In the far north of the Netherlands, in a vast and flat landscape, lie eleven historical towns linked by canals. They set the stage for a phenomenal ice skating event that is held just as soon as the canals freeze over and the ice is solid enough: The Eleven Towns Tour. The 200 km marathon is so popular with the Dutch people that the route is often cycled in warmer months with a feeling of nostalgia as cyclists pass familiar waymarks. What a lovely route it is! The towns, large and small, each have their own charm and historical importance. Exploring them is a joy in itself.
Your Frisian adventure kicks off in Leeuwarden, the vibrant capital of Friesland province. If the spoken language sounds different to you here, you are absolutely right. The Frisian language differs from Dutch and is an important aspect of local culture.
We have three of the eleven towns lined up for you today. Bolsward is a lovely historical Hanseatic town that captures the hearts of many tourists.
You will stay the night in the lively town of Sneek, popular with water sports enthusiasts and daytrippers. Everybody loves the canals that adorn the centre. Waterpoort (1613) is the town’s pride and joy. It’s a water gate. Way back when the town was surrounded by a defensive wall, this was one of the town gates through which boats were permitted to enter and leave town. If you have a sweet tooth, try to get hold of the local brittle buckwheat cookies: “drabbelkoeken”. Why not crown your evening in one of the many bars and cafes that liven up the town?
Leaving behind the hustle and bustle of Sneek, you will dive into the peace and quiet of the Frisian Lake District. Comprising nearly thirty inland lakes, it is said to be the largest lake district in western Europe. With water all around, experience a feeling of calm and forget about time for a while. Further on, you will reach a geologically interesting wooded area called Gaasterland that is suddenly not so typical of the Netherlands. You will find meandering creeks, slightly rolling terrain and deciduous woods directly on the coast of what used to be Zuiderzee. Even more unexpectedly, a wall of boulder clay called Rode Klif rises up from Lake IJsselmeer, offering endless views. Your cycling tour will end in the small village of Rijs.
There’s more Frisian cultural heritage in store for you today. In Hindeloopen, wooden bridges, houses with characteristic façades, narrow streets and even an ice skating museum hold great appeal. But there’s more. You may have heard of Hindelooper painted furniture and traditional fabrics used for the local costume. The people of this town had a style all of their own, influenced by trading connections with Scandinavia and the Baltic. Feast your eyes on fantastic floral patterns and find out about the town’s history and traditions at Atelier Glashouwer or Museum Hindeloopen. Next up is Workum which was once a town of potters famed for their grooved ceramics (clay is readily available around here). At Koch’s workshop you can still see them at work. At the town hall get a glimpse of the town’s rich history. Inside, visitors can see an original wooden prison cell where tramps, drunkards and criminals were locked up in times of old. Round off the day in historical Makkum, famous for producing Frisian pottery. The Tichelaar factory of tiles and ceramics has been going strong since 1594. To see Frisian pottery we recommend the ceramics museums in Harlingen and Leeuwarden.
We will pass the borders of Lake IJssel once again on the way to the next of our eleven towns, Franeker, a small but impressive town. It houses not only the Netherlands’ second oldest university, the oldest student bar “Bogt van Guné” but also the country’s oldest working planetarium: Eisinga Planetarium. From Franeker it’s only a very short ride to Harlingen, smell the briny sea air as you approach this friendly harbour town. As you amble up and down the Wadden Promenade on the sea front, consider what a special place the shallow Wadden Sea is. It is even listed as Unesco World Heritage. At low tide the mudflats and tidal creeks are revealed and shore birds arrive to forage. During a walk through the centre of town you will discover a great number of monumental warehouses, buildings of architectural or historical interest and picturesque canals.
Tip: if you want to spend a day cycling on the Wadden Island of Vlieland or Terschelling, then we can book an extra night in Harlingen for you with a ferry ticket included.
Set off along the coast, with vast polders to your right, and consider how the people of Friesland might have might have kept their feet dry in a flood before sea dikes were invented. In fact, they built “terps”, or raised dwelling mounds, and their churches and (farm)houses perched on top. At Hegebeintum, your first stop of the day, you can see one that has been partly preserved. At nearly nine meters it’s the highest terp in Friesland. Today’s journey ends in Dokkum. Once upon a time the town was orientated towards the sea to which it had an open connection. It became strategically important and was fortified with defensive earthworks and moats in 1582, the outlines of which can clearly be seen to this day. Later the harbour silted up and the town became land orientated. It has long attracted pilgrims who come to pay homage to St. Boniface, a missionary from England who came to convert pagan Frisians to Christianity. He was murdered here in Dokkum in the year 754. Outside the chapel, there’s a well that Boniface was said to have discovered and blessed. The clear water has healing properties or so some say.
Today’s scenery is the typically Frisian open, green landscape with water, meadows and cows. The Dokkumer Ee canal (which features prominently in the skating marathon) leads the way to the capital of Friesland. The unassuming bridge at Bartlehiem is most famous perhaps for surviving the crowds of supporters jumping up and down and cheering the skaters on. From here it’s only a short stretch to Leeuwarden. Only a total of 26 km for you today, leaving plenty of time to look around this gem of the north. Feel like going shopping for a souvenir? Kleine Kerkstraat is one of the best-loved shopping streets in the country. The town has over six hundred monuments and boasts charming harbours. If it’s action you want, climb the Frisian tower of Pisa called Oldenhove. The bronze statue “Us Mem” (meaning Our Mother) is a good place to start exploring.
Today your cycling holiday comes to an end. After enjoying a hearty hotel breakfast, it’s time to pack your bags and return home.
|Daily from April 1 till September 23.|
|Per person in a double room
7 nights’ accommodation, breakfast included
|A supplement will be required for:|
|Single room (€ 30 x 7)||210,00|
|Dinner (€ 30 x 7)||210,00|
|Bike rental (€ 12 x 7)||84,00|
|E-Bike (€ 25 x 7)||175,00|
|Emergency Call Out Service/Bike breakdown pass (€ 2,75 x 7)||19,25|
|Extra night in Harlingen + ferryticket for 1 day to Wadden Island Vlieland or Terschelling incl.||95,00|
Leeuwarden - Fletcher Hotel Stadhouderlijk Hof****
Sneek - Amicitia Hotel****
Stavoren - Hotel Vrouwe van Stavoren***
Makkum - Beach Hotel de Vigilante***
Harlingen - Anna Casparii***
Dokkum - Hotel de Posthoorn***
7 Nights included
3/4 Star Hotels
Breakfast included, Halfboard optional
Tourist information on all the places of interest
The possibility of renting our bikes
7-days a week service-hotline
Luggage transport to your next hotel
Parking possibilities at the hotel
Any ferry crossings are not included
...Bikes were a bit tired. Mudguards were either loose or broken. This was our first trip with Dutch Bike Tours. We shall be back and hope that the bike issues are resolved...
...I think we also thought there would be opportunities to swim in the sea but the beaches we came to were not really right for swimming. I liked the towns of harlingam and dokkum and freneker where we stopped and enjoyed the planetarium. The route was good but not very varied and the distances manageable...
...It was very well organized and that I enjoyed my vacation...
....Our holiday was very nice. All the hotels were great. All the routes were interesting....