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Landscape and Nature

Holland possesses a particularly individual natural landscape. Windmills (used for pumping water from agricultural land) and fields of tulips and other colourful flowers stretching to the horizon are well-known expressions of the character of Holland's countryside.

Windmills and polders

Every visitor to Holland should get a glimpse of a windmill. They are an integral feature of the Dutch landscape, historically used to pump water out of the polders - the name for the large areas of flat farmland that have been reclaimed from the sea. At Kinderdijk, 16 km (10 miles) east of Rotterdam, there are 19 windmills, some dating back to the 16th century; one is still regularly in operation and open to visitors. Every second weekend in September, they are illuminated at night, a spectacular and haunting sight. Zaanse Schans, in the province of North Holland, has a collection of industrial windmills (see Top Ten Things to Do in Holland).

West Frisian Islands

A string of low, sandy islands crowns the north-western coast of Holland, hemming in the Ijsselmeer, which drives a wedge between the province of North Holland and the province of Friesland. The slice of sea separating the islands from the coast is known as the Waddenzee, and the West Frisian Islands are known in Dutch as the Waddeneilanden. Accessed by ferry, they are famously pretty and unspoilt, with long beaches, dunes, salt marshes, nature reserves, lighthouses, fishing villages and the vestiges of medieval religious settlements. Vast numbers of birds use the wetlands and coasts as breeding grounds and stopover-points on migratory routes, making the islands hugely rewarding for birdwatchers. The largest island is Texel (pronounced 'Tessel'), which has seven villages, and two notable nature reserves (De Slufter and De Muy). The marine biology museum called EcoMare has a seal sanctuary, bird sanctuary and large aquariums. Schiermonnikoog, in the eastern reaches of the chain, is one of the smallest of the inhabited islands, and has just one village; the whole island is a national park. Only the residents are allowed to have cars; visitors can hire bicycles to roam the beaches and woods.

The Delta Plan

The vast and ambitious sea defences designed to secure the flat man-made landscape of south-western Holland from inundation. See Top Ten Things to Do in Holland.

De Hoge Veluwe National Park

Holland's largest National Park, a wild landscape of woodland, marshland, heath and ancient dunes, populated by deer, moufflon sheep and numerous bird species, and incorporating the excellent Kröller-Müller art gallery. See Top Ten Things to Do in Holland.

Bulb fields and the Keukenhof Gardens

The classic Dutch scene, unimaginable until witnessed. See Only in Holland.