When I touch down in a new city, my first instinct is to drop my luggage, step outside and instantly start exploring the main sites. I feel like I have to hit all the landmarks, almost as if running through a checklist. While it’s fun to experience these famous places in person and snap my touristy photos, I’ve also discovered the beauty in getting off the beaten path and venturing to lesser known areas. Doing so allows for a more unique experience and the opportunity to do things you won’t find in a guide book.
My Russian and I recently had 4 days to take a quick getaway. The original plan was to visit Barcelona, but when you fly standby, you have to be flexible and know that you may not end up where you expected. When we realized we weren’t going to make the Barcelona flight because it was full, we went to the departure board to pick another destination and eventually settled on Amsterdam.
We searched for a room right from the plane and narrowed it down to a boutique hotel in the middle of Amsterdam and an AirBnB apartment rental outside the city. Given the great experience we’d just had in the hillside town of Santa Teresa in Brazil, we went with the option outside the city and it turned out to be a great move! We ended up in Castricum (see it on the map), a town just 30 minutes by train from the bustling streets and canals of Amsterdam. It was quiet, relaxing and so beautiful. Here’s a small glimpse of what there is to discover off the beaten path in the Netherlands.
The train ride to Castricum was only 30 minutes from the Amsterdam Centraal Station and the scenery changed almost instantly from industrial cityscapes to vast, lush farmland.
The moment the train stopped I got a little giddy. The town was oozing with charm from the winding brick roads to the homes that looked like gingerbread houses. The walk to our apartment felt like we’d stepped into a nursery rhyme.
Biking through town was quite a challenge for me. Everywhere I looked was a photo opp and the houses were just so adorable that I found myself stopping every few seconds to take pictures. Talk about #housegoals, I wanted to move in! At night, when the windows were illuminated you could see how modern the interior decor was despite the traditional exteriors. Loved that!
The 15 minute bike ride to the beach was nothing short of magical. We rode past countless farmhouses and grazing animals along a winding path through the woods. I kept having to pinch myself and of course stop to take pictures!
After the fifteen minute ride, we finally reached a clearing and were met with billowing dunes stretching out as far as the eye could see. The beach itself was vast and beautiful, extending for miles in each direction. There’s nothing quite like feeling a warm breeze and hearing the rush of the ocean, especially from the other side of the world.
As much as I loved exploring the city of Amsterdam, I was thrilled to get off the beaten path and experience a lesser known part of the Netherlands. It truly made for a more enjoyable and memorable trip!
Have you ever ventured off the beaten path while abroad? Where did you go? Share your comments below!