Category: International Travel (Page 1 of 8)

A Day in Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo

Off of the bustling coast of Cancun, in Quintana Roo, Mexico, is a small island called Isla Mujeres. Although I had never heard of it before, this little escape is pretty popular with folks that are visiting Cancun, and for good reason. While Cancun is a big, busy city, with a Las Vegas-style strip of hotels along its major shores, Isla Mujeres is home to a small town of the same name. Here, tourists trundle around in golf carts, walk the narrow streets of downtown, and marvel at the brilliant Caribbean Sea that curls around the entire island.

Without knowing anything about it, my love for islands drew me to making the trek to this beautiful corner of the world. And it was one of the most exceptional parts of my Quintana Roo trip.

While we were visiting, we only had a day in Isla Mujeres, and while you could spend longer, a day-trip to the island is a great option for anyone short on time. For travelers like me, Isla Mujeres has a unique hiking area. The island is also a nice place to connect with Mexican culture.

So, if you are charting out your Quintana Roo trip, consider this guide one resource for your planning what to do on Isla Mujeres. It is a realistic look at what it is like to visit the island for a day. And if you are a casual follower of this blog, please enjoy this taste of beautiful Isla Mujeres.

A Day in Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres is only about 4.3 miles long (7 km), and 2,130 ft (650 meters wide). So, that should paint a picture for you that this island is very small. Its size makes it a great option for a day-trip (although you could spend longer!). In terms of what to do on Isla Mujeres, of course, that depends on your travel style, but I will be focusing here on exploring the town and hiking on the southern part of the island.

The island is currently characterized by the town that stretches across most of its surface. The ferry terminal is on the northern end of the Isla, and it is here that the dense downtown is located as well. From here, you can wander on foot into many shops and restaurants, and consider renting a golf cart if you want to make it all the way down to the southern tip of the island. A good part of a day in Isla Mujeres will take place among the colorful buildings of town. There are beautiful, white sand beaches on the very northern edge of the island. And these are easily walkable from the ferry terminal.

a day in isla mujeres

(c) ABR 2023

Exploring south is a great idea as well. In my post on hiking in Quintana Roo, I cover the beautiful trails that weave their way across the rocky cliffs of La Punta Sur (the south point). Along the way, you can stop by the Women’s Beading Co-op, where you can purchase exceptional beaded jewelry from the artists themselves.

Take these together with the time it will take to sample some of the wonderful food of the island, and the travel back and forth, and you have a full day on your hands.

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Following an Ancient Pilgrimage: Visiting Cozumel Island

Cozumel, like many major tourist locations in Mexico, conjures a picture of foreign visitors getting drunk on white sand beaches, and drifting in and out on city-sized cruise ships. On the coasts of San Miguel de Cozumel, that plays out. Cruises come and go, bringing with them hundreds of people like waves. Established hotels clog the beaches and clubs fill the night air with pounding music. The roads are brimming with tourist rentals and road-side attractions have popped up across the island. So, visiting Cozumel can be a strange juxtaposition of ancient beauty and modern intensity.

visiting cozumel

At the same time, the ancient draw to this emerald island still remains. And visiting Cozumel can encompass an experience of the ancient Mayan pilgrimage as well as modern tourism vistas. This combination can feel a little odd, and there were definitely moments of it all being overwhelming. At the same time, Cozumel has been immensely special to many people for countless generations. So, I think undertaking the journey to this corner of the world can be very powerful.

As usual, please let this guide be a peek into the world of Cozumel from a visitor’s perspective. And help you answer the question – is Cozumel worth it for you?

Is Cozumel Worth It?

visiting cozumel

(c) ABR 2023

There are very similar considerations between Tulum and visiting Cozumel when you are thinking about whether or not to go. This is the case because both have become major tourist destinations in Quintana Roo. That means crowding, commodification (or what I have called “built by tourism, for tourism” elsewhere), and an increased difficulty level of finding genuine experiences of culture.

That all being said, as is the main theme of this guide, there is something very unique about Cozumel. And this energy and history has been drawing people from near and far for hundreds of years. Personally, when I ask myself (even after the fact) is Cozumel worth it? The answer is yes because of this.

