The more I see of the Netherlands, the more I am impressed by the variety waiting just outside of Amsterdam. I hope you’re ready to explore the beauty of the Netherlands away from the big city noise. Because today I’m bringing you along for my journey through one of Holland’s most well-known national parks.
Whether it’s spotting majestic deer or biking through the seemingly endless forest, De Hoge Veluwe offers it all. Mixing art with nature at the Kröller-Müller Museum and taking in the beauty of the heathlands make Nationaal Park De Hoge Veluwe the perfect getaway for nature lovers and culture seekers alike. I’ve been to the Park twice myself and I see myself returning again. I just have to morph from a transport-reliant pedestrian into an independently cocky driver. Let’s just say, I’m looking forward to that!
All You Need To Know About Nationaal Park De Hoge Veluwe
Nationaal Park De Hoge Veluwe is located in the Gelderland province. The journey from Amsterdam takes a little more than an hour. The vast park territories have three visitor entrances: Otterlo, Hoenderloo or Schaarsbergen.
Once in the park, you will see a big variety of landscapes and freely roaming animals. The park wildlife includes foxes, wild boars, deer, badgers, and mouflons. Psst, for those of you as clueless as me, those are awesome-looking wild sheep. As long as you’re paying attention, you will see plenty of wildlife.
As the park paths intertwine and snake through the territory, you will see the forest give way to sandy dunes, slipping into stunning heathlands that are, in my opinion, the highlight of the visit.
Aside from the vast nature reserves, you should definitely visit the Kroller-Muller Museum which features the second largest collection of Van Gogh in the world, after the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. The Museum is unmissable for the art connoisseurs thanks to the artwork of Piet Mondriaan, Pablo Picasso, Odilon Redon and Claude Monet. The museum grounds host a stunning sculpture park, filled with interactive artwork. In classic Dutch fashion the museum is only open until 17:00 so I would recommend planning your visit in advance.
Getting to De Hoge Veluwe National Park: Car vs Public Transport
The park is accessible both by public transport and by car. Taking the car into the park costs 6,60 EUR while parking outside of the entrance is 3,30 EUR. From the end of March to end of October the campsite is open for visitors but reservations aren’t possible.
Campsite prices: € 8 per person (adults/caravan) or € 7 per person (adults/tent). Park entry fee which is € 9,50 per person. Additional fees include 3 EUR per night for electricity and 0.50 EUR for a 4-minute shower. Both are optional so feel free to go wild 🙂
You can also reach the park by public transport as there are buses leaving from the train stations of Apeldoorn and Ede-Wageningen. If you’re going from Apeldoorn, take the 108 bus to Hoenderloo. Once you get there, change to bus 106 to Otterlo – this bus will take you to the middle of the Park near the Visitor Centre.
If you take the bus from Ede-Wageningen you’ll need to get on the 108 bus to Otterlo first and once there, change to the 106 to Hoenderloo which also goes through the Park and will bring you to the Visitor Centre.
During summertime the park is open from 08:00 till 21:00 but starting from September the opening hours start reducing from 09:00 to 20:00 so make sure to check with the official website to get a good idea of the possibilities.
It is easy to spend a lot of time exploring the nature and the museums, so if you don’t like feeling rushed, an overnight stay nearby is your best bet.
Can’t-Miss Activities in Nationaal Park De Hoge Veluwe
You will have plenty of time to relax and explore, maybe participate in some activities such as the guided tours, outdoor meditations or my favorite option which is ‘bronstexcursie’. This is a field excursion for deer watching during the September mating season. So if you can time your visit to autumn, bring a pair of binoculars and get ready to spy on the wildlife!
Pro tip: make sure to book a spot for any event in advance because those excursions get filled really quickly! If you can’t see the events on the English agenda, switch to Dutch and try again.
Should you miss the excursion, you can also DIY it as the staff will happily direct you to certain spots on the map where deer watching is possible or most likely. There are deer watching and bird watching stations throughout the park so you can practice your stealth skills once more.
De Hoge Veluwe also offers guided tours of the Museum Jachthuis Sint Hubertus which is a historical building merging the style of an English country house and the renowned architect Hendrikus Petrus Berlage. You can see the building from the outside but early registration is needed for the tours.
The park offers free use of bikes but you will travel on different paths than a car, so your experience in the park might differ a bit. Depending on your style and mood you might want to rent a car for a day and spend the other one exploring the Park by bike. Walking is futile, I should say, as the distances are big and time is always somehow short when you’re having fun.
Discovering the beauty of Nationaal Park De Hoge Veluwe
My main goal for my first Hoge Veluwe visit was to capture the beauty of the park and make some stunning pictures, which is why I headed out in the park’s direction with my Canon 6D and compact tripod in tow.
Since I didn’t yet get a local driver’s license I trusted in the power of Dutch public transportation to get me to my destination. All in all, the railway and bus system is always very reliable but in case of any changes, I use 9292.nl to plan my route. If you’re planning on traveling around The Netherlands, I would recommend getting a portable wi-fi travel router and a strong portable powerbank to make sure geolocation doesn’t drain your battery.
The road took roughly 2 hours including transfers which is quite a journey by European standards. In my home city of St. Petersburg, Russia I used to travel 1.5 hours one way to my university. That’s why every time I use the Dutch trains I just relax and enjoy the journey. If you were not tempered by a long-distance commute, you might want to do some mental exercises in preparation for a whopping 2-hour trip. Of course, you can cut that time almost in half if you go by car.
