The four Frisian islands preserve an unexpected sense of wilderness in so populated a country, low-lying sandbanks with mile upon mile of hourglass-fine sandy beaches and well-developed networks of cycleways. A tourist magnet in summertime, busy and developed Terschelling is large enough to swallow the holiday crowds, while car-free Vlieland resembles a grass-covered dunescape and is popular with young families. Both can be reached from Harlingen, while the access point for busy Ameland is the port of Holwerd. The smallest of the four islands is Schiermonnikoog; this can be reached from Leeuwarden and Dokkum, but the shorter route there is from neighbouring Groningen. One way of reaching the islands is by indulging in wadlopen, a hearty walk at low tide across – and often knee-deep in – the mud flats that lie between the islands and the mainland. See here for ways to do this, but don’t attempt it without a qualified guide. The islands have a wide range of accommodation, particularly Terschelling and Ameland, but prices rise dramatically in summer, when vacant rooms can be thin on the ground, and you should also always reserve ahead if you’re visiting in July or August, or indeed at anytime during the summer.

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