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5-day Self-guided Cycling Tour around Giethoorn Level 1
Giethoorn oozes charm and it’s fun to visit. The tiny village has waterways instead of roads and transportation always used to take place by punt. Today, mainly tourists cruise the quaint village canal in slow and silent electric boats, admiring the (farm)houses and well-kept gardens. As many of the tourists don’t know how to handle a boat, comical pile-ups are part of the package.
The village lies on the edge of Weerribben-Wieden National Park. Picture a paradise for first-time kayakers! The many channels are a bit of a maze, but so tranquil, it makes you feel like you are kayaking inside a painting.
You feel alone in the world, just you and the water birds and the reedbeds and an otter if you are lucky. As much as this may look and feel like pure “nature”, the oddly linear landscape of strips of land and water was shaped by man in previous centuries. This is peatland. Trench by narrow trench, the peat was excavated and laid on adjacent banks to dry. The turf was then transported by boat to town where town dwellers used it for heating and cooking. The trenches filled with water. In places, the narrow ridges of land were washed away in storms, and open water developed (“Wieden”). In a low-lying peat bog complex such as this, all the stages of hydrosere can be found i.e. all the stages of natural succession from open water to reedbed to woodland. A rather special stage of succession in former peat pits is quaking bog: a floating mat of vegetation (sphagnum moss and sedges) that undulates underfoot!
This is the northern part of Overijssel province (“De kop van Overijssel”), a great region for cycling because it’s low in traffic. Places you will cycle to on this holiday are Zwartsluis, Blokzijl, Hasselt, Zwolle and the lovely town of Kampen. Centuries ago, the latter three were members of the Hanseatic League, an alliance of merchant guilds in northern Europe. Thanks to this trading alliance, the merchant ships of Kampen of the 14th century had safe passage all the way to the Baltic countries, taking salt and wine and bringing back grain.
In Kampen, the goods were transferred from seafaring ships to river boats and sold on to Holland, the Rhineland and Westphalia, at a profit of course! Thanks to this arrangement, Hansa towns prospered. Merchants commissioned architects to build houses and warehouses; town councils commissioned town gates, town halls and canals. The towns grew to be very attractive and – sixth centuries on - can still delight a passing cyclotourist.
Arrival in Giethoorn
Make your own way to Giethoorn, also known as “Venice of Holland” or “Venice of the North”. After checking into your hotel, what better way to view the village than from the water? So rent a boat (punt, whisper boat, canoe) or - if you don’t trust yourself at the helm – go on a guided tour on one of the covered big boats manned by a skipper. The shorter route is through the village, the long route takes you onto the lake and into Weerribben-Wieden National Park.
The best thing about staying the night in Giethoorn is getting up bright and early the next morning to go for a walk with your camera at the ready and the village canal at its most idyllic – before the other tourists arrive!
Giethoorn - Blokzijl 40 km
Set off for the friendly town of Steenwijk, a fine place to stop for a cup of coffee. By the looks of the earthen ramparts and moat that used to protect this town from enemies, Steenwijk has known less peaceful times! Then continue through the countryside past Steenwijkerwold and Oldemarkt to Ossenzijl. Ossenzijl is the northern gateway into Weerribben-Wieden National Park. Here you have two options: Option 1, the short route: take the LF22 route right through Weerribben-Wieden and then continue to Kalenberg and finally to your hotel in Muggenbeet, a hamlet next to the village of Blokzijl. Option 2, the long route: First take a detour past Slijkenburg and Kuinre back to Ossenzijl and only then enter the National Park and continue as in Option 1.
Blokzijl - Zwolle 60 km
In the morning you will visit Blokzijl and Vollenhove. You need to switch on your imagination to understand that these two villages were once seaside towns where fishermen brought in their catch and then sat down to repair their nets! The land to the west of these villages is new land (polder) created in 1942. Next, follow a stretch of the peaceful Zuiderzee Route (a cycle route that goes all the way around the former sea known as Zuiderzee), and pass through the pleasant villages of Zwartsluis and Genemuiden, hubs for water sports. The highlight of today is the Hansa town of Kampen. Cross the bridge and enjoy the old town centre of this beautiful place. On the banks of the River IJssel, cycle to the city of Zwolle, where you will spend the night.
Zwolle - Giethoorn 50 km
Leave the bustle of the city behind you and follow the River Vecht and subsequently het Zwarte Water to the lovely town of Hasselt. Take your time to explore: it is worth it. Your route then takes you back to Zwartsluis and then right through the wetland of Weerribben – Wieden National Park all the way back to Giethoorn.
Departure from Giethoorn
After breakfast, this holiday comes to an end. Make your own way home
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