But let’s explore a few things to see if it is a good fit for you.

You are willing to pay the higher prices of the island.

visiting cozumel

(c) ABR 2023

Compared to US travel, Cozumel isn’t really outlandishly expensive. But it is notably more expensive than the mainland. This is partially because of the amount of tourists that the island welcomes, and partially because life on any island is typically more expensive. It’s just harder to get goods to Cozumel than across the mainland, and the same can be said about people-power.

You are open to weathering the party scene.

Aside from the high prices, the worst thing about my visit to Cozumel was a club across the street from the little hotel where we stayed. Whether or not this club had a single patron, they played extremely loud music all night every night that we stayed on the island. It was loud enough that even with all the windows closed and white noise playing in headphones directly in my ears, I could still make out the lyrics of the songs.

If you are searching for peace on your travels, this isn’t exactly a great combination. But luckily, most people who are partying all night, also aren’t up early in the morning. So, it does give you a little window for quieter exploration (depending on the cruise ship schedules).

You are open to weathering the waves of cruise ship passengers.

visiting cozumel

(c) ABR 2023

Everything else aside, there are just LOTS of cruise ship passengers, and they typically travel in big groups. So, some of the most popular spots in your Cozumel itinerary can be either pretty empty or maddeningly busy, just depending on whether you happen to roll up at the same time as a tour. That being said, if you are open to navigating these waves of people, you can still experience some areas in Cozumel without feeling completely crowded out. In fact, San Gervasio was one of the quietest ruins that I visited (besides Muyil.)

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Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Quintana Roo

The Mayan Ruins of Quintana Roo are one of the main reasons that I wanted to visit this southern corner of Mexico. While I have learned a bit about the Mayan empire since being in school, it was hard to imagine what it would really be like to visit some of the world’s ancient pyramids. Even amidst the crowds, I think it is a spiritual experience to visit these places. Not only do they demonstrate a little about the Mayan people (who still thrive in Quintana Roo and the surrounding peninsula), but they provide a window into the past of the land here as well. So, needless to say, I think if you come down (or up) this way, you should definitely put the ruins of this area high on your list of things to do.

Following here is a quick guide to some of the more and less famous Mayan ruins of Quintana Roo. I’m hoping you can use this guide to appreciate the historic masterpieces of this Mexican state. And if you plan on visiting, that this guide will help you pick the best spots for you.

Mayan Ruins of Quintana Roo

Mayan ruins of Quintana Roo

Copa (c) ABR 2023

The Mayan people still live in Quintana Roo and the Yucatan Peninsula. And there are even some great guides out there for anyone looking to explore modern Mayan culture through food, museums, and more.

The height of the Mayan Empire, which left behind the pyramids and sacred places that we can still visit today was in 200-900 AD. As you can tell from visiting and looking at the pictures of the structures that they built, the Mayan people have a complex and sophisticated legacy. They were pioneers in mathematics, science, and, of course, architecture and art.

A great way to get a glimpse of this part of historic Quintana Roo is to visit a few of the Mayan ruins that call the modern state home.

Of course, everyone will have their own ideas about which ruins are the best, and why, but I am going to provide a ranked list of the ruins that are included in my guide here. This might help you consider which ones to prioritize for your style of travel. And if your style is like mine, you might agree more. This is – if you are a hiker who prefers quieter areas, access to nature, and space to roam. And doesn’t mind a road trip!

Mayan ruins of Quintana Roo

San Gervasio (c) ABR 2023

Some Quintana Roo Archeological Sites – Ranked by Me

  • Coba – Even though Coba is very busy and sort of hard to get to, its size and beauty made it my favorite of the Mayan ruins of Quintana Roo.
  • San Gervasio – I found this sacred part of Cozumel to be very spiritual, especially as a woman. And the ancient roads, still winding their way through the thick forests, made me feel as though I might still have the chance to take the pilgrimage of people long past.
  • Tulum – The juxtaposition of the ruins along the sweeping cliffs over the sea just makes this place magical. Not even the crowds can steal that from it.
  • Muyil – This is a smaller, unassuming ruin was a nice place to escape the crowds and take in the historic beauty of the Mayan buildings in peace.

