Exploring the world in the Netherlands – five challenging Tours

Road Cycling Collection by Merijn Heijne | Mapmeisters

You don’t have to travel the world to find varied landscapes and culture. In fact, you don’t even have to look much further than your doorstep. In the Netherlands, you may be surprised to find sunny Californian scenes in the regions of Gelderland and Limburg; you may mistake Gelderland for the Swiss city of Bern; or whisk yourself away to Naples, England, or Palestine. In this Collection, I take you on a world trip to different corners of Holland. Adventure can be found close to home, after all.

Useful tips for the road:
- Every Tour starts at a large train station with Park and Ride (P+R) where you can conveniently park your car.

- Of course, a trip around the world requires some effort and blood, sweat and tears (... it's not that bad, though...) Why not explore the world at your doorstep in the Netherlands instead. The routes in this Collection are 52 - 101 miles (84 - 164 km) long, making for a long and beautiful day in the saddle and a challenging, but exciting, adventure.

- You can split the individual stages into two days to tailor your own bikepacking adventure. This way, you can take your time, spend a little longer exploring and spend the night in comfortable accommodation en route.

- Three of the five Tours are perfect for a regular racing or touring bike. Two Tours do require wider and firmer tyres, especially the world trip that starts in Apeldoorn, and Crimea, Palestine and France. These make for great unpaved adventures on your gravel, mountain, or touring bike.

- As with any (world) trip, you should come prepared. Although you'll pass villages and cities en route where you can rest and resupply, make sure you carry some provisions with you.

Why not try out travelling far and wide on your home turf – you may surprise yourself with the varied landscapes, history, nature and culture right outside your door.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

    52.5 mi
    16.8 mph
    500 ft
    500 ft
    Intermediate road ride. Good fitness required. Mostly well-paved surfaces and easy to ride. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    Limburg, land of the Wild West, snowy peaks and sunny beaches? America, Austria and California. And all in less than 85 kilometers. With a bit of cycling it is easy to do in a morning or afternoon.You leave from the station in Venlo. After a few hundred meters you already cycle south along the Maas. No "wild river" on site, but the southernmost waterway of the major rivers in our country. After 6 kilometers you take the ferry between Steyl and Baarlo, so don't forget to bring some cash or your debit card. The current sailing times of the ferry can be found here: tonpaulusveerbedrijf.nl.After Baarlo you cycle turning and turning in a westerly direction through the Limburg countryside. Do not expect solid climbs here, as you may know from South Limburg. Rest assured, the number of altimeters is very limited on this world trip. You literally ignore Panningen and cycle to the north, including via the village of Grashoek. What a beautiful place names we have in the Netherlands, I will certainly also make a Collection of them.Back to this Tour: from the former Helenaveen peat colony you cycle on an asphalt road through the peat areas of Deurnsche Peel and Mariapeel. Then it quickly to America, partly known because the band Rowwen Hèze originally comes from here.Something completely different, but have you noticed the many small chapels along the way? Scattered throughout Limburg are about 3,000 crosses and chapels, more than a hundred Lourdes caves and a large number of statues of saints. Together they form the so-called small religious heritage of Limburg. Many religious traditions are honored around these 'monuments of piety'.After 53 kilometers, turn right in the hamlet of Austria. Pay attention because there is unfortunately no place name sign. A bit of a shame, but that is more common in neighborhoods. About half of the 4,000 hamlets in the Netherlands are not recognizable on site; place signs are unfortunately missing.You cycle further east, on the A73 at Horst, in the direction of Arcen. Although Arcen itself is on the other side of the Maas, this is a fun fact: Arcen is located on the easternmost bend of the Maas. Via the rose village of Lottum, you set course for California, located between a striking amount of greenhouse horticulture. Then it is about 10 kilometers back to Venlo.

