The Dutch province of Holland is famous for many things; windmills, canals and of course tulip fields and Keukenhof. What better way to immerse yourself in Dutch culture than a springtime visit to this northern European destination, becoming part of the visual tulip fairytale. Why not join us on this Bucket List adventure as we share the colourful highlights of this veritable Dutch feast in this visual storybook.
A teary sight
There are a handful of our travel experiences that have made my eyes leak and my first sighting of Holland’s tulips is certainly up there with the best of them. There’s something very special about that first sight, first taste, first burst of an emotional connection to a new place – once seen, never forgotten. And that is how Holland’s tulips will be for me.
Great Easter weather brought the crowds to Holland and I was concerned that it might feel too claustrophobic. Especially as trying to find somewhere to stay was looking tricky. We finally managed to get the last spot in a great little campsite, which happened to be a tulip farm – how perfect was that? From our courtyard position, the vibrant yellow stripes made the darkest of moments light up. Like an excited puppy ready for its walk, I felt like skipping to my first, up-close-and-personal tulip experience.
As I stood amidst a field of tulips with the heady scent like freesias, my bucket list entry firmly got a tick and with sighs like a love-sick school girl, I drank in the vision.
Rows and rows of sunshine yellow, deep purple, scarlet and pink stripped flowers filled my sight. And adorably the rogue pink tulip that made its unwelcome appearance in a row of homogenous yellow blooms gave me a sense of allowing myself to ‘stand out amongst the crowd’.
It was lovely having a field of tulips beside our ‘home’, yet my insatiable appetite craved more. I wanted to expand my experience. So with our bicycles (no electric needed here), we tootled off in search of the technicolored carpets and we were not disappointed.
Where to find them
While the corridor of colour reaches from Den Haag to Haarlam, the main concentration of fields can be found between Noordwijk and Lisse.
And our advise? Park up somewhere and get your bikes out, as the smaller roads between these carpets are often narrow and busy with onlookers. To really experience these parcels of pleasure, riding the excellent network of cycle paths gives a totally sensory experience. Go to the Tourist Information or any hotel or campsite in the area and you will be given a map that shows you the current year’s fields and the best cycle routes to reach them. And of course they are free to view.
Lisse is the central hub of tulip county and is where the famous botanical gardens of Keukenhof can be found. More on that in a moment.
Memories of Provence struck me as we started to see acres of multicoloured fields. The lavender just crochets the landscape with its fragrant purple flowers. Holland’s tulips do something similar. Rows upon rows of coloured stripes that would have looked at home woven into Joseph’s Techni-coloured Dream Coat. Farmers walking up and down the rows picking out the anomalies, making perfect lines of tulips. And in truth, I’m sure the display we saw in the third week of April was minuscule compared with two weeks prior. Still, seeing colour combinations sitting side by side showed me how well nature’s palette works. It’s a very special sight even towards the end of the season. Check out our gallery below.
When to go
Timing is everything in the world of tulips as Mother Nature has an uncanny knack of following her own rules. The bulbs are driven by the seasonal changes in temperature and how warm or cold the soil is. If the spring weather is warm, then the fields will bloom early and the opposite is true if there’s a cold spell. So it’s best to check a site like this to see what’s happening in the tulip world.
If you have the flexibility, Holland’s tulips have a three week season and the general advice is to visit mid to late April. Although if you have to stick to more stationary dates, then in March you are likely to see the crocus, the daffodils and the hyacinths, which then surrender their space to the king of flowers – the tulips. Around the same time, especially in Keukenhof, the azaleas and rhododendrons start to display their power, so there’s always something pretty to look at.
Visiting Keukenhof’s flower power
Let me paint a picture of your Keukenhof experience.
Imagine being in a 3D artist’s studio with pallets of every colour of the rainbow, with each one having at least 50 shades of gr…. colour! If feels as if you are in a space of virtual reality or a parallel universe, where colours know no bounds and light has a spectrum to bend the most static of perspectives.