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Nature and Culture in Tulum: What to Expect

Quintana Roo is full of world-famous tourism spots, and Tulum is one. When I used to picture it, I imagined white sand beaches, lined with ladies in long, flowing dresses, with their boyfriends snapping pictures. They are framed by a lush jungle and picturesque, white Mexican buildings. I imagined that the ancient Mayans had an equal (or greater appreciation) of the brilliant blue sea here. The buildings they left behind, clinging to the cliffs, now serve as a backdrop for photoshoots and group tours.

What I didn’t expect, was the bustling, real city behind all the big hotels. A city full of stressful traffic, construction, and tasty food. And I didn’t expect how stressful it would be to visit its famous landmarks. I had no idea that there were little, beautiful places off the side of the highway that spotlighted the exceptional beauty and history of this Pueblo Mágico. I had no idea what exploring some of the culture in Tulum would be like.

This guide is meant to give you some insight into Tulum as a traveler who might be looking for a bit more than a nice spot for the photoshoot. Or maybe you are looking for luscious photos AND windows into the things that make Tulum world class. Or maybe you just want to see some sides of Tulum that you might not often get from the internet. Whatever brings you, this guide is a reflection of my experience in Tulum. And my answer the question, is it worth visiting Tulum?

Is It Worth Visiting Tulum?

There’s never an easy answer to a question like this. Everyone is looking for something different in their travels. And people have different experiences in the same places.

But I think there are a few questions that you might ask yourself when considering Tulum as a destination.

culture in tulum

Tulum ruins (c) ABR 2023

Do you mind crowds?

If yes, Tulum might not be for you. Now, some of my favorite places for culture in Tulum aren’t super busy, but generally this is a very busy place. The main sites are crowded. The city itself is very busy and can be wild. The tourism area is also notably narrow and even a few cars can feel like too many.

Are you willing to wake up early for exceptional views?

If yes, Tulum Ruins should probably be on your to-see list. Here’s the thing, yes, the ruins get almost instantly crowded, and they can be challenging to get into. But it really is a magical place. There are some really special ruins there, unlike anything else I saw in Quintana Roo. And the cliffs hung over the crystalline, blue ocean are really spectacular.

culture in tulum

Muyil (c) ABR 2023

Are you put off by “made by tourism” places?

The famous parts of Tulum, that are in all those Instagram pictures of fabulous hotels, are a little escape from reality. And it isn’t what Tulum is really like, or at least, it isn’t the Tulum that the people who live there know. And if you are put off by places like that, you might not enjoy this particular Pueblo Mágico (consider Bacalar!).

Can you brave a busy city to find its gems?

Set back from the hotel strip on the beach is a bustling town that has some really good food, shops, and lesser-known ruins. If you can brave the traffic, the real Tulum has got some great things to experience. And it shouldn’t be forgotten.

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What To Do in Bacalar, Mexico: The Pueblo Mágico of the Jungles of Quintana Roo

Quintana Roo, while the state name might not be familiar to a lot of Americans, is home to some of the most well-known tourist spots in all of Mexico. These include the likes of Tulum, Cozumel, and Cancun. Each of these places is brimming with culture and history, but in my opinion, they’ve also been paved over in a lot of ways, to create strange enclaves for visitors. Bacalar, on the other hand, is relatively far from international airports. And so far, it has retained its small town character, while continuing to showcase whst put it on Mexico’s list of exceptionally special towns – Pueblos Mágicos.

There is a long list of what to do in Bacalar. Most of the activities are linked to the Bacalar Lagoon. The town itself also has places to explore, good food to eat, and a relaxed atmosphere that makes Bacalar a great place to rest and dip your toes into Mexican culture.

what to do in bacalar

This town is a wonderful option among the Pueblos Mágicos of Quintana Roo for anyone looking for small town life, simple comforts, and lots of nature-based exploration. Whether you are considering this town as a stop on your own explorations, or you are just curious about it, let this guide be your window to the wonderous world of Bacalar, Mexico.

