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Travel Guide: Outdoor activities in Holland

31st Oct 2015 2:22pm | By Paul Wojnicki

Think of Holland and you’ll probably think of bars and coffee shops, canals and windmills, maybe even clogs and flat landscapes. You’ve probably never considered it as a destination for an outdoors holiday, but with all that water it’s hardly surprising that there are a number of exciting water based activities- including one you’re probably never going to see anywhere else in the whole world. What’s a little more surprising- for a country renowned for its flatness- are the unique opportunities for outdoor climbing and abseiling as well. Here’s my guide to some of the more exciting outdoor pursuits around the country.

Get high
A country as flat as the Netherlands might not be the first place you’d think about going on a climbing holiday, but the lack of mountains means that the Dutch have erected some of the most spectacular man-made climbing walls in the world. The most frightening of these is Excalibur in the northern town of Groningen. The 37 metre high climbing wall is an amazing piece of architecture and the second highest climbing wall in the world. Thrusting from the ground in a vague s shape the narrow tower has terrifying overhangs on one side and a gentler- and marginally less nerve racking- slope on the upper side. It really has to be seen to be believed, and is not for beginners. Though there are smaller walls for novices at the centre too. The Bjoeks climbing centre is around a 2 hour 20 train ride from Amsterdam.
Only marginally shorter, and slightly easier to reach, is Monte Cervino near Rotterdam. Monte Cervino is the Italian name for the Matterhorn and once you see the wall you’ll understand why; the massive structure- built in the shape of a mountain- is 34.6 metres high and has a surface area of 1250 square metres. There’s even a 30 metre high indoor wall inside the “mountain” in case the weather is not to your liking.
Of course you’ll need to have some basic climbing skills to scale the highest sections of the walls, but there are smaller sections at both climbing centres, and both provide lessons with English speaking instructors.
Finally, if you want to get really high in Holland- with a comedown straight from nightmare’s bowels- then head to Rotterdam’s Euromast, where you can either abseil or zip-wire from the 100 metre high tower without any prior experience whatsoever. Four times a year the mast also hosts a stair run, from the bottom of the mast to the top. That might help you burn off some of the nervous energy before abseiling down again.

Get sloshed
With canals and lakes making up around a fifth of the entire country it’s not surprising that there are plenty of ways to enjoy the water in Holland. One of the most interesting ways to get on the water- while taking in one of the world’s  most beautiful cities- is Stand up Paddle Boarding, or SUP in Amsterdam. Now one of the world’s fastest growing sports SUP is an excellent way to work out your entire core and an SUP tour of the city is the perfect way to burn off the excess calories from last night’s over indulgences. http://www.mm-sup.com/en/ run classes and tours of the city from mid April until late September.
If you prefer your watersports a little more high octane then you’ll be hard pressed to find anything as invigorating as Flyboarding on Amsterdam’s Nieuwe Meer. This exciting new sport basically consists of you strapping on a pair of high powered aquatic jet boots and trying to stay upright above the water. Advanced practitioners seem to find it fun to pretend they’re a dolphin and propelling themselves head first into the water before blasting out again at high speed. www.flyboardworld.nl/en/ run 20 minute sessions for 55 Euros.

And now for something completely different
Let’s face it, you’re here to do something you can’t do back home right? So how about trying your hand at Fierljeppen? What the hell is that? I hear you cry, and there’s no easy way to explain this unique Dutch sport. Think pole vaulting over a canal, while desperately trying to scale the pole- Ninja warrior style- in order to reach the far embankment without getting drenched. The activity was pioneered hundreds of years ago as a way of getting across the country’s network of canals without a long walk to the nearest bridge. It’s now a national sport and competitions run throughout the warmer months. http://www.pbholland.com have a number of centres throughout Holland where tournaments take place. Demonstrations can be arranged and anyone wanting to try is welcome to give it a shot.

Getting there
Stena Line ferries run a twice daily Rail and Sail service that includes rail travel and a ferry crossing from London to any rail station in Holland. Prices start at just £49 each way.

Picture credit: Thinkstock


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