This 8-day cycling itinerary takes you on a journey across the windswept islands and endless beaches of the Netherlands' northern coast. Starting among the tulip fields of North Holland, you'll cross the Wadden Sea to reach a breathtaking archipelago of protected islands. Hop between Texel, Vlieland, and Terschelling, cycling through a peaceful landscape of sand dunes and salt marshes. Then return to the mainland to pedal past the green fields of Friesland, ending in the vibrant provincial capital of Leeuwarden.


  • Cycle across the idyllic islands of Texel, Vlieland & Terschelling
  • Explore windswept beaches & sand dunes
  • See the unique, protected ecosystems of the Wadden Sea
  • Discover the vibrant city of Leeuwarden

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive Alkmaar, Cycle to Den Helder  Den Helder
Day 2 Cycle from Den Helder to the Island of Texel Texel
Day 3 Explore Texel's Sand Dunes & Villages Texel
Day 4 Cycle from Texel to the Island of Vlieland Vlieland
Day 5 Cycle from Vlieland to the Island of Terschelling Terschelling
Day 6 Explore Terschelling's Beaches Terschelling
Day 7 Cycle from Terschelling to Harlingen, Franeker & Leeuwarden Leeuwarden
Day 8 Depart Leeuwarden   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Alkmaar, Cycle to Den Helder 

Alkmaar's world-famous cheese market

Welcome to the Netherlands! Your trip starts in Alkmaar, a northern city known for its famous cheese market and charming, walkable historic center. Meet your host at Alkmaar station, where you'll trade your luggage for bikes and set off on your cycling adventure.

Today's route takes you 27 miles (45km) north towards Den Helder on the uppermost tip of North Holland. Along the way, you'll pass through Bergen, a favorite destination for artists drawn to the peacefulness of the town and its wide-open landscapes. As you continue north, the route follows more of the coastline, with impressive sand dunes on your left and agricultural land on your right. In the spring months (from mid-March to mid-May) the fields come alive with tulips, forming a colorful patchwork across the region. You'll also pass the seaside resort of Callantsoog, which is the perfect spot for a break. Home to a quiet beach and a few cafes and pavilions, you can rest your legs and enjoy a cold beer (or a hot chocolate in cooler months).

Just outside Den Helder, you'll reach your accommodation for tonight. If you have some energy left you can cycle to the shore, located just a few minutes away, where you'll find the impressive Napoleonic fortress of Kijkduin, now home to a museum and the North Sea Aquarium

Day 2: Cycle from Den Helder to the Island of Texel

A seal basking on the sands of Texel

Today you'll start by cycling to the port of Den Helder, where a ferry takes you across the Wadden Sea to the island of Texel. On the way, keep an eye out for seals basking on the sandbanks. 

Upon arrival on Texel, hit the road again by bike. Today you'll cycle 15 miles (23 km) north across the island to reach your accommodations in De Cocksdorp. After checking in, set out to do some more exploring by bike, being sure to pack a windproof jacket for the sometimes strong winds! From De Cocksdorp you can visit both the North Sea and Wadden Sea sides of the island and notice the differences between these two scenic coastlines, especially during low tide. You'll also spot large flocks of white woolly sheep grazing the pastures, typical A-shaped barns, and the area's bright red lighthouse on the coast. This is very much a rural and natural landscape, where you can enjoy fresh sea breezes and sweeping views.

In the evening, De Cocksdorp has many excellent dining options and is known for its superb seafood, skuumkoppe (the local prize-winning cheese), and local lamb.

Day 3: Explore Texel's Sand Dunes & Villages

Brightly colored beach huts on Texel

Today, an e-bike will be at your disposal to rest your legs while you explore the island. Texel is small— barely 15 miles (25 km) from the northernmost lighthouse to the southern harbor—so most sights are easy to reach by bicycle.

If you’re a nature lover, make sure to visit De Slufter. Park your bike, climb the sand dune, and take in spectacular views across the windswept dunes. In the distance, you'll spot a large "hole" in the sand where the sea floods twice a day. The native vegetation has adapted to the salty water, giving this landscape a very distinct character. Bring a picnic lunch and you could easily spend a whole day hiking between the dunes and the muddy salt marsh. It's also an excellent area for birdwatching.

If you want to do some more sightseeing along the way, choose a route that visits the villages of Den Burg in the central part of the island, or Oudeschild, a rustic harbor town on the Wadden Sea coast. Along the way, you'll pass farms selling fresh strawberries, homemade ice cream, or pick-you-own fruit. Some are also open to visitors, allowing animal lovers to take a tour of the sheep stables or watch black-and-white cows being milked. Fans of antiques and all things kitsch shouldn't miss the Juttersmuseum Flora near De Koog. Here dedicated jutters (beachcombers) display the treasures that have washed up on Texel’s beaches in the last decades, including a collection of messages-in-bottles. The adventurous can also join a local guided mudflat hiking excursion to explore the seafloor as the tide retreats.