What to Do In Bacalar and Why Visit

Bacalar is perfect for visitors who are not looking for the big resort experience. It’s a very nice ecotourism spot, with a few historic options to explore as well. Visiting Bacalar is ideal for the polite traveler who wants a genuine experience, rather than a town reshaped by tourism. Please, come to this place with respect and support small businesses here. I would hate to see Bacalar transformed into a resort town. It deserves better.

The Lagoon

what to do in bacalar

The small Pueblo Mágico is bordered to the east by a lagoon of the same name, and much of what to do in Bacalar revolves around this multi-colored body of water. The water is so clear, and often still, that you can see a full array of colors across the lake. Brilliant blues over the sand, red reflections of the sky at dawn or dusk, and pops of green from both within and surrounding the water. And it’s ever changing, whether from the tones of the sky throughout the day, the movement of wildlife along the shore, or the weather itself. Whether you are looking for some moderate adventure and activity, or something more relaxed there are options here for you. Furthermore, the town is home to a very cool historic monument and great food. So, Bacalar has got you foodies and history buffs taken care of as well.

For the water fanatics among you, there are relaxed boat cruises that you can take to soak it all in. Or, if you are like us, and you are looking for something active, there are many tour organizers who can take you out kayaking on the water.

Lakeshore

what to do in bacalar

(c) ABR 2023

There are also some places for loafing on the shore – drink in hand and palapa shade all around you. I must say, I was so inspired by the beauty of the jungle on the shore of Bacalar Lagoon, it has become a central piece of my retirement vision board. Specifically, I spied a house tucked among the trees, on the shore, with the perfect amount of lantern light in the early morning. And since then, I have seriously been dreaming about nestling down in the jungle somewhere in my elder years.

In any case, for those of you less interested in delving into the watery wilds of Bacalar, the Centro has plenty of great options. There is Fuerte de San Felipe de Bacalar, a fort and museum in the center of town. And for food, the must-visit spot is La Playita with its huge, light covered tree, and access to the lake. I’ve never eaten anywhere more magical.

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San Carlos, Sonora: Why You Should Visit and What to Do There

South of Hermosillo, where craggy mountains meet the sea, sits San Carlos, Sonora. One of Sonora’s Pueblo Mágicos, San Carlos is known for its immense natural beauty. Personally, I was shocked by how majestic the landscape is here. It captured my imagination, and I was in literal awe on a near daily basis while I was there.

So, why should you visit San Carlos? Because the natural world here is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Even as someone who grew up in the northern Sonoran Desert, I can say this. San Carlos is a world class town. And it is barely on the map for most people.

san carlos sonora

So, it’s beautiful! But what can you do in San Carlos? Well, plenty of things. There are sandy beaches to sit on. Good food to eat. “Adventure” attractions like ziplines can also be found. But most important to me, is the hiking. There is a load of hiking in San Carlos, especially by Mexico standards – where hiking isn’t the most popular of activities. I hiked nearly every day. And each trail was a unique wonder.

Now, let me give you a short guide to San Carlos. And if I can’t convince you to visit, at least come enjoy some snapshots from what I consider to be the crown jewel of Sonora, Mexico.

Why You Should Visit San Carlos, Sonora

san carlos sonora

(c) ABR 2023

I kind of spoiled it above, but if you are wondering – what can you do in San Carlos, and why should you visit, I am going to give you a short list.

  • Even if you don’t hike one bit, there are jaw dropping views all through town. Especially when I first got to San Carlos, I found myself staring outside, facing the mountains, and just… watching. Birds sang and danced through the desert. The mountains swept up from the desert like strongholds in stone.
  • For hikers, there are short and long trails. Some are quick, some are exceptionally steep, and some take wanders to places unimagined. No matter what you are looking for, there is a trail for you in San Carlos. And it will leave you in awe. (Just beware the heat).
  • There is good food to be had in town. There’s something magical about enjoying tacos while sitting on a peaceful beach surrounded by hills and mountains.

If you don’t believe me that this place is cool, remember that Pueblos Mágicos are Mexico’s most exceptional towns. And thus, the country itself marks San Carlos as one of its many treasures.