As the bus ride took a path surrounded by forest, I got anxious about missing my exit. I got so worried that instead of asking the driver I jumped out one stop earlier. I ended up walking along the road past some very beautiful sunflower fields so I wasn’t too disappointed.
Because of the size of Hoge Veluwe, walking isn’t realistic unless you are secretly Elizabeth Bennet. If that’s the case, the distance is nothing when one has a motive! I, of course, got a bike to move around with ease. The white bikes are free and you can pick them up at the entrances. You can park the bikes near all the utilities as well. Though the bikes don’t have a basket on the front, I found one with a kid seat in the back. I did my best to pack my backpack into it. The tripod was very awkward to balance so the next purchase on my list is definitely a good travel backpack with a tripod holder.
Armed with a map, I started my journey through the forests where I saw my first deer. The forest part of the park is very beautiful, with spacious paths and amazing views. I was there during the summer but I can just imagine how beautiful the trees are when they turn yellow during autumn.
After getting situated and grabbing a quick lunch at the local buffet (tomato soup addiction is a real thing), I embarked on my search for the gorgeous heathlands. I have to say, the heath-covered land is the most beautiful sight. There’s nothing quite like cycling through this purple paradise with the sun greeting you. But it was amazing how quickly the scenery shifts to uncover the impressive dunes!
You barely turn a corner and there you are, with the land stretching far in front of you. The open space conves a sense of freedom that just doesn’t associate with city life. The roads really are spectacular but because of the park’s size, you’ll end up exercising the whole day. Make sure to bring a bottle of water and a hat to spare yourself from the harsh sun hours.
How I Crashed The Local Wildlife Photographer Hangout In Search Of Deer
In anticipation of spotting deer during the mating season (“bronstijd”), I got the strongest lens in my modest photographer arsenal and headed to the recommended watching spot. I was told that the deer appear in the evening as they emerge onto the edge of the forest.
Once I arrived, I realized in a matter of seconds just how far out of my depth I was. A long row of cars with Dutch registration plates was parked on the side of the road. The cars faced the vast field that separated the edge of the forest from the road. As I biked past the cars to find a free spot I noticed people were setting up their gigantic lenses on tripods that were three times bigger than my modest HAMA. Looking at the equipment I thought of National Geographic and memes of photographers shooting leaping lions on macro lenses. It’s like I was out on safari!
It was so easy to feel insignificant and unprepared as I stumbled onto a ‘private party’. I was the naive tourist that showed up on a bike without a second thought. And only to discover that everyone around had much more serious intentions. The glances of the Dutch photographers felt heavy to me as I settled in between the cars and stubbornly put my tripod up.
I already brought my equipment and biked all the way there so I was committed. There was no way to know how long I would have to wait but that wouldn’t deter me. So I stubbornly parked my bike, settled on the grass, hugged my knees and waited.
Very soon dark clouds took over the sky and it started to rain. People opened up their trunks and sat underneath them, drinking coffee out of a thermos and making chit-chat. I didn’t have anywhere to run for cover so I stayed put. I must have looked sad enough because very soon the photographer next to me invited me to take cover underneath his car trunk door. As we sat, watching the tree line, I practiced my lamentable Dutch skills.
My new friend showed me his breathtaking photography as I nodded to the sound of unfamiliar words. As far as I understood, many photographers came here often. Some retired from their original jobs and were photographing for their portfolios, publications or pleasure. The kind of equipment they brought made it apparent that my 70-200 mm Canon lens would not reach far enough. Even so, when the deer emerged about 40 minutes after my arrival, I zoomed in and did my best.
As you can see, the distance was just too far for my lens to cope so keep it in mind. If you want to try your hand at wildlife photography, the next section is just for you.
Must-have equipment for deer-watching & wildlife photography
Wildlife photography requires a serious commitment which is why it’s out of the regular traveler budget. But if you wish to stretch your options and get the equipment you already have to bring you closer to your subject, look into getting extenders. Those teleconverter lenses allow you to increase your focal length by 1.4 times or even 2 times.
Which means my Canon 70-200mm lens could be transformed into a 140-400mm one and bring me way closer to that dreamy deer shot! Now, let’s not be kidding ourselves by imagining it would look like the photo below… but it would be something 🙂
Another thing that you will undoubtedly need is a seriously sturdy tripod. You can’t afford to use a lightweight tripod if you’re after serious wildlife shots. It’s going to blow over or fall, which happened in my case. The real investment is really in the accessories that will allow you to protect your camera from bad weather and minimize shakiness. Because that’s what brings you closer to a picture that you’ll proudly hang on your wall.
Exploring The Artwork of Kroller-Muller Museum
Nationaal Park De Hoge Veluwe is famous for its Kröller-Müller Museum. It offers a big variety of artists and the setting of the museum is superb. Because of the extensive sculpture garden, it’s best to set aside at least 2 to 3 hours to explore the indoor collections and outdoor artwork of Kröller-Müller Museum.
Recently I was invited for an emptymeet in the Museum. We got to explore the museum and grounds after closing hours with a group of awesome Instagrammers. But even during daytime, most of the sculptures are interactive and you can touch them, climb them, explore all around. I think it’s a great photo opportunity as well as a way to experience art in a direct way!
I hope this guide inspired you to include Nationaal Park De Hoge Veluwe to your Dutch itinerary! What is your favorite national park? Tell me in the comments!
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