Cycle back to De Cocksdorp for the evening along the western side of the island, following the North Sea shore. The hip beach cafes here are the perfect spot to put your feet up and enjoy a sundowner.

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Day 4: Cycle from Texel to the Island of Vlieland

A traditional pier on Vlieland

Today takes you to Vlieland, a long, thin island located just north of Texel. After a short cycle towards Texel's iconic red lighthouse, you'll reach the pier and board a small boat named De Vriendschap (The Friendship). The open-air journey offers stunning views (keep an eye out for seals) and on calm days the crew will maneuver throughout the boat serving coffee. 

Once you disembark at the Vlieland harbor, the rest of the day is yours to explore. The island is car-free (apart from a few owned by the islanders themselves) and only about 7 miles (12 km) long and 1 mile (2 km) wide, making it a paradise for cyclists. Take your pick of paved cycle lanes or the famous shell paths through the dunes, and head to one of the many idyllic beaches, or towards the village for a long, leisurely lunch. If you're feeling more adventurous, you can park your bikes and set off for a hike through the stunning dune landscape. 

In the afternoon, cycle to your accommodation for the night, where your luggage awaits. The small hotel is surrounded by nature and sits on the edge of the Vliehors, a vast sandy plain that covers the island's northern tip. 

Day 5: Cycle from Vlieland to the Island of Terschelling

Terschelling's Brandaris Lighthouse

This morning you'll cycle back to the Vlieland port and board a ferry for Terschelling, the third Wadden Island in the chain. After a short journey, disembark and cycle towards your accommodation for the next two nights. To the west of the island, you'll spot the impressive Brandaris Lighthouse, which dates back to 1594 and remains the oldest lighthouse in the Netherlands.

For dinner, take your pick of the island's many excellent restaurants, especially in West-Terschelling. The local seafood is excellent, as expected, but make sure to also try a dish with Terschelling’s specialty: cranberries!

Day 6: Explore Terschelling's Beaches

Build sandcastles on Terschelling's sandy North Sea beaches

Explore Terschelling at your own pace today. The small island has no less than 43 miles (70 km) of cycle paths, making it easy to visit both coasts. To the north, a sweeping 18 mile (30 km) long sandy beach is ideal for relaxing, beachcombing, and building sandcastles. On the south side of the island, the Wadden Sea coast is equally scenic, with huge variations between tides. Thousands of migratory birds use these shallow waters and surroundings as a nursery, making it a must-see for birdwatchers. In the afternoon, visit the Wrakkenmusem (Wreck Museum) to see various finds from over 150 shipwrecks discovered in the waters off the island's coast.

Cycle back to your hotel along the small lanes through the dunes to stop at one of the many retro beach pavilions, such as Heartbreak Hotel on the north shore of the island near Oosterend. With an ambiance straight out of the 1950s, it's an ideal spot to put your feet up and relax with a snack or a cold drink. 

Day 7: Cycle from Terschelling to Harlingen, Franeker & Leeuwarden

Small lakes dot the Friesland countryside

Say goodbye to the magnificent Wadden Islands today as you hand off your luggage and cycle back to the harbor in West Terschelling. A two-hour ferry journey takes you back to the mainland, where you'll disembark at Harlingen (Harns in the Frisian language). Today's 20-mile (33 km) cycling route takes you from here to Leeuwarden, the capital of the province of Friesland.

The remote province of Friesland feels different from the rest of the Netherlands, with its own language and cultural identity. Cycle through a green, flat landscape, laced with lakes and meadows dotted with grazing cows. Along the way, you can stop in the town of Franeker (Frjentsjer in Frisian) to visit the Eise Eisinga Planetarium. The oldest working planetarium in the world, it was built between 1774 and 1781 CE in the living room of a traditional canal house.

Leeuwarden itself is one of the best-kept secrets in the Netherlands, boasting a scenic canal system like Amsterdam without the crowds. Known as the birthplace of graphic artist M.C. Escher and the mysterious Mata Hari, today it's a vibrant student city with a laidback feel. Upon arrival, you'll hand in your bicycle and receive your luggage back, leaving you to spend the rest of the day in Leeuwarden at your leisure. The city is easy to explore on foot, and great restaurants are easy to find. Try local favorite Proefverlof for excellent bistro fare in a dramatic setting. The beautiful canalside building was once a prison and also houses the Alibi Guesthouse, where you can spend the night in former cells. 

Day 8: Depart Leeuwarden 

Twilight in Leeuwarden

After a relaxed breakfast in your Leeuwarden hotel, it's time to head to the airport for your departing flight. Safe travels!

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