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Small Towns of Sonora, Mexico: Kino Bay, Magdalena de Kino and More

Sonora isn’t just a place of natural wonders where the desert meets the sea, and sky islands abound. It’s a place rich with culture and the diversity of art, architecture, and food that make all places the people call home exceptional. While you could explore this part of Sonora through indulging in its big cities – like Hermosillo. The small towns of Sonora each offer their own unique glimpse into the vibrant world of this Mexican state. They are the perfect destinations for a Sonora roadtrip, especially if you enjoy delving into history and culture. And if time and resources allow, they aren’t to be missed.

This guide will cover some of the small towns that I was able to check out during my time exploring Sonora, in particular, Magdalena de Kino and Kino Bay. But I would also like to point you in the direction of the other Pueblos Magicos of Sonora. Even though, I unfortunately was not able to visit them all. Come along to explore these small towns via pictures and words. And see if they might be just right for your next adventure.

Small Towns of Sonora

small towns of Sonora

An arch in Magdalena de Kino (c) ABR 2023

Sonora is home to many well-known urban areas, including its capital, Hermosillo. It is also home to the town perched on the coast that Arizonans love, Puerto Peñasco or Rocky Point. But of course, it goes without saying that the people of Sonora don’t just live in big cities and tourist towns. Like all places, Sonora is home to all kinds of villages and settlements. It has historic landmarks, architectural wonders, and the unexpected.

Mexico does a nice job of pointing you towards some of its most unique towns through the Pueblos Magicos program. They designate exceptional pueblos across Mexico in this way. This helps travelers decide where to spend some time exploring. It also honors the work that local people have done to make their homes beautiful and protect the various histories of Mexico. On a Sonora roadtrip, you could try to see all of these special small towns of Sonora.

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What to Do in Hermosillo – The Capital of Sonora, Mexico

Hermosillo is a true sister city to Phoenix, Arizona, with lots of shared culture, food, and families that share members between both. It is also only a 6 hour drive from the capital of Arizona to the capital of Sonora. This city is also the heart of culture in Sonora, Mexico. But surprisingly, it wasn’t until 2023 that I finally visited this fellow, Sonoran Desert urban area – all thanks to a friend of mine who invited me to her wedding there.

While Sonora has a reputation for being dangerous, among both Americans and Mexicans, I found Hermosillo to be a fun city to visit. There was loads of good food, a very interesting downtown, and the city is also home to some impressive museums. All the good stuff for visitors and locals both. Of course, there are safety considerations (as with all cities), but with some caution, respect for the people who call this place home, and an excitement for the history and culture of this place, Hermosillo can be a lot of fun.

This guide will give you a quick taste of the city and help you figure out what to do in Hermosillo, and whether it is a good fit for you. And if it isn’t, scroll through and enjoy my pictures of this urban heart in the Sonoran Desert.

Why Visit and What to Do in Hermosillo, Mexico

This city isn’t on the top of any list of Mexican must-sees that I have ever seen, but nonetheless, for anyone interested in exploring culture in Sonora, Mexico, it should be on the top of your list. That’s because Hermosillo is the capital of the state, and it is home to lots of museums, food, and even a historic downtown. While it can’t capture all the vibrant diversity of Sonora, it is home to many of the institutions and places to explore that most cities harbor. And if you want to pack a punch into a shorter trip, this city will have you covered for the flavor of Sonora.

what to do in Hermosillo

Downtown Hermosillo (c) ABR 2023

When you are talking about what to do in Hermosillo, there is also a little something for everyone. There is a surprising amount of urban hiking in the city. There is historic architecture and big museums for the history buffs. And there is tasty food to satisfy anyone but the pickiest eaters.

Aside from safety considerations, the only immediate thing that I would say to avoid in Hermosillo is the summer. Much like Phoenix, it is extremely hot here in the summer. That makes it hard to enjoy the city, and can even add an element of natural danger if you try to hit the trails.

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Unseen Puerto Peñasco: What to Do In Rocky Point, Mexico

For the people who call Arizona home, the beach town of Puerto Peñasco (commonly known as Rocky Point in English) is a famous coastal escape. Lots of people go here to party, and there are plenty of all-inclusive enclaves in town. However, there is another side to Puerto Peñasco – a calm, natural paradise, and a small town with good food, kind people, and plenty of Mexican culture to immerse yourself in. If you are wondering what to do in Rocky Point, and looking for authentic or peaceful experiences, this is the post for you.

