In the very north of the Netherlands lies the watery Friesland. Partly located on the IJsselmeer and surrounded by Wadden Islands, this is a nice province for a road trip. We drive past the famous Elf Cities that are part of the Elfstedentocht and visit towns that are often smaller than most villages. This interspersed with beautiful nature is a formula for a successful road trip.


We explore the coast of the IJsselmeer and after a visit to the capital Leeuwarden, we dive into nature. First, we discover the Wadden Island of Ameland and then we head for the Lauwersmeer nature reserve and the Alde Feanen nature reserve. There, we enjoy long walks through the Frisian wetlands. Water sports are on the agenda for the last part of our route at the Sneekermeer. We finish off in picturesque IJlst, one of the Eleven Cities.


Total distance of the route: 284 km

Lemmer & Stoken

We start our road trip in Lemmer, on the shores of the IJsselmeer. Lemmer immediately sets the tone for the road trip through Friesland with its characteristic houses and boats. On the beach you can enjoy long walks, lots of water sports and beautiful views of the IJsselmeer. In Lemmer, take the 'Battle of the Dock' walk, which takes you through the streets surrounding the town's waterfront. A must see is Woudagemaal. The oldest working steam pumping station in the world is a Unesco World Heritage Site and still regulates the water level in the area.


We can also recommend a stopover in Sloten. Sloten is, like many towns in Friesland, a small town, but that does not make it any less lovely. The old walls, ramparts and canals give Sloten a cosy atmosphere. Many people call Sloten not only the smallest, but also the most beautiful town in Friesland.


We keep following the coast of the IJsselmeer until we reach the city of Stavoren. This town is enclosed by water on three sides and therefore has a strong connection with the sea. The sea has made Stavoren a rich Hanseatic city, but it has also caused destruction on numerous occasions. Floods, sea trade wars and the silted up harbour mark the town's history. But despite the misfortune and poverty, Stavoren was able to rise again and again thanks to seafaring and fishing. The enormous Fish Fountain tells the story of Stavoren. The fountain is part of the 11Fountains Project that placed a fountain in all the Elf Cities. The Little Woman of Stavoren is, without doubt, the best-known inhabitant of the city. The story goes back to the 15th century, the beginning of the decline of Stavoren. The rich merchant's widow was not satisfied despite her wealth and asked her best skipper to sail out and bring her the most precious possession that could be found. The skipper returned with a boat full of grain, but this precious food was not precious enough for the woman. She threw the grain into the water, despite the warnings of an old man. Since then, the woman suffered nothing but disaster. The statue of the woman still looks out over the water.

Hindeloopen - Bolsward

Not far from Stavoren is Hindeloopen, which we drive to via a landscape of forests, coast and Frisian lakes. Hindeloopen is another small town in Friesland, full of monuments and old traditions. Those who thought to master the Frisian language will probably be disappointed in Hindeloopen. The Frisian spoken there is a strongly deviant and conservative dialect with many medieval vowels and Old Frisian words. Always wanted to see the skates of King Willem-Alexander? Then pay a visit to the Eerste Friese Schaatsmuseum. The museum has a large collection of skates, sledges and a special Elfstedenhalle and tells the complete history of the Elfstedentocht. Not much further north is Workum with its cosy old facades. We can certainly recommend exploring the beautiful surroundings and nature reserves on horseback or by bike. You should also try a Krûdeftich swiet-brea, a sweet herb cake made from, among others, rye bread and hazelnuts. Bolsward is also worth a visit. A hidden gem is the Boerekerk, a former monastery that was destroyed by fire several times, until architect Jelle de Jong breathed new life into the church by sealing the destroyed open roof with glass. Without a doubt a photogenic and wonderful place.

Harlingen - Franeker

The port city of Harlingen is the well-known embarkation point for the ferry to Vlieland or Terschelling. It is therefore the ideal place to extend the route with the roadtrip Wadden Islands. In the centre of Harlingen, beautiful boats float, including a replica of the Nova Zembla of the Dutch sailor Willem Barentsz. The Frisian city of Harlingen entertains you further with its cosy streets, canals and monuments. It is a typical fishing town of North Holland. After Harlingen, we head deeper inland to Franeker. In the quiet town of Franeker, you will find the oldest working planetarium in the world. The solar system in the Royal Eise Eisinga Planetarium shows the current position of the planets and was built to scale in 1773. An interesting attraction for young and old. On the Bolwerken, the city's old defences, you can still find four old tea houses from the 18th century. At that time, tea was a new exclusive drink around which a whole ceremony was made.


