Located in the Northeastern part of the Netherlands is the province of Drenthe. It hosts a number of beautiful and varied landscapes such as dunes, forests, wide rivers, and heathlands. This region of the Dutch countryside is known for the mysterious structures called hunnenbeds or ‘megaliths’ that date back to prehistoric times.
Artifacts recovered in this region go back to 150,000 years ago to the Wolstonian Stage and are the oldest in the Netherlands. If you’re seeking a weekend away encompassing nature and rich history then I suggest you head to Drenthe Netherlands. There is plenty to see and experience.
When is the Best Time to Visit Drenthe Netherlands?
Although the climate in this region is considered temperate it has a significant amount of rainfall throughout the year. Our visit was during the month of June and while we did experience some rain it was still warm enough to wear summer attire and do outdoor activities. I recommend going between the months of April to September because you will have longer daylight hours to explore. Keep in mind that August is typically the hottest month of the year in the Netherlands and we are prone to get heat waves that are above 90F.
Going during the colder months from November to March would not be the best option since temperatures range from 30-40F. Since the Drenthe region is mostly woodlands and forest there will not be much to do after the sun sets aside from being indoors.
Where to Stay?
When you’re looking for where to stay you should consider one of the charming holiday parks. They are typically located in natural areas or woodlands surroundings. There are many accommodations to choose from that can hold two to sixteen people and includes nice amenities such as fireplaces and saunas. We stayed at a cute house in the middle of the forest at a park called Het Grote Zand. It was great because we were close by to many hiking and cycling trails with access to spacious heathlands. The park itself contained an indoor swimming pool, tennis court, a playground for kids, and a restaurant.
What to Do in Drenthe Netherlands?
If you’re a nature lover and outdoor explorer there is plenty in this region to do. Hiking, camping, cycling, fishing, and the list goes on! History buffs will also find the number of museums, historical sites, and landmarks quite enticing. Looking for some nightlife? Unfortunately, Drenthe is not the hotspot for a night out on the town. There are a few restaurants and a bar or two in Assen and Emmen. Your best bet is to go to the bigger and much more buzzing cities like Groningen.
Hit the Trails
This part of the Netherlands has so much space for a range of outdoor activities. Take a leisurely walk, hike to explore the sights, or go mountain biking. Take your pick because there are over 20 trails for you to choose from in the Drenthe area. We went to the Groote Zand Nature preserve in Hooghalen and it was such a beautiful landscape of heath, forest, and sand drifts! There were more cyclists than people on foot because of the long-distance but I totally recommend it.
See the Hunnebeds
A truly significant site to see are these large boulders called hunnebeds scattered throughout the province of Drenthe. They are not just rocks in the ground, but the oldest monuments in the Netherlands dating back 5,000 years in the prehistoric era. They are believed to be burial sites that were erected by members of the Funnel Beaker Culture. The tombs are made up of large boulders that can weigh up to 40 tons. Some of the stories around it are that they were assembled by giants because of the immense size and heavy weight that would be too much for the average human.
You can visit the HunebedCentrum where you can gain more understanding of the Hunebedden and their history. There is an educational museum, replicas of what the houses looked like thousands of years ago, and a stone garden.
In fact, there are 54 Hunebed sites in the Netherlands, and 53 of them you can discover in Drenthe. On our last day, we spent a few hours driving around to find some. It was quite a mystical feeling driving up to large pastures to see these massive boulders by their lonesome. It makes you question how they carried such heavy weight due to the sheer size. Whether you choose to believe in folklore or not, you cannot help but scratch your head on the matter.
A dark part of history lies here in Drenthe Netherlands called Kamp Westerbork which was known as the gateway to hell during World War II. It had various functions such as a military camp and mainly as a refuge that the Dutch government built for Jewish refugees who came from Germany in 1939. However, the most notable is being a transit camp for the Jews, Roma, and Sinti during the Second World War when the Nazis took over the camp in 1942. From 1942 to 1944 nearly 100,000 jews were deported to death and concentration camps in Germany occupied Poland to Auschwitz or Sobibor. Anne Frank was also held prisoner here for two weeks with her family before being sent to Auschwitz then onwards to Bergen-Belsen.
It was a grueling place to be because some prisoners were there for months on end. It was a state of limbo wondering if they would meet death’s door or have another day to live. A total of 93 trains left Kamp Westerbork with the last one departing on September 13, 1944. On April 12, 1945, the last remaining prisoners were liberated by the Canadian Army.
