IJsselmeer Lake Tour: A Dutch Adventure

During our private tour to the highlights of Holland we visit a big lake. An IJsselmeer lake tour should be on everybody's list in Holland. Book now with Holland Windmills

During our private tour of the highlights of Holland, we visit a big lake.

This is the IJsselmeer. It’s the largest freshwater lake in Western Europe. It’s one of our favorite places in Holland on our tour. 

We love the lake because of the wide sweeping horizons and the sense of open space. It’s only a stone’s throw away from Amsterdam.

IJsselmeer lake tour
At Holland Windmills we love wide open space of the IJsselmeer.

From sea to freshwater lake

The IJsselmeer is a remarkable lake. It used to be sea, called the Zuiderzee or Southern Sea. The Zuiderzee was the main connection from Amsterdam to the North Sea. 

But the Zuiderzee was also tricky. It was very shallow and had lots of sand banks were ships would run aground. 

And the Zuiderzee caused lots of floodings. The last one was in the 1920’s. Lots of towns and villages were destroyed.

On our Ijsselmeer lake tour we show you how high the water came, in villages like Volendam. The water came up till the roofs of the houses!



After this flood it was decided to build a large dam to protect the land from the sea.

The Zuiderzee was cut off from the North Sea by the Afsluitdijk, or Closure Dyke. It’s straight as an arrow and 32 kilometers long. It took 5 years to build, from 1927 to 1932.

There are many freshwater rivers that flow into the IJsselmeer. After a few years, all the salt water was replaced with fresh water. That’s how the IJsselmeer became a freshwater lake.

IJsselmeer lake tour


The IJsselmeer is the ‘Wet Heart of the Netherlands’. This unique large freshwater lake and its coastal areas mean a lot to the Netherlands.

The IJsselmeer is important for water management, our drinking water supply and outdoor recreation. But the area is also of great economic importance, for example for shipping and commercial fishing. 

In addition, the IJsselmeer is a nature reserve of international significance and has great cultural-historical and landscape value. 

Visit Historic ports during IJsselmeer lake tour

All along the lake there are small historic ports. These are the prettiest villages you will see in Holland.

On our Private tour to the highlights of Holland we stop at the picturesque ports of Volendam, Marken and Monnickendam.

IJsselmeer lake tour
The lighthouse at Marken, a very pretty village on our tour.


At the harbor entrance fishermen used to sail in and out every day. The ports are currently used almost entirely for recreational boating. The ports are located in the center of the towns and are surrounded by many monumental buildings. 

The ports also occupy an important place in the daily lives of many residents. In Volendam there is a wooden house reserved exclusively for old fishermen and sailors, who come here to talk and drink coffee. 

There are a huge reclaimed land areas in the IJsselmeer. We call them ‘polders’. The Flevopolder is the largest reclaimed land area in the world. Up until the 1990 there were plans to completely reclaim the IJsselmeer. But in 1991 it was decided to stop reclaiming land.

The IJsselmeer is one of our favorite areas in Holland. There is just something to it that makes us come back every time. It’s the combination of nature, historic towns, the water and the old sailing boats that make it special. 

At Holland Windmills we love to show you spots that are not in the guide books, like the IJsselmeer. Many of our guests become enchanted by the lake.

Wildlife of Ijsselmeer

The wealth of birds on and around the IJsselmeer is overwhelming. Not only permanent residents are found there, but also tens of thousands of temporary guests; birds in migration. Ducks, large wading birds, grebes, geese, gulls and terns are particularly well represented. 

The IJsselmeer is a real ‘wetland’. The banks of the lake are mainly important as a breeding area and the open water is used as a resting and feeding area. Many bird species, such as the cormorant and various terns, benefit from good fish stocks. Smelt in particular is on the menu of many waterfowl.

The fish-eating cormorant was an endangered bird in the 1970s. Now there are many thousands of copies available in the Netherlands. After fishing, the birds dry their wings in the sun in a characteristic way.

IJsselmeer lake tour

In winter, large numbers of geese reside on and around the IJsselmeer, such as the greylag goose, the pink-footed goose, the white-fronted goose and the Brent goose. The birds ‘graze’ on the meadows and sleep on the open water. The gray goose is the only goose species that can also be observed in summer.

Swimming and diving ducks are characteristic of the IJsselmeer. There are two large groups of ducks: the swimming ducks, such as the mallard, and the diving ducks, such as the scaup, the pochard and the duck.

In addition to smelt, eel, pike-perch, perch and bream occur in large quantities in the IJsselmeer. Remember, this is the largest freshwater basin in Western Europe! A decent fish stock is not only important for the birds and for a good biological balance, but also for commercial and sport fishing.

Experience the charm of Holland Windmills!

Join us on a captivating IJsselmeer lake tour, a journey that blends breathtaking views with rich history. Secure your spot now for an unforgettable adventure.

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