For almost two months beginning at the end of March, Holland is bright with blossoming tulips. Fields are planted in wide strips of color creating living landscapes of yellows, pinks and reds atop a backdrop of dark green leaves. Any visit to Europe during tulip season ought to include a side trip to the Netherlands to gaze at the beautiful blooming bulbs that cover the provinces of Holland.
Visitors will want to consider the distances involved and plan transportation accordingly. Many regions can be reached by bus and the fields seen with a walking tour, but the easiest and least restrictive option is to rent a car. For visits to specific areas only, check with the local tourist office to find tour companies or taxis that will schedule private tours. Travellers with a longer schedule could rent a bicycle to visit the fields or hotel-hop to different regions and visit the bulb-fields on foot.
There are many bulb-fields throughout the country with the best know lying between the cities of Leiden and Den Helder. Smaller fields are situated in other provinces and many of the lesser-known areas aren’t as crowded and therefore a better choice for visitors wanting to walk or cycle through the fields. All of the growing regions have information about what’s blooming in the local tourist office.
The oldest and best-known bulb-fields in the country, attracting thousands of visitors when the tulips are in bloom. The gardens' seven million bulbs are planted in patches rather than the long fields many visitors expect, since this was originally designed as the garden for an estate. In addition to the tulip garden, the grounds feature an English landscape garden and a Japanese country garden. The manor house (called “the castle”) has an herb kitchen and is often used for musical performances.
Several bulb-fields surround Keukenhof gardens although many are private. Some may allow visitors while others can only be viewed from the road. It’s a delightful area to drive around and enjoy the surprise glimpses of colour around each bend in the road.
Noordoostpolder (Northeast polder)
The largest growing area with most tulip farms located here. Every year Flevoland publishes a “flower bulb route” that takes drivers through 2500 acres of flowering fields throughout the province. Maps are available at the tourist offices and the 100km route is marked with signs creating an easy-to-follow route that has suggested stops at many of the farms including a garden that allows picking.
Cyclists might opt for the “garden route”, a more-manageable 19km that encompasses the best farms. Holland is a friendly place to cycle, however, and there is nothing stopping you from exploring the region on your own, armed only with a map and a gps.
If staying in Leiden during your holiday, schedule a visit to the Botanical Garden which is quite small compared to the huge tulip fields but surprisingly beautiful. The Gardens were planted in 1594 and contain many historic bulbs that helped spawn the love of tulips that still captivates the Dutch. The town also has an 18th century windmill that you can tour – and how can you leave Holland without seeing a windmill?
The Noordelijke Bollenstreek (Northern Bulb Region)
Noordelijke Bollenstreek was hardest hit during the Tulip Mania crash of 1637 when flower prices dropped and floriculture was no longer profitable. Although still small, the bulb fields in the region are making a comeback, adding farms and fields each year.
To invite more visitors the region features some unique attractions. The largest connected fields are found here creating a seemingly endless field of bright blossoms stretching out to the horizon. You can also take a break from all the walking you’ve been doing by hopping a steam tram for a relaxed journey through the fields of colour. The Hortus Bulborum has 4,000 historical bulbs collected in one area that are in bloom during the spring.
This region is ideal for the casual cycler with compact farms in a relatively small growing area. There are also fewer visitors to the bulb fields making it a more pleasant visit overall.