Today, the camp serves as a museum and memorial to past survivors. Fragments of the former camp are still there, giving you a cold glimpse into the past. You will see memorabilia such as old barracks, a train carriage that transported prisoners, and the former home of the lead commander. As you walk along the educational trail you will see placards stating the number of prisoners and date of deportation.
There is also a field with 120,000 bricks that represent the individuals who were prisoners at Westerbork. Kamp Westerbroek is easily accessible by car, bike, foot, and by a free shuttle bus. There are two parts which are made up of the museum and the actual campsite. It’s good to know that entrance to the camp is free. I recommend bringing a bike if possible because the walk can be quite long. There is so much to see in the area such as the huge radio telescopes and walking may be tiring. Lastly, most of the informational text is in Dutch so try going with a tour guide.
Take a Day Trip to Groningen
Groningen has always been on my travel list and being in Drenthe it was only a 30-minute drive away. It’s known for being an old university city that dates back to 1614. While strolling through town you will see quite a few historic monuments because of this. The student population is quite high with 31,000 students out of 200,000 living in Groningen. This is the reason for so many lively restaurants, bars, pubs and cafes that are quite cheap. We had lunch for two at a nice cafe and including cocktails, the price was 20 euros!
I’ve never heard of this part of the Netherlands before but it looks really nice to visit!
I have never been to this place but seems so beautiful and now really interested in visiting for sure
Drenthe Netherlands seems like a beautiful place, will love to travel there someday. Thanks for sharing
These photos look amazing! I’d really love to see Groningen someday. Thanks for sharing 🙂
I’ve been in the Netherlands but I didn’t visit this part of the country… I missed it and now I regret. Next time I’ll visit Drenthe Netherlands for sure. Thanks for the info. – Paolo
ohhh beautiful! looks so peaceful and calming x
I’ve visited The Netherlands a few times but never to somewhere so scenic. I love learning about the history of places and trails so this would seem like a perfect place to go for me.
My mom use to Ask to visit Netherlands to see its historical places. And the beautiful architecture. Maybe by 2021 I take her.. Amazing post. Thanks for sharing ❤️
Thanks for the tips. We go with my family every year to the Netherlands and we def needed some new ideas.
Whoa. This looks like a really lovely place. I’d have a coffee, sit, and just marvel at how gorgeous the place is.
I didn’t realize that there were hunebeds in Drenthe too – it’s not that far from us 🙂
I have never explored that side of the world hope to one day. Will bookmark your post.
yes, always the best to spend holidays at countryside, personally I love as compare to a city. Thanks for the lovely captures shared in this story
Hi Hannah Marie, this is a great post. I used to go to Assen to watch the motorbike racing so I know Gronningen. When I read that Drenthe was close by it piqued my interest. Had you not given the insight into the hunnebeds I would probably have noticed but I don’t think it would have registered how much historical importance they have. Westerbork sounds very interesting, we should all learn and never forget from places like that. It’s good to know about the signage but Google Lens works for me when I am somewhere in Denmark and, unusually, there’s only Danish signage. Great post!
I hope this pandemic will soon be end…so people can go to this amazing places
Amazing tips! When I will take holiday I will plan to Netherlands and I will follow your advice! Thanks for your sharing your tips!
This looks like an amazingly peaceful place to visit. I love the idea of spending the holidays in the Dutch countryside. It looks like a fairytale location perfect for the holidays
Only had a short time to explore some of your blog features, but I see why you call this beautiful country home. There does seem to be something to see and do for anyone interested in travel. And your photos are so crisp, clear and colorful. That photo of a bike by the canal could be framed and hung on my living room wall; it has such a serene quality about it.
Keep up the good work, and stay safe during this Pandemic. I too am an Angeleno, and get my travel thirsts quenched by watching DVDs and reading Blogs, such as yours.
An LA Grandma
What a great post! I’ve saved it for later when I’m ready to travel again.
I want to take a walk around the trail. Groningen looks beautiful. I can’t wait to travel and see it with my own eyes.
This place looks so peaceful and beautiful 😍. I would love to see it for myself.
Thank you for sharing, It’s already added on my travel list.
It’s already added on my adventure list. Thank you for sharing.