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    76.7 mi
    12.9 mph
    600 ft
    600 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    What is a place in Gelderland that starts with the last letter of the alphabet, immediately followed by the first letter of the alphabet? Right: Zaltbommel! That's where this world trip begins.Tip beforehand: there are a few solid unpaved strips in this Tour. It is therefore best to use your gravel bike, mountain bike or touring bike for this. With just under 125 kilometers, it is also a fairly long trip. This is not a problem for the experienced cyclist with a good condition. Do you have less experience? Take it easy, relax, enjoy the surroundings and just take an extra break along the way if you feel the need. Have a nice day, it is not a competition!From the station in Zaltbommel a real 'climb' looms almost immediately: the 1km long Martinus Nijhoff bridge over the Waal. From this bridge you have a magnificent view over the river and wide surroundings. At the end of the bridge you dive under the A2 to Kasteel Waardenburg, which dates from 1265. Along the floodplains of the Waal you cycle along a gravel strip via Neerijnen to the north.Via Geldermalsen and Tricht you arrive after about 20 kilometers at De Heerlijkheid Mariënwaerdt, a medieval estate and former abbey near Beesd. You cycle on unpaved paths through this beautiful estate. You continue your world trip to the first capital of today: Paris. In other words, a new housing development on the west side of Culemborg. The district is named after the surrounding polders: the High and Low Price.After an unpaved road you will arrive at Werk aan het Spoel, part of the New Dutch Waterline on the banks of the Lek. Also a nice place to stop for a drink. Don't stay too long, there is still so much beauty to follow today, such as the Zoowijkseweg, a beautiful clinker road between the meadows. Or the bunker split in two on the Diefdijk on your left as soon as you have crossed the A2 again.Tip: if you ride this Tour in the spring, enjoy the must-see blossoms along the cycle path at the Wiel van Bassa. Anyway, continue quickly, after all, we are only on a third of the journey. The next unpaved strip appears again, the Lingedijk between Acquoy and Fort Asperen.You will cross the Waal again along the Linge, via Spijk and Gorinchem. I also found a few gravel strips there, especially to increase your party fun. Or is it cycling joy? Then keep the pace a little bit longer for the next 15–20 kilometers through all the meadows and outer areas in the direction of the Heusdensebrug. After this bridge, a few gravel strips soon follow to Kasteel Nederhemert and the hamlet of Bern.It is about 925 kilometers from Bern (Switzerland) to Rome (Italy), but here in Gelderland you cycle that in 20 kilometers and then also via hamlet California, just outside Ammerzoden.After Kerkdriel you cycle along the Gat van Sientje, a beautiful dive site with catfish, sturgeon and crabs, but you will come back for that another time. You have to go on now - vai, vai, vai! - to Rome. Before you realize it, it is already "Arriving" to arrive in Zaltbommel in less than 10 kilometers via the Maas and Waaldijk near Rossum.