What to Do In Rocky Point: What to Expect in This Guide 

I spent much of my high school weekends in Puerto Peñasco, where I discovered the world of outdoor Rocky Point and got glimpses of the true town under the growing tourist destination. The beaches here are magical and dynamic. The Sea of Cortez shows off much of its biodiversity on the coasts here. And Puerto Peñasco itself is a study in the ebb and flow of local culture and international tourism. If you know where to look, the story of these tides are written across the landscape.

what to do in Rocky Point

An abandoned hotel on the beach (c) ABR 2012

This post will also be a bit of a (recent) historic peek at the town – the last time I visited was in 2014. But I photographed and explored Puerto Peñasco for more than a decade. And the time period in which I experienced Rocky Point was also a time of change. From the years of rapid growth from 2005-2007, to the Great Recession, and beyond.

All that being said, if you are looking for a guide to all-inclusive or party-town Rocky Point, this isn’t that. I’m not that kind of traveler, and I was far too young when I spent lots of time in this part of Sonora, Mexico. As a white, Arizonan visitor, I also can’t speak much to the internal culture and life of Puerto Peñasco. But I can speak to some of the ways that visitors can enjoy the vibrant Mexican spirit while visiting this popular tourist spot.

So, come along for some tips on what to do in Rocky Point and a glimpse into what the town looked like during the turbulent years of the Great Recession.

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Three Other Things to Do in the Netherlands for Less Crowds

things to do in the netherlands

I was not about the crowding in Amsterdam (c) ABR 2017

Among US citizens, the Netherlands is on many people’s bucketlists for Amsterdam. But as anyone who lives there, has traveled there, or done a bit of research knows, there are TONS of things to do in the Netherlands. For me personally, I get really exhausted by crowds and I hate fighting other people for spots in lines, or for parking spaces. So, I am always on the lookout for less crowded options. I don’t always find them, depending on how long I am somewhere and how intrigued I am by popular destinations, but in the Netherlands, I had the opportunity to visit a few calmer locations that I would like to suggest. Besides escaping some crowds, spreading the tourism love can help address over-visitation when we couple it with other tools and strategies. So, if you are looking to add some calmer locations to your itinerary or just explore some new parts of the Netherlands, give this little list a gander. You might also consider checking out my posts on National Parks in the Netherlands as well. You will be surprised how varied nature is in this under-appreciated landscape.

 

Vaalserberg: The Netherlands Highpoint and Three-Country Point

things to do in the netherlands

(c) ABR 2017

 

Vaalserberg is the highpoint of the Netherlands, and insofar as mountaineering/hiking goes, it is not the kind of high point that will generally get you huffing and puffing. It’s the crown of a generally flat and low-lying country. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t both a unique and enjoyable destination that’s worth your time. For anyone who loves to explore nature and hike, this is a must-have for any things to do in the Netherlands list.

The character of the highpoint itself is that of a gentle, rounded mountain or what some might consider more of a hill. This area is wooded and feels far more wild than the other parts of the Netherlands that I visited. Happily, there are a variety of trails that zig and zag through the forest, and which are well traveled, so it is not hard to navigate them.

things to do in the netherlands

(c) ABR 2017

Besides all that, and most interestingly, if you look at a map, you will see that Vaalserberg sits in the narrow little panhandle of the Netherlands. And it is located where three different countries meet! This is where Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands are all conjoined, and there is even a little statue that you can visit at the point.

There is a road up to the top, where you can park, hike around a little bit, and get some food. There is also a lookout tower that you can pay to check out as well (although I didn’t bother). There is also a maze of some sort? I wasn’t able to go, but it looked intriguing. So, if you are in the area and enjoy those sorts of things, definitely consider it.

things to do in the netherlands

(c) ABR 2017

How to Get There

Vaalserberg is a bit out of the way, at least in terms of Amsterdam, so I think the easiest way to get out there is going to be with a vehicle. From Amsterdam, you can drive to the town of Vaals, and then follow signs (or Google) to Les Trois Bornes. You will want to park near the Labyrint if you want to get as close to the top as possible in your vehicle, but if you are open to hiking and walking a bit, there are more options.

