Have you ever been to Amsterdam? What about escaping the city crowds and discover the Dutch countryside on a private day tour to Zaanse Schans and Keukenhof from the city of bikes. In this week’s #ExperienceOfTheWeek, we talk to Bart, the founder of Zaan Tours, based in the lovely region of Zaan, just 20 minutes away from the capital.
Gain insight into Holland’s culture at a clog workshop, cheese farm, working windmill, and as you tiptoe through the tulips, the national flower of Holland. Avoid hidden costs with a pancake lunch and entrance fees included, and relax with seamless round-trip transfer from your hotel. With Zaan Tours, you can try it all.
Q1: Hi Bart, how are you doing?
All fine actually. The Covid-19 situation affects us very much as well, but it also gives us an opportunity to look ahead and see what we can do for our guests when travel will be picking up again. Travel will be back to normal for sure. The only question is when and we want to be ready for it with more to offer. However, we do love doing tours with our guests and we are doing a lot less of them at the moment.
Q2: Tell us more about Zaan Tours. Where did the idea come from?
I met some Russian friends when I was sailing on the Baltic Sea on a Dutch Tall Ship and invited them to come to Zaandam and stay at my place. I really enjoyed showing them around in Zaandam, at Zaanse Schans, and in Amsterdam.
One year later, in 2014, I started Zaan Tours so I could offer guided tours at Zaanse Schans and Zaandam for visitors to this region. Visitors love seeing the windmills and wooden houses at Zaanse Schans. I felt these visitors could learn so much more about the region and its importance if they had a live guide accompanying them in a small-group. Therefore, we only offer private or small-group tours with a maximum of 16 guests per guide to ensure personal attention and the best possible experience.
Q3: You’re based in Amsterdam. Does it mean that you offer experiences only in the city or also somewhere else in the Netherlands?
We do start our tours from Amsterdam, but we are based in the Zaan region, just 20 minutes away from Amsterdam. Most of our tours also take place in the Zaan region as we are from here.
We don’t do a lot of tours in Amsterdam but we work closely together with Amsterdam-based tour companies that share the same thoughts and values on how to do tours. Besides this, we are now also offering tours further away from Amsterdam such as the fishing towns of Volendam and Marken, Giethoorn, The Hague, Rotterdam, and the Wadden islands. During tulip season, we also offer tours to Keukenhof flower gardens.
We can also do small-group or private boat tours on river Zaan, including a unique 3-course dinner cruise in the evening hours with stops at the best local restaurants and seeing the windmills from the water.
Q4: The Netherlands is a stunning destination and I bet there are dozens of things to show to fellow travelers. How many guides do you have in your team? Are you all locals?
Including myself, we have 4 guides employed by Zaan Tours. Besides them, we work with a selection of self-employed guides and all of them are locals that grew up in the Zaan region. With them, we offer our tours in English and Dutch. Any other language is possible as well, but these guides are not always locals as we prefer.
Q5: Your selection of experiences includes both excursions and private tours. What are the most popular activities among travelers who come to you?
By far, our most popular tour is the 3,5-hour small-group excursion to Zaanse Schans. Travelers can book this tour individually and there will be no more than 16 guests on this tour. At the moment, to ensure the possibility of social distancing, the group size is limited to 8.
Another popular tour is the private tour to Zaanse Schans, Volendam, and Marken. On this private day tour, guests will visit not only Zaanse Schans, but also an authentic cheese farm in the countryside, have lunch at a typical fish restaurant and visit the fishing villages of Volendam and Marken, including a boat tour from Volendam to Marken.
Q6: Today many people travel and plan their itineraries on their own. Why would you recommend booking one of your experiences to our travelers?
We truly believe local guides can make a difference and small-group or private tours are the way to have the best possible experience. This also makes it easier to fully customize tours for our guests and to be flexible about the duration of or stops during the tour.
Q7: The travel industry is in uncharted waters right now but we all hope travel will rebound soon. What does the situation in the Netherlands look like right now? How was your summer season?
At the moment, the government is speaking of the start of a “second wave” with a lot of new confirmed infections. After the first wave which led to a complete lockdown, there was some loosening of the restrictions which led to more travelers in July which meant we were happy to do more tours in this period. Still a huge difference from last year but we could do what
Q8: Last but not least, what is your favorite spot in the Zaan region that you’d take your friends to see or experience? Tips from a true local are always worth it 🙂
I would definitely choose to stand on the platform of paint windmill “De Kat” at Zaanse Schans overlooking the other windmills, the old wooden houses, and workshops of Zaanse Schans, the never-ending meadows, and the Zaan river. This windmill is situated right in the middle of the other windmills and has the highest platform for the best view.
Book some of the most popular experiences by Photowalks.pt here:
Private Day Tour of Tulips and Windmills including a Pancake Lunch
Private Tour: Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam
Small-Group Zaanse Schans Half-Day Tour from Amsterdam
Tulips and Windmills in a very small-group from Amsterdam
Small-Group Zaan River Cruise Including 3-Course Dinner from Amsterdam