April 17, 2024

Bikepacking the Netherlands: the ultimate guide to exploring Holland

You’ve heard of backpacking, travelling with all your worldly possessions on your back through countries of different cultures. And if you know much about culture in the Netherlands, you’ll know cycling is central to daily life. Mix the two and you get bikepacking, swapping jaunts on overnight buses for journeys on two wheels. Eco-friendly, wallet-friendly and the chance to spend more time in nature; it’s the perfect euro trip for the digital detoxers out there.

Bikepacking has grown in popularity, especially in the Netherlands, as travellers look to explore beyond Amsterdam. The country’s extensive network of cycle lanes and famously flat terrain, makes bikepacking achievable for many of us, from those who haven’t mounted a bike in years to the cycling obsessed. With a choice of trails ranging from gentle to demanding, from day trips to fortnightly itineraries, here’s everything you need to know to bikepack in the Netherlands.

 

What do you need to pack?

So, you’ve decided to go bikepacking, but how do you plan, determine which route to take and what to pack? There’s no right or wrong when it comes to bikepacking. What’s important is that you have fun and know your own limits. Remember you must carry all your belongings on two wheels. There are hostels dotted along the route, most who have washing machines, so just bring 2 sets of clothes and remember to dress in layers!

Clothing:

  • Cycling pants: Choose good, comfy bike shorts or pants that are great for long rides. They’re really important for staying comfortable in the saddle.
  • Casual wear: For evenings and days off the bike, bring clothes that look nice and are practical. Allowing you to enjoy your evening in comfort and style.
  • Waterproof jacket: rain is common throughout the year in the Netherlands, so bring a light waterproof jacket. You’ll be grateful for it!
  • Headwear: a helmet isn’t mandatory in the Netherlands. A cycling cap for sun protection and keeping your hair out of the wind is a great accessory though!

Gear and tools:

  • Repair kit: just a basic kit to change a flat tire will do
  • Lights and reflective gear: essential for visibility
  • Personal items: sunscreen, toiletries (small sizes) and a small towel.
  • Navigation tools: a GPS device or just your smartphone with offline maps to make sure you don’t get lost. Download an app like Komoot or MEv for reliable offline maps.
  • Money (cash or card) and your phone!

Final tip:

  • Pack Light: The lighter your load, the more enjoyable your ride will be.

 

General bikepacking tips: know before you go

Before beginning your bikepacking journey, here are some things you should know:

Bike rental: if you’re not bringing your own bike, renting is a great option. Look for rental shops that offer touring or gravel bikes, as they’re ideal for bikepacking. Most rental companies will also provide repair kits and accessories like helmets. Many hostels also provide bikes you can rent, so if you’re cycling in a loop you can rent from them and return it on your way back.

Best time of the year: the best time for bikepacking Holland is from late spring to early autumn (April to September). These months offer milder weather and long daylight hours. However, be prepared for some occasional rain and pack accordingly.

Cycling experience: you don’t need to be a professional cyclist, but a basic level of fitness and comfort on a bike is essential. Some routes may be more challenging than others, so choose one that matches your experience and fitness level.

Stay flexible: while it’s good to have a plan, part of the adventure is exploring unexpected paths. Be prepared to adjust your route or schedule as you go.

Cost estimates:  here are some rough estimates:

  • Bike rental: €20-€40 per day
  • Accommodation: hostels can range from €30 – €50 per night
  • Food: expect to spend €10-€30 a day, depending on whether you cook or dine out (most hostels have guest kitchens you can use)

Total costs can range from €75-€125 per day, depending on your choices.

 

4-day bikepacking itinerary

Depending on how long you want to bikepack for and what sights you want to see, you can tailor your itinerary. Here, we’ll be sharing a 4-day itinerary for those looking for a long weekend break and a 9-day option for those who want to see more of the country.

 

Day 1: Arrival in Rotterdam

Explore Rotterdam’s modern architecture, visit the Market Hall for local delicacies and stroll along the Maas River. This is also where you can pick up your rental bike from hostel ROOM and get your stuff loaded.

?Stay: Hostel ROOM Rotterdam

 

Day 2: Rotterdam to The Hague (31 km)

After breakfast you can start your journey cycling out of Rotterdam towards Delft, a picturesque city that combines historic charm with a vibrant student atmosphere. Explore Delft’s old town, with its traditional Dutch canals, the iconic Oude Kerk & Nieuwe Kerk which has tons of history. After Delft, the route takes you through a scenic countryside, leading to The Hague. This is the political heart of the Netherlands, where you can visit the Peace Palace and the charming old city center.

Activities: The Hague offers something for everyone. Immerse yourself in lively streets adorned with colorful markets and delicious local delicacies. Other nice things to do are Madurodam (miniature Holland), Scheveningen Beach and party at night at Het Paard.

