- 3 Weeks
Catch the Netherlands' most iconic sights on a leisurely spin around the country's south.
Spend the first week in Amsterdam and surrounds. Visit museums, relax in Vondelpark, discover the foodie De Pijp neighbourhood and mingle with locals in earthy brown cafes. Plunge into the city's celebrated nightlife in the Southern Canal Ring and escape the city by bicycle to enjoy the classic beauty of the Waterland region.
Open week three in cutting-edge Rotterdam. Ride a waterbus to see windmills at Kinderdijk, then head for Zeeland's restored capital Middelburg and the nearby Delta Project. Travel through the Netherlands' southern provinces, breaking in Bergen op Zoom for the country's oldest surviving city-palace, Breda for vibrant café life and lovely Den Bosch for a maze of hidden canals. Continue to Maastricht to sample some great cuisine and meander through its medieval centre. Head north to Hanseatic Deventer and then west to the extraordinary Kröller-Müller Museum in the Hoge Veluwe National Park. Polish off your trip in the historic, cosmopolitan university city of Utrecht.
- 1 Week
The low-lying Wadden Islands are strung out like pearls in the Unesco-listed Waddenzee and are perfect for island-hopping. Some ferry links require advance planning.
From Amsterdam, head to Texel. Bike along the island's western coast from sleepy Den Hoorn through dark copses to the Ecomare seal and bird refuge. Comb the eastern side, visiting the superb Maritime and Beachcombers Museum in Oudeschild.
From De Cocksdorp at the northern end of Texel, board the morning ferry to car-free Vlieland to explore its nature and hiking trails before catching the boat to Terschelling, Friesland's main tourist island. Hole up in peaceful Oosterend and cycle the untouched dunes, then hightail it by ferry to Harlingen, a pretty little port on the Frisian coast, and on to Holwerd, to ferry across to languid Ameland. Stay in the whaling port of Nes. Return to the mainland and continue east to the port of Lauwersoog. From here catch the ferry to the smallest of the Frisian Islands, Schiermonnikoog, home to an evocative, windswept national park, before returning to the mainland.
- 2 Weeks
The Netherlands' eastern expanse squirrels away myriad highlights to be discovered.
Begin in Groningen, a vibrant city with students, bars, cafes and fine museums. Travel southeast to Bourtange, a perfectly preserved 17th-century fortified town, then move on to Borger and its prehistoric hunebedden, stone arrangements once used as burial chambers. Make your way through the woods to Kamp Westerbork to encounter its moving, horrible heritage. Head to Zwolle, an unhurried Hanseatic town ideal for backstreet meanders, and then to the Weerribben-Wieden National Park, a unique bog-and-water scape strung with hiking, biking and canoe-paddling trails.
From Zwolle hop to Deventer, one of the Netherlands' most appealing small towns. Explore Hoge Veluwe National Park by bike, a natural oasis with a renowned art museum and stunning sculpture park at its green core. Head to Den Bosch and visit its terrific Jheronimus Bosch Art Center, then head west to kick back in the fabulous old-world villages of Heusden (fortified and moat-ringed) and Woudrichem (a citadel village brimming with old-world fishing boats). Get lost in nature at your penultimate stop, Biesbosch National Park, before waltzing through the picturesque streets and canals of Dordrecht.
The Lay of the Lowlands
- 1 Week
Hit the country's most unmissable highlights.
Begin with two days in Amsterdam. Visit the big-hitting museums and rent a bicycle to explore the charming Jordaan neighbourhood. On your second day board a canal boat tour and stroll through the Red Light District before getting cosy in a brown cafe.
Travel west to beautiful Haarlem – stroll the compact historic core, and view masterpieces at the Frans Hals Museum and the stained glass of the Grote Kerk van St Bavo. In tulip season witness the kaleidoscopic colours of the Keukenhof Gardens. Spend a day among old-world splendour in Leiden. Next, take a day in Den Haag and catch the Mauritshuis' exceptional art collection.
Head south to happening Rotterdam to tour the harbour and visit the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, the Maritiem Museum and the architecturally striking food hall, Markthal Rotterdam. The next morning, take a walking tour of the city's incredible contemporary architecture, then hop aboard a waterbus and sail to Kinderdijk to explore Unesco-recognised windmills – go local and rent wheels in Rotterdam or Kinderdijk.