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  • Difficult
    90.7 mi
    12.1 mph
    1,400 ft
    1,400 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    I can not make it more beautiful than it is, this is a really challenging world trip of 146 kilometers over various unpaved strips. But "boy o boy, it's well worth it", as the English can say so beautifully. And to make a moderate bridge, England is also the first foreign country that you visit after you leave the station in Apeldoorn.You have hardly started with this Tour or after 6 kilometers you are already in England. Or rather, one of no fewer than four England countries in the Netherlands. This England is located near Beekbergen, but there are also one England in Drenthe and even two in Overijssel. Fun fact: this England has nothing to do with the land on the other side of the North Sea. Our four Englands in Old Dutch mean something like "common piece of arable land near a village". I am actually surprised that the Netherlands does not have many more England.You will cycle through beautiful nature to Hoenderloo on unpaved cycle paths and challenging forest roads. Just before that, you will pass through the De Krim hamlet and cycle along the Krimweg to the entrance of De Hoge Veluwe. That is also highly recommended for walking and cycling, which you have to pay for to enter. Definitely remember that for another time, it is really worth it, along with a visit to the Kröller – Müller Museum!You continue on the beautifully landscaped cycle paths and unpaved roads through Boswachterij Ugchelen Hoenderloo and the largest active sand drift in Western Europe to the monumental broadcasting station Radio Kootwijk. After this it goes on with the endless crackling of gravel under your tires. What a wonderful sound it is!Just to the north of Harskamp we let the crackling work for what it is. You will zigzag through the next 20 kilometers via Barneveld - always handy to replenish your water - to the following unpaved roads. In fact, you have now even arrived in Het Paradijs, a nature reserve near Terschuur.In a northwestern direction you cycle to Nijkerk. Just west of Nijkerk lies hamlet Palestine. Although a place name sign is missing here, you do cycle on the Palestinaweg, named after the farm at number 3, which was found here in 1855 and from which the hamlet derives its name.With less than 70 kilometers ahead, it might be nice to see a sleek new bike path going underneath you. That works out just as well, the cycle path along the Nijkerkernauw was widened and renewed a few years ago. Very nice because on nice days it can be quite busy there. So pay attention and give other cyclists space. Look around, enjoy the views over the water, the meadows and in the direction of the former steam pumping station Arkemheem. Believe me, you really can't miss that on the way.From Nijkerk, it is only 25 kilometers to Ermelo and Harderwijk to France, a former hamlet a little to the east of Harderwijk. By the way, do you think about eating and drinking enough on the way? You can of course replenish your (energy) stock in the places mentioned above.For this world trip it is good to start the last part full of energy, because the unpaved roads of Kroondomein Het Loo are beautiful (dare I say the most beautiful in the Netherlands?) But can also be grueling. It can be viciously flat there. Please note, a warned cyclist counts for two.There are so many beautiful and quiet dirt roads there that you really have to come back. There is still so much to discover if you have never cycled here before. Do yourself a favor: spend 1–2 nights near Elspeet, Uddel, Vierhouten or Apeldoorn and comb the entire area on your gravel bike, MTB or touring bike.Back to this Tour because the end is slowly but surely in sight, even though you can sometimes no longer see the beautiful forest on the spot due to the many trees. Also pay attention to the various burial mounds along the way, especially near Elspeet. After this village you cycle through the Kroondomein Het Loo in the direction of Apeldoorn. The Crown Domain is closed for a while every autumn, keep an eye on the site for the current state of affairs: kroondomeinhetloo.nl. And did I mention that the most beautiful unpaved roads in the Netherlands can be found around here?After all this unpaved cycling fun in the woods, it may take some getting used to being back in civilization. But the time has come, from Paleis Het Loo you cycle through Apeldoorn back to the station.