?Stay: Will & Tate City Stay in The Hague

 

Day 3: The Hague to Noordwijk (26km)

Noordwijk Beach

Depart from The Hague, cycling through the Westduinpark, a beautiful dune area offering stunning sea views and nature. This path leads you along the coast towards the beach town of Noordwijk, known for its laid-back atmosphere and beautiful beaches. Have a nice cold glass of wine and a gastronomic lunch at the trendy De Branding. You can also enjoy the beach, borrow one of the hostel’s surfboards or visit the Space Expo.

Activities: during the spring months, don’t miss the nearby Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse. In Leiden, not far from Noordwijk, explore the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, where you’ll find a remarkable collection of natural history specimens, and the innovative Corpus Museum. In Leiden you can also enjoy picturesque rides along Leiden’s canals.

? Stay: Flying Pig Beach in Noordwijk

 

Day 4: Noordwijk to Haarlem through Flower Fields (spring only) – 30 km

This is by far the most colorful part of your trip, especially in spring when the flower fields bloom. Cycle past fields of tulips and other flowers, a beautiful patchwork of colors. The route leads you to Haarlem, a city known for its rich history, beautiful old buildings, and cosy little streets.

Activities: Often called a “mini-Amsterdam” in Haarlem you can experience the traditional Dutch canals; rent a boat for the day and cruise along the canals. Make sure you take some time to explore the Teylers Museum, in the city center, the Netherlands’ first and oldest museum – it opened in 1784! Just outside Haarlem are the idyllic beaches of Zandvoort and Bloemendaal. The bike route from Haarlem central to the North Sea is infamous for its beauty as you pass through the national park and dunes. Here you’ll go from city to sea in less than 30 minutes.

From Haarlem you can take train back to Rotterdam and return your bike in Hostel ROOM. You can take the bike in the train off peak hours for € 7.50. But, if you have an appetite for more, you can also continue your cycling adventure.

? Stay: Hello I’m Local in Haarlem

 

9-day itinerary: The Lowlands Loop

If the sun is shining and you still have the energy and the time, why not continue your Dutch cycling adventure? Here we’ll explain how to continue your trip for a further 5 days.

 

Day 5: Haarlem to Zaandam via Zaanse Schans (29 km)

Zaanse Schans Unesco World Heritage Site

After a tasty breakfast at Hello I’m Local, get ready to head off towards Zaandam where you’ll find UNESCO world heritage site, Zaanse Schans. This open-air museum offers a peek into 18th and 19th century Dutch life, with working windmills, traditional houses, and artisanal workshops.

? Stay: City Trip Hostel in Zaandam

 

Day 6: Zaandam to Utrecht via Amsterdam (57km)

Utrecht canals

Today you will feel like a true local when you cycle into Amsterdam! Admire the iconic canals and the vibrant city life while you move yourself on two wheels through the capital. From there, experience the serenity of the Dutch countryside and see the famous forts of the Dutch Waterline. The day ends in Utrecht, a city with a rich medieval history, combined with a youthful energy with lots of terraces, cafés, and restaurants.

? Stay: Strowis Hostel in Utrecht

 

Day 7: Utrecht to Tilburg through National Park Loons & Drunense Duinen (83km)

Library LocHal in Tilburg

Today is a challenging day and you might be tired from the past few days, but its worth it! This leg offers a blend of cultural and natural landscapes, including a passage through the stunning Loonse and Drunense Duinen. The shifting sand dunes provide a dramatic backdrop for your ride to Tilburg, a city known for its history in textiles and wool. Tilburg University brings a vibrant student community and a great cultural scene. Expect museums, theaters, and live concerts at the famous park, Stadsbos 013.

Activities: Highlights include Piushaven’s events, Spoorpark’s city park and viewing tower, and Stadsbos 013 for mountain biking. Visit the LocHal library, a building that has won several awards including World Building of the Year. And don’t forget to check out the world famous Koningshoeve Abbey, where monks brew La Trappe beer!

? Stay: Hostel Roots in Tilburg

 

Day 8: Tilburg to Dordrecht via National Park De Biesbosch (63 km)

National Park De Biesbosch

Leaving Tilburg, cycle through more of the countryside before reaching the water-rich National Park De Biesbosch. The area is a heaven for nature lovers, offering a tranquil contrast to the urban environments earlier in the journey.

? Stay: Stadsklooster in Dordrecht

 

Day 9: Dordrecht to Rotterdam via Kinderdijk (29 km)

Kinderdijk Unesco World Heritage Site

The last day of the route and its an easy one to end the trip. The final leg takes you through the iconic Kinderdijk, an UNESCO site known for its 19 windmills set against the backdrop of the Dutch landscape. From here you’ll return to Rotterdam, completing your cycling loop through the Netherlands. Put your feet up and enjoy a well-earned meal to complete your trip in Rotterdam.

? Stay: Hostel ROOM Rotterdam

 

Looking for more?

Go to Bikepacking Holland for more routes and check out more bikepacking hostels along the way:

 

 

Download the Hostelworld app to start meeting people from the moment you book


 

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? A traveller’s guide to carbon offsetting

? Eco-friendly hostels perfect for the sustainable traveller

? Best sustainable activities to spice up your next trip

 

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