As we are always on the hunt for new adventures and experiences, in the vast majority of cases, this involves deviating from the route. Take a deep breath and let go of the map. In our new series of blogs we want to remind you of those cities that allow us to get away from the hustle and bustle. Discover actual genuine experiences that you only get when you are on the road less travelled.
In this entry, we will steer clear from those big name cities. And, actually, we will stay away from cities altogether because we are going to talk about Texel. Unless you are Dutch or a German person looking for a beautiful beach to spend your summer on, chances are you haven’t heard of the largest of the Dutch Wadden Sea Islands. Even some of our Dutch co-workers over at vlucht-vertraagd.nl have never visited the isle! Talk about an underrated place! You probably think we might be going a little bit crazy if we are discussing heading to a beach, as charming as it may be, right before the winter begins. But hey, isn’t there some sort of serendipity in choosing the plan that doesn’t make perfect sense on paper? And, most importantly, you’ll get all the breath-taking scenery, the local ambience, the dunes and the seals all for yourself during this time of year.
Ok, first of all, Texel is located in the northern part of The Netherlands, you’ll probably have to catch a train to Den Helder to get there. Don’t forget to peer out to the notoriously flat landscape during the train ride because that is precisely what you’re NOT going to get in Texel (in all honesty though, they also have it, because The Netherlands truly is as flat as a pancake).
After stepping out of the train station, you will have to take a free bus to the Teso ferry: a huge modern boat that will take you (€4.00 for a return ticket) and a hand-full of Dutchies with their cars, back to the place they gladly call their home. Once you’ve arrived, you will probably have to move around using the public buses or one of the private shuttle services available on the island (Texel Hopper for example). Make sure to book them online and in advance because most of them won’t take cash or sell you tickets on location. You can find some cute little bed & breakfasts in both De Koog and Den Burg; two small villages that are worth your afternoon. Take the time to meander and enjoy the gezellig atmosphere emitted from the cosy cafés (such as De Steenenplaats - the Dutch people rave about it). If you’d like to spend your nights closer to nature, you can find a plethora of cottages available on Airbnb.
Some of the cottages will come with bikes included, and this is very important since the size of the island can be very deceiving. Quaint farms are strewn about the vast grasslands, making walking more like trekking. Therefore, when in Rome, do as the islanders do and cycle.
Finding a place to rent them out won’t be a problem, and if you get one, you can avoid having to use the private shuttle services every time you want to get around. Besides these reasons: it’s cheaper, better for the environment, a good work out, etc., (they are all valid by the way) we mustn’t forget that cycling, even in cold weather, is fun and gratifying. Especially when the roads you’ll be taking look like this:
When you’ve cycled everywhere during the day you will feel like you’ve earned that Texel Brewery Beer and that second slice of Appeltaart, with the double serving of whipped cream. Once you’ve had your first impressions of the small villages, the boats and some of the cafés, it’s time to head out and experience the reasons why Texel is famous among northern Europeans: it’s natural environment. Get on your bike and head north. When you reach the end of the isle you will be at the spot with the view that by now you’ve probably already seen in a poster or postcard somewhere in town: the Vuurtoren Eierland.
The lighthouse sits at the northernmost part of Texel and in front of it lays the North Sea, that vast body of water that also separates the UK, Benelux, Germany and Scandinavia from each other. The old kerosene lamp was ignited for the first time on the first of November 1864. So this old beacon has been helping sailors navigate the North Sea for more than a 150 years! It is also said that the light shone as a symbol of hope for the Georgian soldiers who, with help from the Dutch resistance, rebelled against the German army that was stationed on Texel during the Second World War.
For a fee of four Euros, you can ascend the tower and relish in the view of the beach and the North Sea. This part of the island is considered to be the windiest, so make sure to button up your coat before you go out to the viewing deck in the sixth floor. Finally, back down on the beach you can take some time to appreciate the flow of sand, the movement of the plants in the dunes and, of course, the freshest sea wind that is blowing directly towards you.
When it is time to head back, you will leave the lighthouse in your wake and head back south. Almost the whole western part of the island consists of the protected area called National Park Duinen van Texel and you can cycle through it and its dunes. If you feel like stopping for a while and wandering a little bit to the east on the other side of the sandbanks, you will reach the coast again. Some of these areas can vary quite a lot in their landscape so we can assure you that it is impossible to get bored from the dynamic scenery. With some luck, the sun will peak through the clouds every now and then and you’ll remember that the sky is blue. This way you’ll literally get to see everything twice because of the two different types of light!
It’s through these dunes and these zones that you can engage in some serious Dutch hiking! Because, in comparison to the rest of the country, what you have in front of you might be considered mountainous. If you decide to stay until late wandering and discovering, please take into consideration that, even though you are never too far away from a road or street, the terrain can get difficult to walk through and it gets very dark during the night. Speaking about that, the lit lighthouse from afar is a rather stunning view when the sun is setting.
If you keep on going south you will eventually reach the wildlife sanctuary called Ecomare (contribution fee of €13). Here they care for injured animals that were stranded on the beaches of Texel for various reasons. They nurture them back to health and, when it’s possible, they reintroduce them to their natural habitats. It is at this location where you can see seals (pups too!), porpoises, birds and some fish at the aquarium. It is a perfect opportunity to learn more about the animals and see some of them up close since you would rarely get the chance to do it in their natural habitat. We can tell you first hand seal pups are one of the cutest things you’ll ever see in your life!
If you are planning on staying longer than a weekend, you can book and organize a whole different range of activities at and from Ecomare, including: guided tours through the dune park, stargazing during the evenings, guided walks through the mudflats, etc. You can also head out on your own again through the backyard of the sanctuary since it leads directly to the national park. There are various trails that will take you through all the different types of scenery around the reservation.
Outside of Ecomare you can find a road that leads directly to one of the beach pavilions located around the isle. This specific one is called Paal 17 and inside you can take a break from nature and enjoy some warm chocolate milk and maybe some local haring (it’s not advisable to try these at the same time however, trust us) if you’re up for it since it consists of raw herring served only with chopped onions and maybe some pickles. Inside the café you can warm up around their huge fireplace, but if you really need to jumpstart your body temperature, you can always order the local liquor called juttertje. A genuine Texel product and herbal beverage that will make the long cold and relaxing walks on the empty beaches ahead even more enjoyable!
If nothing else, we hope to have inspired you to consider some out of the ordinary destinations for when you want to scratch your wanderlust itch. We can assure you that our time in Texel was relaxing, fun, awe-inspiring and gratifying all at the same time, even though the weather conditions would suggest otherwise! If you’re heading over there, don’t forget to pack your coat and some waterproof shoes! If you want some more travel inspiration and you are still not convinced about journeying to Texel, keep an eye on our blogs as we’ll be rolling out new destinations every so often.