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    96.1 mi
    17.2 mph
    775 ft
    775 ft
    Expert road ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    The High North, but also the south of Italy, the America of Berend Botje and a trip to India. Try packing that in one Tour. I managed to do that with some fitting and measuring. Just a little more than 150 kilometers, but on a road bike that can be done on a nice day. Take your time, relax and enjoy a full day of cycling.From the station in the city of Groningen you first cycle east, through the Westerbroekstermadepolder and the Foxholstermeer towards Hoogezand, the western village of the double village with Sappemeer. The hamlet of Spitsbergen lies outside Hoogezand, which indeed refers to the archipelago north of Norway. Would this place in Groningen be called that because of the harsh winters that once plagued the open North Groningen country?You cycle to the Oldambtmeer and Winschoten. On the other side of the Oldambtmeer you may see the contours of Blauwestad, a new construction project located on a landscaped lake and nature reserve of 800 hectares. In 2005 Queen Beatrix let the first water pour in there on a still barren, muddy plain. And how do you think it looks now?You do not have much time to think about that, because it is directly to the south of Italy: Naples. Or rather, first Naples – East and after passing the track you cycle to Naples – West. The hamlet, founded around 1840, may have got its name from poverty and small houses. That apparently reminded of the Italian Naples. It is not all neatly raked here, it even looks a bit raw.The hamlet of Tranendal is also located next to Naples. From there you cycle in a westerly direction. Hopefully it won't be too bad on the spot. Or maybe you have a tailwind and you are just past Veendam, on to Zuidlaren in Drenthe. And yes, start by singing: "Berend Botje went sailing, with his boat to Zuidlaren ...". If you know this time-honored nursery rhyme, you know where you are going to cycle now: America. First we grab some unadulterated cobblestones just outside Zuidlaren. Or as the boulders in Drenthe are called: flint. There is also a bicycle path next to it, so you can skip the k-k-k-k cobblestones.So on to America, more than 30 kilometers from Zuidlaren. By the way, also pay attention to the ancient dolmens along the Tour, including in the vicinity of Tynaarlo. The Drentse Amerika, founded in 1909 during the reclamation of the large heath area Steenbergerveld, is already on the border with Groningen.From America you cycle north via Boerenstreek and Willemstad (hey, another foreign place name!) And Doezem to India. In other words, to De Bombay. The area is named after the polder located there, which takes its name again from the former Bombay mill, which stood here from 1878 for the drainage of this polder. You learn something again, don't you?From Lutjegast you cycle through the open Groningen countryside over the Abel Tasmanweg in the direction of Niekerk and the beautiful place name Enumatil. Groningen is slowly but surely coming back into view. Here too it still applies, with a headwind it is a struggle to the city, with a nice tailwind. Whatever it may be, keep going for another 15 kilometers, keep smiling, you're almost there.

