Photograph by vijesh kumar raju, National Geographic Your Shot
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A boat plies a canal in Giethoorn, a Dutch village built on small peat islands without roads or cars.

Photograph by vijesh kumar raju, National Geographic Your Shot

Visit the charming Dutch village where cars aren't allowed

There are no roads in Giethoorn, the picturesque hamlet known as the "Dutch Venice."

In the tiny Dutch village of Giethoorn, the tranquility is almost dreamlike. That is, until you remember why it's so quiet—there are no cars. In fact, there’s no way for cars to get around, because there are no roads. Locals and visitors to Giethoorn navigate in whisper-quiet ways: by bike, boat, or foot. In this hamlet—a collection of small peat islands connected by bridges—there's not much to do except slip into solitude among thatched-roof farmhouses and footbridges crossing the maze of canals.

The village’s name harkens back to the 13th century (an era in which it seems to have settled). The story goes that its original farmer-settlers discovered a collection of horns belonging to wild goats thought to have died in the Flood of 1170. “Goat horn,” or “Geytenhoren,” was shortened to Giethoorn, and the name stuck. Centuries post-flood, water continues to define the village's living history and landscape.

In nearby De Weerribben-Wieden National Park, wildlife enthusiasts hike wetlands and reed beds home to otters, black terns, great cormorants, and egrets. You can traverse by waterway on rowboats and canoes, of course, or by the many hiking paths. Without motor noise pollution, the sounds of nature bring the scenery to life for all the senses.

Travel tips

Jan Brouwer, a Your Shot photographer, recently captured the serenity of Giethoorn along a stretch of the canal called Binnenpad, which Brouwer recommends as a particularly stunning area to view the village’s bridges and homes. To appreciate the golden hours of the day, set your alarm for 6 a.m. and head out to take photos along the canal before boats get on the water. Or, wait until after 6 p.m. when visitors tend to disperse. This alone makes the case for staying a night in one of the abundant local bed-and-breakfasts and avoiding day-tour-circuit congestion.

You can get to Giethoorn by a combination of train and bus. To avoid crowds, opt for the months of April, May, June, or September, and keep in mind that weekday visits may be best. Though this “Dutch Venice” feels quite removed from capital city of Amsterdam, it's only about 75 miles away. And a two-hour journey is well worth the feeling of traveling back in time.