TRAVEL

In Bloom

Holland’s world-renowned Keukenhof Tulip Festival is a stunning showcase for the country’s iconic tulips, crocuses, daffodils, and other bulb flowers

Blessed with a long spring season of beautiful cool nights, Holland is the perfect country for tulip growing. It is during this season that the world is welcomed to its infamous Keukenhof Tulip Festival, a platform for the Dutch floricultural sector and one of the most eagerly anticipated events of the year. From mid-March to mid-May, a substantial part of the country, in particular the Kop van Noord- Holland, is decked with millions of tulips, hyacinths, muscaris, and other flowers, transforming the landscape into a sea of vibrant colours where flower markets and gardens abound.

Over the past 69 years, this floral event has grown into a truly international attraction that draws more than 1.5million visitors a year. A trip to the most beautiful spring garden in the world is guaranteed to delight the senses and offer a unique and an unforgettable experience.

Originally cultivated in the Ottoman Empire, tulips were first imported into Holland in the 16th century from Turkey. As the Dutch Golden Age grew, this curvaceous and colourful flower became dominant in paintings and festivals. As the demand for bulbs grew so did their price and they soon became a valuable commodity. When early Dutch settlers immigrated, they took their prized flowers with them, which is why tulips and tulip festivals are now found in New York (originally New Amsterdam) and Michigan, USA.

The most iconic setting in the world to take in the splendour of Dutch tulips and other flowers is Castle Keukenhof, a notable country house near Lisse that dates back to 1641. This luxurious estate is home to the famed Keukenhof Gardens, which cover an area of 32 hectares (79 acres). Every year, 7 million tulips of 800 varieties are handpicked and grown here. Visitors can also enjoy more than 20 spectacular flower shows, as well as English and Japanese gardens, a spring meadow, and a garden maze. A sculpture garden with approximately 100 unique works of art, which are different each year, is another must-see.

Keukenhof has a different theme each year and 2018’s was ‘Romance in Flowers’. After all, the two are inseparable. The Keukenhof Gardens are a labour of love and 30 full-time gardeners work year-round, beginning as early as autumn, planting the bulbs by hand in a completely new design. The process takes about 3 months and bulbs are selected to bloom throughout the 8-week opening period.

Holland’s tulip season runs from the end of March until mid May, but the flowers are usually at their best halfway through April, which is the perfect time to visit. During this time of the year, you really only have to board a train or take a short bike ride to watch the tulips in all their glory in rural fields. Most tulip farms in Holland are located in the Noordoostpolder in the province of Flevoland. The flower bulb fields along the coast of The Hague and Leiden up to Alkmaar in the north are also a great way to enjoy these beautiful flowers. The Keukenhof is just a 15-minute drive away from Leiden and 30 minutes from Amsterdam.

Tulips are grown for their bulbs not for their flowers, which is why tulip farmers remove the flowers from the tulipsas to increase the strength of the bulb. The bulbs are excavated just before summer arrives and then shipped all over the world as a famous export. Many bulbs are replanted during autumn so we can enjoy the colourful flower fields in the following spring. If you want to see Holland’s magnificent flower fields, be sure to visit during the last two weeks of April, which is the best time to see them.

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