Tulip fever: Holland's fabulous flower fields
The Netherlands in the springtime is glorious. Canals are speckled with blossom. City squares buzz with al fresco diners enjoying the sunshine. And, of course, the tulips are out.
Tulips and the Netherlands have had a long love affair. The first bulbs were brought over from the Ottoman Empire in the 1500s. Less than a century later, the country was in the midst of ‘Tulip Mania’, where prized bulbs were selling for as much as a small house. Nowadays, with prices a little more reasonable, the Netherlands is the world’s biggest tulip producer, exporting billions of bulbs and flowers each year.
One of the best places to see tulips is Keukenhof Gardens, in the town of Lisse in South Holland. These world-famous gardens are planted with around seven million tulip bulbs each autumn, creating spectacular displays of colours when they burst into flower the following spring.
There are tulip fields, where blooms are planted in neat rows according to colour. A traditional windmill looks over the fields, providing a great vantage point for photos. And throughout the rest of the garden, thousands more flowers (including tulips, hyacinths and daffodils) are planted alongside winding paths, lakes and tree-shaded streams.
When to visit the tulip fields
Normally, the flowering season begins at the end of March and runs until mid-May, with peak blooming time in mid-late April. Tulip timings are weather dependent, of course, so they can vary slightly from year to year. Time your trip for early April to see the daffodils and hyacinths in bloom as well, or go later in the month (or in early May) for peak tulip flowering and warmer weather.
River cruises to the Dutch bulbfields
River cruises are a fantastic way to see the tulip fields in the Netherlands. But which one will be the best fit for you? It all depends what else you’d like to see and do during your cruise. All of our springtime Dutch Waterways cruises include a day at Keukenhof Gardens to see the tulip fields, so it all comes down to the other destinations on the agenda.
‘Dutch Waterways and Tulips’ is a great option for first-time visitors to the Netherlands. This five-night river cruise starts off with an onboard tulip talk from a horticulture expert, before we explore the historic towns of Hoorn and Enkhuizen. The following day, we’ll arrive at Keukenhof Gardens to admire the tulips in all their splendour. We’ll then tour the craft museums and windmills at Zaanse Schans, and finally finish up in Amsterdam.
If you’re a return visitor or you’d like to see a little more of the Netherlands, ‘Dutch Tulips and Windmills’ is a slightly longer cruise. Over the course of a week, we’ll explore Hoorn, Enkhuizen and Zaandam; tour the Royal Delft Factory and the windmills at Kinderdijk; and enjoy time in bustling Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Or try ‘Dutch Springtime with Keukenhof Gardens’, where you’ll stop off in Amsterdam, Dordrecht, Veere and Kinderdijk.
‘Dutch Waterways with Bruges’ allows you to tick off two countries in one trip. We’ll start off seeing Kinderdijk’s windmills and the beautiful blue-and-white pottery at the Royal Delft Factory, and finish in canal-crossed Amsterdam. In between, we’ll venture into Belgium, exploring Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges.
If the tulip fields are on your travel wish list, take a look at our Dutch Waterways river cruises.
Although she loves a lie-in at home, Laura is often up and about before dawn on holiday. She’s watched the sun rise over the Grand Canyon, Uluru and Angkor Wat, but her favourite was seeing the first light of the New Year sweeping across the yacht-dotted waters of Sydney Harbour.
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