Keukenhof Gardens leads the flower parade in Holland

Multi-hued tulips in Holland's Keukenhof Gardens

Everywhere we walked, impressive masses of pink, purple, red, orange, white, and multi-colored tulips swayed in the spring breeze. That’s the highlight of Keukenhof Gardens in Holland, one of the world’s top spring time destinations. Every pathway provided another view of paradise and a spectacular photo opportunity. With petals large and small, smooth and ruffled—the variety of tulips was simply astounding.

If you haven’t seen Keukenhof Gardens, you haven’t seen the Netherlands. Gorgeous tulips in an unimaginable array of colors, yellow and white daffodils, purple hyacinths and other spring bulbs stand out among massive pink azaleas and multiple ponds, some with fountain spouts dancing skyward.

Red and white tulips look like peppermint candies

Located an easy bus ride from Amsterdam in Lisse, Keukenhof is the largest bulb garden in the world. The annual tulip festival runs from March 22 to May 20 this year, with the best time to see everything in full bloom in late April. Of course, this is also prime tourist time, so expect the park to be extremely busy the last two weekends of April.

Although our visit occurred during the first week of May, near the end of tulip season, it seemed like none of the seven million hand-planted bulbs was missing.  Large planters overflowing with long stemmed tulips lining the entrance gate gave us the first glimpse of what would follow—a display even better than imagined. New this year–exhibitions at Keukenhof Castle, most notably previously unseen sculptures of Karel Appel.

Unusual ruffled variety of tulips at Keukenhof

You can get a guide book or tour the park using a rented headset with recorded information on each of the gardens. We decided to wing it and wander leisurely through the delicious scenes, which worked well because we stopped so often to photograph the flowers. Large landscaped beds and perfect individual specimens provided ample subjects for my camera.

Plan at least three hours to five hours to make your way around as much of the 10.5 miles of footpaths as possible. You can bring a picnic lunch (hubby and I noshed on cheese, bread, and fruit that we brought) or purchase food from restaurants and snack vendors.

Water features add to the beauty of Keukenhof Gardens


In addition to over 100 varieties of tulips, the park features 2,500 trees of 87 varieties and the largest sculpture garden in The Netherlands. Plantings throughout the park include the mosaic gardens, Japanese garden and inspiration garden as well as daffodil and hyacinth bulbs in planters. For another visual treat, stop and watch swans swimming in the lake.

Also featured are juried flower shows of orchids, anthuriums, and the world’s largest Lilly Show in May. You can bike from Amsterdam or The Hague, take a bus, or drive. Along the way, you’ll pass many farmers’ fields filled with tulips—a lovely preview of the marvelous floral displays awaiting visitors to Keukenhof Gardens. Admission for adults: $19.50

More flowers in Holland

A quick way to appreciate Holland’s prolific cache of floral fantasies is at the Bloemanmarkt, Amsterdam’s famous floating flower market. Barges bursting with blooming beauties line Singel canal making it one of the most colorful spots in the city. Shopping there is really fun and a treat for your senses.

Experience nature through dance, music, and culture at Floriade, a spectacular World Horticulture Expo that takes place once every 10 years—and 2012 is the year! Held in different cities each decade—this year in Venlo, Holland—the expo showcases flowers and more from April 5 to October 7. Exhibits from many countries will be on display in this unique floral celebration, which has scheduled activities for all ages.

Beautiful scenes abound at The Netherlands' famous Gardens

Photos by Beverly Burmeier

Read more travel stories at Going on Adventures and Austin Adventure Travel




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