Groningen is not well-known from a touristic point of view. A few years ago I did a bicycle tour through this province and was amazed by the variety in landscapes and its beauty.
Where to find it?
As you see, Groningen is in the North of the country. Maybe that's the reason why it's not so well-known? You see it has one island, Schiermonnikoog. (Well, this is not completely true, there is one more, but you cannot go there....)
In the South-East you find a friendly landscape with meadows, brooks, bushes. There a re a few small towns and a large number of villages.
Going North, you reach the fisherman's town Zoutkamp. Zoutkamp is adjacent to a former cove from the Waddenzee (zee=sea in English), called Lauwerszee. It has been closed by a dike some years ago. Afterwards it was used as a military area. Now it's a large nature reserve with beautiful wetlands. In the very North, the village Lauwersoog is the only village belonging to this area. There you also find the ferry for Schiermonnikoog. Schiermonnikoog is a small island, cars are not allowed there, so perfect for hikers. In the summer season it can be rather crowded, so make reservations for accommodation in advance.
As soon as you leave Lauwersoog going East, the landscape changes. Here you find a large agricultural area.It was formed by constructing dikes on the dry areas of the sea. These areas consist of very fertile clay, making the ground suitable for growing potatoes, sugar beets and grain. The land is flat and wide, with only small lonely villages and very large farms. On the North the dikes with the Waddenzee form the border. The Waddenzee is a unique area. If tide and weather are good, you can walk through the sea to Schiermonnikoog. For your own safety, you will need a guide to make this tour. The Waddenzee is a wetland sea, between land and see. Seals rest on the dry sandbanks, birds will find lots of food there.
Going South-East the landscape changes radically again. here you come in the area with the moors and peat bog. In the 19th century it is heavily exploited for house-warming and fertilizing the soil. In that time the typical extremely long stretched villages were founded. they often consist of one long row of houses along a canal. The canal was used to transport the peat. An example is Hoogezand-Sappemeer.
Towns and villages
The capital Groningen is a large city, characterized by its university and the many students living there. There are no other significant towns.
Of the many villages I mention some with their attractions:
- Lauwersoog: hardly a village, but you can take a ferry to Schiermonnikoog from here.
- Pieterburen, famous for the Seal hospital (which you can visit) and the departure for guided hiking trips over the Waddenzee.
- Winsom is a nice and friendly village.
- Warfum has a small open air museum, worth visiting.
- Boertange still has the atmosphere of the 16th century stronghold town.
- Heiligerlee, not really worth visiting, but you find there a monument referring to the "Battle of Heiligerlee" where we started the 80 years lasting war against the Spanish, which was the real start of our country.
- Appingedam is a nice small town, nice to be for a while.
- Ter Apel is a typical peat town. It still has a cloister, which you can visit. No more monks, but modern art in a nice atmosphere.
- Uithuizen has a nice castle you can visit, called Menkemaborg.
Photos on this page courtesy Wikimedia.