Keukenhof Gardens and Tulip Fields Forever!
Early spring is tulip time and a fantastic time of year to visit Holland. Keukenhof Gardens is an extravaganza of shapes and colours of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, orchids, lilies, cherry blossom, apple blossom, wisteria, and a whole lot more too! If you visit Amsterdam in April you really must visit Keukenhof Gardens.
People often ask when is the best time to see tulips in Holland. The answer depends on the weather. The cooler the spring the later the tulips bloom. I think that the middle section of the opening time is a safe bet, so cut off the first and last 10 days. Even so, they do keep the gardens looking amazing throughout the season. This year I’m only offering tours between 1 April and 11 May to make as certain as possible that there are tulips out in force. The gardens are actually open from 21 March to 19 May this year.
There are about 7 million bulbs grown at Keukehof Gardens in the 2 months it is open. With some beds, when the flowers are done, say the daffodils which flower early, they dig out the daffs and replace them with tulips that have been brought on in greenhouses and about to flower. That way, keep the gardens looking lush throughout the season.
Anther style of planting is called ‘lasagne planting’ where bulbs are planted in 4 layers and the 4 bulb varieties flower at different times. When one flower is done, another is starting to bloom in the same flower bed. Amazing. You can actually get specific advice and bulb packs posted to you so you can try it at home the next year!
My favourite part of the garden is the area laid out like English ornamental parkland with sweeping curved paths and beds designed in all sorts of colour and texture combinations. Because of the seeping vistas, it’s easy to get photos without other people in them. There are many other areas too, a walled garden, a wooded area, a Japanese style area, an orchid house, a greenhouse with astonishing breeds of tulips. Bring a backup battery for your phone and have lots of memory free, you may well need it!
Visiting tulip fields to marvel at their beauty has been a Dutch tradition for centuries. A traditional way has been to cycle to the flower fields, you need to know you way around for this and, to be honest, I’ve never actually done it. Call me lazy but driving works well for me!
The flower fields are incredible to see, regiments of colour on a massive parade ground all standing proud. There is something magical, no matter how many times I do it, about standing next to or even in a field of thousands of flowers.
Earlier in the season, daffodils and hyacinths are in bloom and the tulips come a bit later, however it is looking like a very warm spring so the tulip fields may be in bloom when the gardens open. The farmers in the tulip growing areas are usually pretty accommodating to people and tend not to mind photos taken from the edge of their tulip fields. As long as people are respectful and don’t walk down the rows between the flowers without permission. To walk between the rows of hyacinths is a huge no-no as those flowers are highly susceptible to disease which can be spread by our shoes. Farmers with tulip fields accessible from the roads tend to put up a sign if they specifically don’t want people on the edge of their fields. Here are some pics from our tours in years past
That Dam Guide has been running small group minivan tours outside Amsterdam to Keukenhof Gardens for a few years now. We start bright and early, at 08h30 to catch the early morning dew in the gardens. Even though we have small groups of 8 people maximum, it is just not possible to explore the gardens as a group. As you can see from the above photos, there is just so much to catch the eye. Keeping a group together is like trying to herd cats. So we don’t even try to. We keep tabs on what’s looking best in the gardens throughout the season and suggest a walking route for you to enjoy at your own pace. We are always nearby, a phone call away if needed. I’m adding in more exotic tulips here as I just can’t bear not to. This is what I am talking about when I say make sure you have a backup battery charge and memory space on your camera! These flowers demand to be photographed.
If you join one of our tours, we visit a nature reserve near the bulb fields to a very local hideaway where we go for a pancake lunch. The first year I was running these tours, the staff there asked me, in a very friendly but somewhat flummoxed way: “Who are you and why are you here with different people so often and how did you find out about us?” I replied: “I find it difficult to maintain friendships.” Then I explained how a good friend of mine who spends a lot of time in the neighbouring nature reserve photographing wildlife showed me the place and suggested I bring people here. It’s been great and we are the only tour group that visit. We’re so welcome now that we even get a plate of complimentary ‘bitterballen’, one for each person, a favourite Dutch snack before tucking in to a traditional pancake lunch, with, believe it or not, a vegan pancake option too!
On the way back to Amsterdam, we visit Haarlem and take you on a 1 hour guided walk through its lovely medieval centre. It is a delightful town, not nearly as busy as Amsterdam. It is more or less the same age as Amsterdam but smaller and cosier. There are no trams and not nearly the volume of cyclists. On the edge of the old town in Haarlem is a majestic windmill used for milling flour. We wrap up the day with a 30 minute guided tour through the windmill by a local enthusiast because when people thing Holland, they think tulips and windmills!
Our tours have an 8 person limit, because that is how many passenger seats there are in our minivan! We have put together what we think is the perfect day tour outside Amsterdam that ticks off a lot of essential Dutch experiences. We chose the places we visit because they are off the usual tourist track and special to us.