There are two routes you can take which take 7 days up to 14 days to complete, depending on the number of stops and your pace. The “easy” route focuses on spending more time doing things like being social with couchsurfers or taking a day off walking to find geocaches in the area.
The “advanced” route focuses on walking a longer distance; you will have less time to spend hanging out with couchsurfers or finding geocaches. Try cycling this route if you want to have more time doing these things. Driving these routes is possible, but takes away the effort (and kind of defeats the purpose of a pilgrimage).
Cut to the chase and show me the shortest route I can walk
If this sounds like something you would say, you’ll love this route. It starts at Amsterdam Central Station and takes you through Muiden, Almere, Oostvaarders lakes, Lelystad, the Houtrib dike, Enkhuizen, Hoorn, Edam, Volendam, Monnickendam and back to Amsterdam.
The total length is 145 kilometer, and can be done in 7 days with 2 days off (8 or 9 days is recommended). If you decide to cycle, this route can be done in 1 or 2 days without any days off.
Based on my “I don’t jog” stamina I would walk around 30 kilometers a day fueled by will power and decent walking shoes. Looking at the route and things to see alongside, this is the day-to-day schedule I would use:Day 1 Amsterdam – Almere (29 km) Day 2 Almere – Lelystad (27.5 km) Day 3 Day off Day 4 Lelystad – Enkhuizen (32 km) Day 5 Enkhuizen – Edam (36 km) Day 6 Day off Bonus Marken Day 7 Edam – Amsterdam (21 km)
I want the shortest route but don’t mind a couple of detours for scenic reasons
This would be my favorite route: relatively short but with enough to see along the way. See for yourself!
I’m a little stuck in life and don’t know what to do next. I need some time to get things in order
If this is you, this is your route; take two weeks off from work (or life) and start walking. This route also starts at Amsterdam Central Station and goes through Muiden, Almere, Oostvaarders lakes, Lelystad, Urk, Lemmer, Sneek, Bolsward, the Afsluit dike, Medemblik, Hoorn, Edam, Volendam, Monnickendam and back to Amsterdam Central. The total length is 270 kilometer, and can be done in 12 days with 3 days off (13 or 14 days is recommended). If you decide to cycle, this route can be done in 3 or 4 days without taking days off.
I don’t expect to become the world champion of walking. Neither should you. If you walk too much on the first days you won’t be able to finish (and enjoy) the rest of the trip. You muscles will ache and you might even get blisters. So: calm down, take it easy and enjoy your surroundings.Day 1 Amsterdam – Almere (29 km) Day 2 Almere – Lelystad (27.5 km) Day 3 Day off Day 4 Lelystad – Urk (28 km) Day 5 Urk – Lemmer (23 km) Day 6 Day off Day 7 Lemmer – Bolsward (35 km) Day 8 Bolsward – Den Oever (42.4 km) Day 9 Day off Day 10 Den Over – Enkhuizen (37.1 km) Day 11 Enkhuizen – Edam (35 km) Bonus Marken Day 12 Edam – Amsterdam (21 km)
Re-thinking your life is done best subconsciously
You can focus on finding the perfect windmill and your brain will do all the thinking on your next steps in life. Then it hits you: an epiphany on a new direction in your life or work. Be sure to have pen and paper handy when it happens. Anything is possible when you’re doing The Meaning of Life Scenic Walk.
Traveling with a hard-copy map can be fun. It give that extra adventure-like feel, as if you are holding a treasure map. There are some downsides too, especially when your backpack is already full, or if it’s raining or windy. Or for the simple reason that you don’t want to look like a total tourist. There are alternatives. You could for instance navigate with your GPS device or smartphone by downloading the routes or a map of The Netherlands to it. I will explain these options in more detail.
Downloading a route on your GPS device
The folks at Routeyou.com have done a wonderful job creating a tool which makes it possible to plan your walking or hiking routes and download or print them. They also provide the option to generate point-of-interests along the route. The maps you see on this site are generated by this tool, and can therefore be downloaded to a GPS device. Simply click on the “Download | Print” button on the right top of one of the maps above. It will take you to a page where you can select your GPS device and/or printer.
Viewing a route on your smartphone
There are a few notable points if you decide navigate with your smartphone. To be able to keep browsing the internet, you will need a Dutch mobile phone contract with internet plan. Don’t try roaming; it will cost you an arm and a leg. I did some research on apps which allow you to download a map onto your phone which you can use without being connected to the internet and found one in particular that really hit the spot: Maps With Me.
Maps With Me is a free app (with limited, but enough functionality. The full version costs $4.99) which allows you to download a map of a whole country to your phone, which you can then use offline. It’s available for iPhone, Android, Amazon Apps and Samsung. To download a map, simply connect to wifi and zoom in on The Netherlands until it says “download Netherlands map”. The download is roughly 270 MB and takes few minutes. After that you’ll be able to browse cities in detail (including camp sites, hotels, cafe’s, grocery stores etc.) and zoom in and out. It also uses the phone’s GPS functionality to show you where exactly you are, without using the internet. You won’t be able to load the route itself on the map, so it’s good to keep a printed copy of the map and/or city names with you. You can download Maps With Me here.
Another point is your (smart)phone’s battery life. I strongly advice not to use your phone to listen to music, watch movies and navigate at the same time, or else your battery will die in a couple of hours. You should be able to use your phone for at least half a day if you close all your apps, turn down your screen’s brightness and turn on airplane mode. Otherwise, great opportunities to charge your phone are when you take a break and have lunch at a restaurant or cafe, at your couchsurfer’s place or practically anywhere in a bigger city (if you ask nicely). Alternatively, you can use a mobile power bank which holds another 1-2 full battery cycles. I recommend the Xtorm XB100 – Power Bank 6000 “Air”, which I have used myself for quite some time now. It’s small, light yet powerful and not expensive at all. View the product website to find out more. This isn’t even a sponsored link, by the way, I just like the product 🙂
Frequently Asked Questions
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Do I have to run 40 kilometers a day to get fit for this trip?
Nope. I did my 250km walk and all my 1000+ km bicycle trips almost unprepared. You just need to adjust your mind a bit to accept that you will be walking almost full days. Taking regular breaks to eat or drink something, read a book or do some crosswords are recommended. There are three things worth mentioning.
First, a healthy or somewhat active lifestyle does help. Do you take the bike to work or play squash once a week? That counts!
Second, if you will walk alone, your biggest enemy is boredom. Be sure to bring some entertainment for the road, and put a little bit more effort to choose the music you like (and lots of it) to put on your mp3 player.
Third, don’t skimp on shoes and socks. If you do, say hello to blisters. I had a big blister at the ball of my foot on day 2 of my Vancouver-Seattle walk which didn’t heel until after I finished, so I can tell you first hand it hurts like hell and adds a lot of curse words to your daily vocabulary.
Michiel asks: Are the walks only targeted on “Holland” or on all of The Netherlands?
Aaah, the classic misconception. Technically, I’m in the wrong. “Holland” isn’t the same as “The Netherlands”. It’s a long story why, but I’ve found a video that explains it clearly in exactly 4 minutes. It’s a fun video to watch and you’ll learn something!
So, now you know. The Netherlands is just called Holland for touristic reasons; it’s what most people look for. “Holland” is however the combination of 2 provinces (North and South Holland), and you will be walking through one of them. You’ll also pass the provinces Flevoland and Friesland.