One of the most picturesque villages I have visited until now in the Netherlands, only for the ones who don't feel threatened by boats and water.
Giethoorn, this village in the province of Overijssel, is often called the Venice of the North and while far from me to make this kind of appreciations (I have never been to Venice, yet), I can say it is definitely one of the objectives you should not miss while in Holland. The nickname comes from the fact that the old part of the town didn't have any roads (now it has a bike path), therefore everybody was going around by boat using the network of canals.
click for the larger versionIt is not really easy to get there: it takes 1.5 hours of driving from Amsterdam, while by train+bus is almost 2,5 hours. Better go there during July or August, when the sun goes down around 10 - 11 pm, leaving you more time to enjoy the area.
click for the larger versionWe made the mistake to arrive quite late in Giethoorn (around 2 pm) and we had the surprise to find the parking lot in the center completelly full. Fortunately, we found a location that had a private parking space which you had to pay only if you didn't use their restaurant or the boat rental service. Perfect for us, as we were hungry and we also fancied a boat trip, why else would you come to Giethoorn?
click for the larger versionIf the idea of being in a boat which you have to steer by yourself scares you, there are also big tour boats, but be warned, the last round trip is usually around 4 pm. We had no other choice than to grab a small boat with an electrical engine and a steering wheel (20 euros per hour) and started roaming on the canals, while following the map we received from the rental company, the basic tour was approximated to take about 2 hours.
click for the larger versionThe steering of the boat was far from precise (of course I am gonna blame the boat) and the canals quite crowded with tourists, making this whole experience more interactive. On top of that, from time to time a bigger boat (with a real engine) passes by, giving you the chills of an iminent splash. But don't worry, the canals are only 1 - 1.5 meters deep, so there's really nothing to worry about.
click for the larger versionLeaving the exciting start apart (we enjoyed a short summer rain in the first 5 minutes in the boat), the view and the surroundings are very pleasant. As in any Dutch village, the houses and their gardens are very neat and filled with flowers, some even have small statues or figurines. What makes it unique is the perspective you have as a tourist while driving your boat and enjoying the nature and the picturesque houses.
click for the larger version1. The Zwantje or the little swan, they have a pretty good service and it really counts that the parking is included when everything else is full. ↩ 2. Piece of advice, valid for the whole Netherlands, bring with you a water and wind resistant jacket and don't rely on the weather reports fully, weather changes very fast and it takes only 2-3 minutes of heavy rain to get you completely wet. ↩