Hey you! Are you, like me, feeling the wanderlust growing as days pass by? Have you, too, reached that uncomfortable point, where you really need to get out and about for some kind of adventure, even if just for an afternoon, but don’t quite fancy catching a nasty virus? Read this, I found the solution!
So, a short while back, I was having a hard time resisting to the many temptations of summer. The lockdown was pretty much over, life was slowly getting back to its pre-pandemic state, and the sun was (still is!) shining bright outside. All the perfect conditions were there to have a barbecue or a boat party with the pals. And if it was up to me alone, barbecues and boat parties would be a weekly occurrence, for sure.
Unfortunately, coronavirus is still around. A boat rave might not be the wisest activity to undertake right now. And I deeply hate being unwise.
Cycling: Healthy exercise, beautiful scenery, social distancing
My problem is, I also hate being inside. I don’t mind not seeing people, but not seeing things and nature beyond my boring four walls drives me insane. Since this whole crisis started, I have therefore been constantly searching for new territories to explore and new ways to be out, while not putting myself and others at risk, of course. By the way, if you want tips on how to be an expert social distancing tourist, I am your girl!
I have walked every single street of Haarlem. I have been to every forest, I have ran on every dune, I have cycled every route in Haarlem and around the city. I cycled to Leiden and back, to Amsterdam and back, etc. Over time, I developed a detailed mind map of the region, and I even have a favourite route now! I feel so Dutch.
My favourite route: Rondje Haarlem
Rondje Haarlem is a stunning and varied cycling route, going from village to village all around Haarlem. It is an initiative of the Haarlems Dagblad (local newspaper) and the Stichting Landschap Noord-Holland (Foundation for the Landscape of North-Holland). Designed in an effort to bring tourists and speed cyclists out of the city centre, it links together all the most beautiful places around Haarlem. Rondje Haarlem literally means ‘little loop around Haarlem’ – cute name, although it’s far from being a ‘little’ loop, as it is approximately 48 km long (minimum, it can be longer if you miss a turn).
From Haarlem city centre, cycle to Overveen station to begin the loop. Look for one of these green and yellow signs. They will lead you all along the way so you do not need to look at your phone every minute for directions.
If you cycle it counterclockwise, the route first takes you south, into the very green residential areas of Overveen and Aerdenhout. On a sunny day, the bright light that shines through the luscious trees and onto the century old mansions that dominate the streets is so magical you will feel like you are on holiday already. You’ll cycle across the Leidsevaart (‘Leiden canal’) to Bennebroek, then will turn back north and pass the forest of Groenendaal, before arriving into the elegant and quiet village of Heemstede.
From Heemstede, you will reach the Ringvaart in Cruquius. The Ringvaart is the canal that was dug around the Haarlemmermeer polder when it was drained; following the Ringvaart is also a nice bike outing, but it is over a 60 km distance, so be prepared for a sharp butt ache!
You’ll go along the Ringvaart for a bit and get to Vijfhuizen, south of Schalkwijk. You’ll then cycle through the vast Spaarnwoude forests and fields, see windmills, water, bunkers, fishermen, birds and much more. You may even spot some naked Dutch middle-aged man tanning on his boat, that’s common around these parts, how so very authentic! Finally, you’ll be in the ultra-charming Spaarndam village.
From there, you can make a choice: cycle along the Spaarne river and come back to the centre of Haarlem or, if you still feel your legs, continue the Rondje Haarlem route to Santpoort and Bloemendaal, and close the loop.
There are many cafes, restaurants and lovely ice scream spots along the Rondje Haarlem. With breaks, you can complete the loop in 5–6 hours easily. Some sections of it are busier than others, but overall you’ll be able to keep clear of other humans’ germs. This makes for a fantastic weekend plan in these weird times, doesn’t it?
What about you, what’s your favourite cycling route?
Thank you for reading!
Rondje Haarlem links together all the most beautiful places around the city
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