After seeing all the beautiful photographs of Giethoorn Netherlands I really wanted to make an effort to visit. The “Venice of Holland” looked so magical and storybook. I loved the idea of seeing thatched roof homes, the lovely gardens in each yard, and of course float through the canals. We picked a beautiful day on our holiday visit in Amsterdam; the 3rd week in May. As with some of our experiences when traveling I try not to do too much research or look at too many photographs, so that I can still have some surprises. So here are 6 details we learned and experienced on our visit to Giethoorn Netherlands.
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Number One: History of Giethoorn
To write this article I wanted to give a little little history on Giethoorn. However, double checking on what our guides told us I found some conflicting information. In some articles there is a claim that the area was first founded by Franciscan monks in the 13th century. Other articles claim it was Mediterranean fugitives who first settled the area.
Whichever it may be, the story of how Giethoorn got it’s name and how the canals developed are the same; goats and peat. Yes goats. Very large numbers of goat horns were found, it is believed the goats found their demise due to the 1170 St Elisabeth great flood. Hence the name Geytenhorn which means horn of goats, later it was adapted as Giethoorn. The peat. Peat mining was very important in this area, as they dug it developed holes, which became canals and the canals were then used to transport the peat.
Giethoorn Netherlands remained a little secret for years, actually century’s, until a movie called Fanfare was produced in 1958 by a famous filmmaker by the name of Bert Haanstra. As a result, here come the tourist by the numbers!
Number Two: Getting to Giethoorn
There are a few ways you can arrive at Giethoorn; train/bus or by car/tour bus. Taking a train from Amsterdam Central Station to Amersfoort, here you change trains and take a train to Steenwijk. Once you reach Steenwijk take the bus 70 to Dominee Hylkemaweg from there you rent a boat. This trip will take approximately 2.5 hrs and cost 32.00-58.00 USD . Or you can take a tour bus right from Amsterdam or drive yourself. Driving yourself will take approximately 1.5 hrs. There is a parking lot for cars and buses, however it fills up quickly.
Our experience: We took a bus tour form our hotel that was very nice. We were able to ride in comfort while receiving more information from our guide on the Netherlands. It was relaxing and worry free. Upon arriving we found it was very crowded. Being a holiday weekend I believe it was more crowded then maybe it usually is, however our tour guide indicated this was a typical crowd at this time of year.
Number Three: Boat Rental
The best way to get a feel for Giethoorn is by boat. No worries there is no shortage of Giethoorn boat rentals. In fact, there is an over abundance of boats that you can rent. There are few choices on which kind of boat you can rent; there is the electric “whisper boats” also known as Fluisterboot and Slopen (longer) boats you can take out yourself. They are very nice because they are quite to help with the noise. If you want to be more adventurous rent a Punter boat, an old fashioned no motor wood boat. As they say Venice has their gondolas and Giethoorn has its Punter boats. There are canoes available too.
There are also larger covered tour boats that hold around 25 people and equipped with a guide. The tour boats take approximately an hour, as they go out to Bovenwijde, a shallow lake, and then returns.
Our choice: Part of our tour included a covered boat tour in Giethoorn, so we chose to take advantage of what was already part of the tour. We did have to wait a few minutes to be able to hop on our boat, but being a really sunny day I did end up appreciating the covered top. I did find it cute that we actually were offered coffee and tea on the boat.
Number Four: Exploring With A Boat
The boat tour takes you completely around the area, moving at a speed you can really see everything. If you have your own boat you will be able to go down a few more canals that the larger tour boats do not. Just make sure you understand how to maneuver the boat you rent, you will be surprised on how many do not. There is farm land, some wild life and even a trailer community (total surprise) you see while touring the Giethoorn Netherlands
Our experience: Loved the speed of the boat, no rush. Our tour guide and driver of the boat gave us information about Giethoorn I would otherwise not of known. However, be prepared for traffic. Lots of it. We were stuck pretty much in one spot for about 10 minutes. We also experienced people’s boats colliding into each other, into the sides of the walls, or even just turning in circles because the driver did not know how to paddle correctly. Unfortunately, we also witnessed people taking advantage of going down areas that were restricted.
Number Five: Walking Giethoorn Netherlands
There is so much emphasis and media on the boats, many do not realize you can also walk some of the Giethoorn. There are sidewalks leading through the area, many parts are shaded. You can choose to walk or eve bicycle through the walks. There are shops to explore and purchase cute items from baby bibs, to local art, to…well just about any touristy item you can imagine. The restaurants are of plenty. You can enjoy fish, pizza, ice-cream and more throughout most of the area. There is also a museum to visit with the history of Giethoorn.
Our experience: For the most part we loved the walking of the paths. At times they were crowded but still manageable. We throughly enjoyed a lovely lunch at a restaurant with outdoor seating with views of a perfect garden.
I have to be honest, what I did not like was the total disregard for the people who live there. There were tourist who were not following the rules and respect of residents; going on their private bridges, into their private canals, I even saw someone enter a residents yard.
Number Six: Have The Upmost Respect For The Giethoorn Residents
Follow the signs, respect the residents privacy. There are signs clearly stating Private do not enter, chains and/or gates on bridges that you should not pass. Follow them, its that simple. I also found it nice to keep the noise down. Why not? Screaming is not necessary, besides then you can’t hear the beautiful birds to go along with the views.
Our experience: As we walked and boated through Giethoorn I felt at times like an intruder. I took notice of the hard work that went into each persons home whether it be in the upkeep of their home or in their gardens. I saw residents not happy at all with tourist invading their privacy. One moment which sticks in my mind is seeing a man who reminded me of my Grandfather trying to enjoy time what looked to be with his grandchildren. Only to have tourist in boats enter his only private part of land, he was upset, with good reason.
A Special Moment
I clearly remember an elderly women attending her garden. The colors were beautiful, everything she touched bloomed. Her garden could be win an award and as beautiful as some of the most famous gardens. The garden was so precise and thought-out. I silently stood and observed from the sidewalk as she took so much care with each flower and plant. Standing there just hoping to catch her eye. As she finally glanced my way and made eye contact , I simply whispered her garden was so beautiful and gestured my appreciation. She gave me a sweet smile, making me feel a little less of an intruder in this magical Giethoorn.