We reach the capital of Friesland: Leeuwarden. Wandering through Leeuwarden is an absolute must. Follow the romantic canals, marvel at unique exhibitions and discover the historical past of the city. The free-standing Oldehove church tower is without a doubt the city's icon. The tower is 40 metres high and offers a magnificent view of Leeuwarden. In the historical centre, you will discover the rich past of the city. Be sure to walk past the two palaces: the Stadhouderlijk Hof and the Princessehof. In the Nieuwestad with the city canal, you will discover numerous cosy shopping streets. It is even said that the Kleine Kerkstraat is the best shopping street of the Netherlands! A trip along the canals takes you to the start and finish of the Elfstedentocht. If you are a fan of skating, you can enjoy yourself in the Elfstedenhal. Are you in Leeuwarden for a longer period of time? Then pay a visit to the Fries Museum, the Nature Museum Fryslân or discover the wonderful world of water in AquaZoo.


In Dokkum, in the year 754, Bonifatius was murdered in an attempt to convert the then Frisia to Christianity. This not-so-beautiful beginning of Dokkum's history has left the city with an indelible place in history. Located between the Kleistreek and the Frisian Woods, Dokkum is one of the Eleven Cities. Fans of the Elfstedentocht cannot miss Dokkum. It is a turning point in the tour and the place after 'The Hell of the North', because whoever reaches Dokkum also reaches the finish in Leeuwarden. The bulwarks, the Admiralty, the canals, the Bonifatiuskapel and the IJsfontein are all attractions that will fill your day. Or just stroll along the many shops in the centre or sit along the canals and watch the boats sail by, there is more than enough to do in Dokkum. In this last Elf City, you are sure to find a souvenir to immortalise your road trip. You can also taste the traditional Dutch herbal bitters in the original Beerenburg factory.


We drive further to Holwerd where we take the boat to the Wadden Island of Ameland. You can reach Ameland by car, but many prefer to explore it by bike. If you have less time, you can skip this stop and drive from Dokkum to the Lauwersmeer. Ameland offers a variety of natural beauty. With its unspoilt greenery, 27 km of beach, sand dunes, heathland and sea, your senses are continuously stimulated. In other words, you experience island life to the full. Not averse to a dose of mud? Take a guided walk on the Wadden Sea and admire the shells, crabs and the many birds. With a guide, you can also spot seals on Ameland's sandbanks. The lighthouse in Hollum is also a must see. After a steep climb, you will have a beautiful view of the island from the lighthouse. You can walk in the Het Oerd nature reserve, a collection of high dunes and rough vegetation in the east of Ameland. A walking route runs straight through the nature reserve, which will delight every nature lover and birdwatcher. Please note that the route is not accessible at high tide. Want to do something completely different? Play a round of golf.

Lauwersmeer - Alde Feanen

A fifteen-minute drive from Dokkum is National Park Lauwersmeer, where the Lauwerszee used to be. For fear of flooding, a dam was built in 1969, resulting in a beautiful nature area of meadows, open water and reed beds. You will find a spacious car park near Esonstad, a nice fortified town to walk through. You can explore the Lauwersmeer on foot, by bike or by boat. A round trip has the advantage that you can see the whole area in a short time. We drive from one nature area to another, namely the Alde Feanen. The area was created by old peat excavations. Alde Feanen does not mean 'Old Fens' for nothing. At the visitor's centre, there are numerous activities for children and numerous footpaths start. You can SUP-pen, rent a boat or visit the Skutsjemuseum. The Alde Feanen cover a large part of Friesland, so you can spend some time here.

Grou - IJlst

For our last stage, we drive along the western side of the Alde Feanen. This watery area is a pleasure to drive through. On the way, we stop in Grou, the water sports village of Friesland. It can be remarkably busy here, especially in contrast to the nature areas. Grou is a popular holiday destination and is called the 'gateway to the Alde Feanen'. The surroundings there are amazing! The village itself has a surprising number of national monuments of which no less than 26 are located in the centre. Terherne and the Sneekermeer are also nice places to stop. The Sneekermeer is the ideal place for water sports, but you can also just relax at a beach. Sneek is the water sports city. You can sail around on the canals or take a stroll through the old streets. The Fries Scheepvaart Museum is also fun. Finally, we stop in IJlst. Another small town known for water sports. It is also one of the 'Elf Steden', and flourished in trade and shipbuilding thanks to its strategic location on the water. In the Fierljep Clinic, you dive into authentic Frisian culture. You can even try your hand at pole vaulting. Fierljeppen is a very popular sport in Friesland. Who dares?

Do you have some extra time to spare? Then you can perfectly combine this roadtrip with our roadtrip Dutch Wadden Islands.