The natural world exists in Benelux, and not only in the great landscape paintings by 17th-century Dutch Old Masters. This tour takes you to some of the region's prettiest nature reserves, national parks, and scenic places.
Day 1: Arrive in Amsterdam
In your rented car from Schiphol Airport, swing nimbly past the city's Red Light District haunts and dope dens, on the ring road expressway. Head north to Den Helder, at the tip of the Noord-Holland peninsula. From the harbor, cross over on the ferry (with or without your car) to Texel, the largest of Holland's string of Wadden Islands. Departing from the EcoMare visitor center, tour groups visit nature reserves which together cover a third of the island, and observe the many different species of birds that pass this way.
Day 2: Drive to Apeldoorn
Spend the morning on Texel before crossing over on the ferry back to Den Helder. Drive to "Royal Apeldoorn," a good home base for visiting the Hoge Veluwe National Park tomorrow.
Day 3: Hoge Veluwe National Park
Enjoy a full day at the national park, which has a landscape consisting of heathland, sand drifts, and forest. The park's animal inhabitants include deer, wild boar, and mouflon. Get around by borrowing a free national park bicycle.
Day 4: Drive to Dordrecht
Dordrecht, a town close to Rotterdam, is the northern access point to the Biesbosch National Park, a freshwater tidal zone of wetlands, marshes, and partly drowned islands in the Maas and Waal river estuary. Visit the northern sector today, from the Biesboschcentrum Dordrecht.
Day 5: The Southern Biesbosch
On day 5, drive to the southern access point for the Biesbosch National Park at Drimmelen, and tour the southern sector from the Biesbosch Bezoekerscentrum Staatsbosbeheer, in Drimmelen.
Day 6: Drive to Eupen
A small town that's the "capital" of Belgium's German-speaking East Cantons district, Eupen is a convenient base for getting out to the nearby Hautes Fagnes Nature Reserve (in German, the Hohes Venn).
Day 7: The Hautes Fagnes
Walk along the boardwalks and forest trails that snake through the Hautes Fagnes. Stop by the Botrange Visitor Center, and other access points at Mont Rigi and Baraque Michel. If there's time, check out another piece of the park on the Eupen-Monschau (Germany) road, Haus Ternell.
Day 8: Drive to De Panne
At the opposite end of Belgium, right next to the French border, this North Sea coast resort is home to the Westhoekreservaat (Westhoek Reserve) dunes landscape. Tour the reserve.
Day 9: Het Zwin Nature Reserve
Today, drive to the northern end of the Belgian coast and visit Het Zwin, a small but important breeding and feeding ground for seabirds and wetlands birds.
Day 10: Back to Amsterdam
Head north into Holland's Zeeland province, and cross over the Western Schelde estuary by the road tunnel. Continue to Rotterdam and the expressway north to Schiphol Airport.