Noordwijk Beach: Mussels, Frites, and the Seaside

things to do in the netherlands

(c) ABR 2017

In retrospect, it’s a little silly, but I never associated the Netherlands with the beach. (Very silly when I realize that not only do they have coastline but they have islands as well). Really, at least one beach should be on every things to do in the Netherlands list.

Just a short distance from Amsterdam is the seaside town of Noordwijk, where my travel buddy and myself had a perfect evening stroll and delectable dinner of mussels with the sea breeze in our hair. (It’s actually one of my fondest memories of the Netherlands, and that entire trip is extremely fond to me).

When we ventured out here after a long day, we walked a little among the shops. Not really looking to buy anything, but enjoying the vibe and people watching. And it wasn’t long until the ocean called us down into the sand. It felt like a gentle beach. Soft, warm sand and people playing in the water. There were even picturesque grasses growing up on the higher part of the shore.

things to do in the netherlands

(c) ABR 2017

After splashing in the sea for a bit and getting sand between our toes, we retreated back up the shore towards the shops and restaurants that line the beachfront. We were lucky enough to get a spot at a restaurant serving mussels and frites- which felt like the perfect Dutch, seaside meal.

While I wouldn’t call the beach quiet by any means, it was nonetheless a retreat from the extremely busy downtown Amsterdam, where we had spent our morning.

How to Get There/Where to Park

If you are traveling by public transit, the closest train station is in Leiden. You can then take the bus north to the beach. And if you are driving, you can have Google take you to the parking lot at: Kon. Astrid Boulevard 51, 2202 BE Noordwijk, Netherlands.

Roosegaarde Cycle Path: Van Gogh Bike Path

things to do in the netherlands

(c) ABR 2017

Just like the beach, the Netherlands’ iconic artists should be a part of any things to do in the Netherlands list. In particular, whether you are interested in art or not, you will likely run into one or two things related to Van Gogh. We saw a few of his paintings on display in De Hoge Veluwe, and we also went WAAAAY out of our way in search of the Van Gogh bike path.

That’s because we had heard that this bike bath actually glows at night with a re-creation of what might be one of the most famous European paintings- Starry Night. As you may know if you follow this blog, I LOVE immersive art installations and while some might argue that this bike path doesn’t fit, I think it does. Haha. In any case, it sounded immensely interesting and we went on a bit of a quest to find it, as it really isn’t advertised much in the area.

things to do in the netherlands

Landscape surrounding the trail (c) ABR 2017

Unfortunately, when we arrived it was sunset, and not quite dark enough to enjoy the full effect. It’s also a bit smaller of an area than I might have thought. That being said, it was nice to get out into the country and go for a nice little walk among the fields. I’d suggest visiting Roosegaarde and the surrounding area for dinner and then taking a short walk or bike ride after dark.

How to Get There/Where to Park

If you are taking public transportation, take the train to Eindhoven and then take the bus out to Nuenen-Eindhoven a270. Likewise, if you are driving, you will need to get to the Nuenen-Eindhoven a270 parking lot. You can find that lot using: Wolvendijk 80, 5641 AS Eindhoven, Netherlands. When driving through Eindhoven, be extra careful and be doubly sure to go the speed limit. I got a $50 (end US$ price once I paid) for going 3km over the speed limit in the city.

Planning Your Trip to the Netherlands

While these three locations alone would certainly make for a unique experience of Holland, this is by no means an exhaustive list of things to do in the Netherlands. If you are a hiker, check out my guide to Nature in the Netherlands. I’ve also done a short piece on Giethoorn or the “Venice of the Netherlands); if you are crowd-averse like I am, it will be good information to help you figure out if you’d like to visit or not. We also have a guest post from several bloggers covering their favorite spots in the Netherlands, which I wasn’t able to visit- but you might like to! Finally, to explore all of this and more, check out our short guide to the Netherlands.

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