This 32 hectare ‘garden’ is a pleasure zone offering 800 varieties of tulips alone. Then add the azaleas, rhododendrons, daffodils and hyacinth and you have a plethora of visual delights. The 7 million bulbs are planted at different depths in the soil so that throughout Keukenhof’s season (Mid March to Mid May) a different treat will greet each and every visitor.
The craftsmanship here is beyond description as the blend of flower beds, pathways, lakes, rivers and sculptures just hold your interest for hours. The colour combinations and flower varieties will take your breath away. Then in a flash you realise that these treasures are just temporary – a mere three weeks. Somehow this impermanence adds to the experience as you acknowledge the huge eraser that will certainly wipe out this picture perfect painting in a matter of months.
Every year new themes are built into the Dutch gardens and for 2019 it was Flower Power – the strength of flowers. Their ethos is using flowers to connect people from across the world who come together to enjoy the gardens. And just walking through this landscaped haven, you really get that power sinking deep into your heart.
Whether you have children, disabled family members and or dogs, Keukenhof accommodates us all in their beautifully crafted gardens. Easy to navigate paths weave from one section to another, with water features, sculptures, a maze, restaurants and boat rides if you wish. Keukenhof is a must.
Here’s just a few of the 800 varieties that I captured on our visit. Click the image below for our Gallery.
You can buy tickets either on line or at the entrance, (on line being €1 cheaper.) Prices on line are:
€17 per adult; €8 children aged 4-17; infants aged 0-3 are free
Allow at least three hours to wander around this world of artistry; take time out and rest your feet by enjoying a mint tea and apple pie, perhaps partake in a cornet of homemade fries and mayo or just sit and contemplate at any one of the hundreds of benches dotted around. This is not a place to rush. Although come early if you want to beat the crowds.
It will be busy; an average of 1.4 million people visit during this tiny botanical window, so be mindful of this. Although despite the crowds and Instagram dressed models, the flower combinations are so mesmerising that they transport you to your own personal Narnia where the crowds are mere dots of colour.
And finally don’t worry about the weather. Whilst you may think that brilliant sunshine is the only way to see this divine garden, the rain creates such a photographic canvas with the drips of water from the petals, enhancing every shot.
Our Keukenhof visual storybook
My instinct says that to inspire you to visit, words alone will not suffice. A sensory experience such as Keukenhof needs multimedia, so sit back and indulge for a few moments as we attempt to capture the images of this wondrous and magical place. Check out our gallery below by clicking on the image and then sit back and watch our short video.
Practical tips for your visit
Given the small window for Holland’s tulips, putting some plans in place before the spring hits Northern Europe is wise. So check out these Top Tips.
- Book your trip between end of March and end of April.
- Leave booking your Keukenhof tickets until a week before you visit so you can check the forecast.
- Book accommodation well in advance, whether that’s a hotel or campsite. If the weather is particularly good or you plan to visit over Easter then this part of Holland attracts many visitors.
- It’s worth remembering that the dates for schools’ Easter holidays differ across Europe, so there could be a three week period where visitors take the opportunity to travel here.
- Many of the blooms in the commercial fields are farmed for the Tulip Procession which is generally mid April. (2019 it was April 13th). It’s a procession of floats and cars decorated in flowers and this famous carnival travels from Noordwijk to Haarlem starting at 9.00am until the early evening. For more information, click here.
- Many of the fields are accessible for photographs, unless the farmers are feeding or de-heading the plants. So respect their signs for privacy.
- Remember that these fields are working farms.
- Don’t pick the flowers, unearth the bulbs or run between the rows as you may damage the plants.
- Hire or bring your own bikes as the cycle paths are so good, extensive and flat that getting around this area is easy.
- Take the opportunity to visit the coast whilst in the area as there are miles and miles of golden sandy beaches.
- Arrive at Keukenhof early to avoid the tour coaches that generally arrive between 1030 – 1100am.
- If you can time your visit around 27th April, then why not extend your stay and experience Koningsdag – King’s Day. Now that is a real cultural explosion.
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