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    103 mi
    17.1 mph
    1,075 ft
    1,075 ft
    Expert road ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    Deze wereldreis zit propvol landen en wereldsteden van verschillende continenten, inclusief een heuse berg van eigen bodem: de VAM–berg. Het is bijna niet te bevatten dat je dat allemaal in één dag kunt beleven. Maar dat kan dus wel in Nederland en dat in 165 kilometer met als startpunt het station in Hoogeveen. ‘Of all places’, zou ik er bijna aan willen toevoegen. Tip: mocht deze afstand je toch echt wat te lang zijn voor één volle dag, dan maak je er toch twee dagen van. Tasjes op je fiets, wat kleding en spullen mee om te overnachten en je hebt een geweldig weekend. Er zijn genoeg campings, hotels of B&B’s te vinden langs of in de buurt van de Tour. Lekker even internationaal weg in eigen land, veel plezier.Vanaf het station fiets je al vrij snel door de rustige buitengebieden van Hoogeveen. In minder dan 13 kilometer ben je al in Engeland, net buiten Ruinen. Via de eeuwenoude grafheuvels en hunebedden van het Holtingerveld, een prachtig gevarieerd natuurgebied, fiets je naar het noorden.Zo’n 10–15 kilometer verder, al fietsend door weilanden en langs kleine dorpjes, ben je in het Drents–Friese Wold en Leggelderveld op de grens van Drenthe met Friesland. Over brede paden, kleine weggetjes en smalle fietspaden gaat het na Zorgvlied verder in de richting van Canada. Wacht even, het land van uitgestrekte bossen en grote meren, dat Canada? Nou ja, niet helemaal natuurlijk, maar de bosrijke buurtschap Canada ligt wel aan het Canadameer (officiële naam: Aekingermeer), een voormalige zandafgraving waar in 1960 zand is gewonnen voor de aanleg van de N381.Nog geen 10 kilometer verder ligt Frankrijk, een buurtschap ten zuiden van Nijeberkoop. Volgens een lokaal volksverhaal is de naam afkomstig van een ruzie onder bewoners over de oorlog met Frankrijk in de 19e eeuw. En waarom zo’n mooi verhaal in twijfel trekken met de echte verklaring dat de naam verwijst naar een nog wat oudere veldnaam in dat gebied?Je fietst ook daadwerkelijk over Frankrijk, dat is namelijk de naam van de straat ter plekke. Binnen 5 kilometer na Frankrijk is het alweer de beurt aan Egypte. De naam van de buurtschap is waarschijnlijk afgeleid van een gelijknamige boerderij. Net als bij Frankrijk fiets je hier ook over Egyptisch grondgebied. Er is namelijk ook een straatnaambordje met Egypte erop, dat kan je niet missen. Zie je de drukte van de Egyptische hoofdstad Caïro al voor je in het rustige Friese landschap?Het gaat maar door met landen en wereldsteden tijdens deze Tour want nauwelijks 10 kilometer verder ben je alweer in Moskou. Zo snel kan het gaan in de wereld. De buurtschap is ontstaan uit een boerderij die Moskou werd genoemd. Vermoedelijk was dat een verwijzing naar de buurtschap Petersburg, waar je nu naar toe fietst en dat aan de andere kant van de Opsterlandse Compagnonsvaart ligt.Na Petersburg ben je ongeveer halverwege deze Tour. Vergeet onderweg niet om goed te blijven eten en drinken. Er komt immers nog een echte berg aan. Dat duurt nog wel even, hoor. Voor nu fiets je in zuidelijke richting voorbij Oosterwolde en Appelscha. Je verlaat Friesland en bent in de buurt van Hoogersmilde weer terug in Drenthe. Nog 60 kilometer te gaan op deze wereldreis.Voor Beilen buig je af naar het zuiden naar het Commissaris Cramerpad op het Dwingelderveld, in 2017 verkozen tot het mooiste fietspad van Drenthe. Tja, wat kan ik hier nog aan toevoegen, het is werkelijk een prachtig fietspad door een zo mogelijk nog mooiere omgeving. Mocht je al wat vermoeid zijn van de lange dag, dan ben je dat hier direct weer vergeten. Vol hervonden energie en enthousiasme begin je vanaf Pesse aan het laatste deel van deze Tour.En dat is ook nodig, die nieuwe energie want daar is–ie dan na bijna 135 kilometer: de VAM–berg. De Mont Ventoux van Noord–Nederland, onze eigen Alpe d’Huez. Nou is dat uiteraard schromelijk overdreven maar het is best een stevige kuitenbijter, zeker na alle kilometers die je er al op hebt zitten.Het fietsparcours op de ‘Col du VAM’ bestaat uit drie klimroutes en één afdaling. Ook geldt er eenrichtingsverkeer. De routes op de VAM–berg zijn in totaal 2.100 meter lang en kennen een gemiddeld stijgingspercentage van 10%. Op de meest noordelijke route kun je je aan het einde van het parcours uitleven op een keienstrook met een stijgingspercentage van 15%.Na dit uitdagende klimwerk fiets je in zuidelijke richting naar Tiendeveen. Mocht je het genoeg vinden voor vandaag, sla hier dan af terug naar Hoogeveen. Je hebt immers een geweldige rit achter de rug. Mocht je toch nog wat energie in de tank hebben zitten en voor de tweede keer vandaag naar de Russische hoofdstad willen afreizen, fiets dan nog iets verder door.Ten zuiden van Hoogeveen ligt namelijk Nieuw Moscou, een buurtschap tegen de grens met Overijssel. De buurtschap kreeg deze naam omdat het zo ver weg van de bewoonde wereld lag. Althans, dat vond men er ooit van. Oorspronkelijk was er slechts één huis dat Moscou heette. Rond de Tweede Wereldoorlog kende Moscou officieel nog maar 6 huizen. De term ‘Nieuw Moscou’ dateert overigens van na de Tweede Wereldoorlog.Het is nu echt wel genoeg geweest, wat een lange wereldreis heb je in 1–2 dagen gemaakt. Tijd om in de resterende 10–15 kilometer rustig terug te fietsen naar het station in Hoogeveen.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
  • Distance
    419 mi
  • Duration
    28:10 h
  • Elevation
    4,350 ft

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