Broad white beaches, lush nature reserves, forests and cute villages are the highlights of Texel, the largest and most visited of the Wadden Islands. About 3km north of the coast of Noord Holland, Texel (pronounced tes-sel) is 25km long and 9km wide. It actually consisted of two islands until 1835 when a spit of land to Eyerland Island was pumped dry.
Before the Noordzeekanaal opened in the 19th century, Texel was a main stop for ships en route to Asia, Africa and North America: the first trade mission to the East Indies began and ended here. It was also the scene of a spectacular maritime disaster: on Christmas day 1593, hurricane-force winds battered a merchant fleet moored off the coast and 44 vessels sank, drowning about a thousand seamen.
Texel relies chiefly on tourism, with the majority of visitors being either Dutch or German. The local wool is highly prized and there are sheep everywhere, lazing, grazing or tippee-toeing along the dykes. It's the place to come if you want to find a beach – albeit a breezy beach – where you can wander for hours and not see a soul. Cyclists will be enchanted and there are just enough diversions – even a brewery – to keep you entertained for days on end.