vlieland.nl) in the Wadden Islands, keep your eyes open for sandbars with colonies of seals. Once ashore, explore Vlieland's empty tidal marshes, dunes, forests, and nature preserves by bike. You'll find active bird life and spectacular seclusion on wide swaths of sand. Or do as the Dutch and go wadlopen, or mudflat walking, as the tides recede. In the evening, hop another ferry to nearby Terschelling (+31.56.244.6244; www.terschelling.nl) for the night.

Day 7: Terschelling to Zutphen (110 Miles)
After catching the boat back to the mainland, motor east toward the northeastern regions of Groningen and Drenthe. Thse sparsely populated areas bordering Germany, are enclaves of peace and quiet. From Harlingen, it's about an hour to the city of Groningen, a Hanseatic center cum university town. Tour the Grote Markt, one of the largest in the country, and the university district with 18th-century homes, before turning south and pushing another hour and a half to Hoge Veluwe National Park (+31.55.378.8100; www.hogeveluwe.nl) in Gelderland. On one of the park's 1,700 white bicycles, spin through 26 miles of paved paths while trying to spot boar, wild sheep, and roe deer. Also look for some of the park's more elusive species, such as the moor frog and the silver-spotted skipper butterfly in the 13,500 acres of sand dunes, lakes, woods, and heaths. The park's Kröller Müller Museum (+31.31.859.1241; www.kmm.nl) is a must-see, with an impressive collection of van Gogh works and an outdoor sculpture garden that extends into the woods. Stay in nearby Zutphen (+31.900.269.2888; www.zutphen.nl), a charming medieval city on a hill with red roofed brick buildings, a 16th-century library, and a pleasant walkway on the river IJssel.

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Best Hotels in Amsterdam

$565
Average/night*
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#1
Sofitel Legend the Grand Amsterdam
$266-$297
Average/night*
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#2
Grand Hotel Amrath Amsterdam
$511
Average/night*
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#4
Marriott Hotel Amsterdam

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