Before moving to the Netherlands, I didn’t really ever consider coming for holidays here apart from Amsterdam. I guess I just didn’t know what there is to see elsewhere, and many other destinations have been marketed stronger and have seemed more appealing. But now, having had the opportunity to live in two different cities (that are not Amsterdam) and to take shorter trips within the Netherlands to discover more of it, the more I see, the more I realise there is to see.
I recently took a one-night camping trip to Hoge Veluwe, a national park in the east of the Netherlands. When I think national park, I often automatically assume it will be far away and hard to get to, especially without car, but this country is tiny and Hoge Veluwe is only 2 hours away from Amsterdam by public transport, which also makes it a great destination for just a day trip.
I had seem pictures of purple flowers, deers, and sand dunes and was very excited to go, but I wasn’t sure how likely it is to even see any of those. Well, I can happily say that at least during this time of the year (August), I got to see all three, and more.
The national park offers free bikes for visitors, which is very convenient because the area is quite big so biking instead of walking allows to cover a bigger part of the trails in just a day or two. There are several spots around the park where you can just grab and park your bike without deposit or locks, which felt strange but was super handy. What impressed me maybe the most about Hoge Veluwe was the diversity of the landscape: you start your trip in quite a traditional park-like alley covered by trees arching over the path, but as you get deeper into the park, the landscape changes constantly from a dry landscape with only a few trees and heather bushes, to almost desert-like sandy dunes, to a lush forest or a path surrounded by pine trees much like in the Nordics or North America.
Then there’s the animals – to my surprise the deer might actually be some of the easier animals to spot in Hoge Veluwe (I saw some in several occasions within a day). Additionally, I spotted a couple of wild boars and plenty of birds that I absolutely can’t identify, but I’m sure there’s much more to see for the nature lover. I’d definitely recommend getting binoculars, as you can never know how close or not you might get to the wildlife as they are roaming around as they please. Even so, you don’t even need to be a rehearsed nature-goer to spot deer, boars, or birds for instance: there are several wildlife and bird observation spots in the park, and at least the day I went, there was something interesting going on at most spots that we went to.
The national park is not all nature however. In the center, you will find a small tourist center and a spot where there are occasional events like artisanal markets, as well as the Kröller-Müller museum. I have to admit that I hadn’t even heard about this museum before, which feels quite crazy now that I have seen how extensive its collection is. The Kröller-Müller museum is home to a huge number or artworks by some of the biggest European artist from the 19th century to today, including for instance the world’s second largest collection of Van Gogh. If you’re at all into arts and museums, add this stop to your visit.
Regarding practicalities, I recommend checking up to date information on the Hoge Veluwe website. There is an entrance fee of around 11€, and the camping with a tent (there is also an option for campervans and caravans) cost another 8€ per person. If going during peak holiday season and staying overnight, I suggest getting to the campsite early enough during the day as you can’t book it beforehand and it works on a first come first served basis. The camping itself was quite basic but nice, with water stations, toilets and showers (although you have to pay an extra fee for the shower), as well as a fire pit and plugs to charge your phone. The camping is located near the Hoenderloo entrance to the park, which you can get to by taking a train to Apeldoorn, and then a bus to Hoenderloo. There are also other entrances to the park, so make sure to check from which direction you are coming. If staying at the campsite, it is possible to exit the park to go for instance grocery shopping (there is a Spar 5min walk from the Hoenderloo entrance), but walking around the national part is forbidden after 9pm (this changes per month, make sure to check up to date information).
Whether you are living in the Netherlands and want to see more of the country,or visiting and want to take a break in nature for a day or two, Hoge Veluwe should be on your list. The Netherlands is a fairly small country, and at least on first sight through the train windows can seem to be divided mainly between cities and agricultural areas. However, at least for myself Hoge Veluwe is a beautiful display of the diversity there also is and which must be protected. I hope this guide is useful for planning your visit, let me know what other hidden or less known gems there are to visit in the area!