Finding a hike: wandelzoekpagina.nl
Exploring an area for the first time can be a nice thing to do. But if you just stay for a short while, or have only limited time, or want a little guidance, a route can be a nice thing. Finding a route can be a bit of a hassle though: there's literally countless organisations creating and publishing routes. The time spent finding and researching them can quickly become too much (and is better spent outside, if you ask me).
Wandelzoekpagina is a Dutch website (in Dutch only) that aggregates lots and lots of these routes, and hosts an impressive collection with all kinds of search options.
Last weekend was the weekend of the yearly "Fiets en Wandelbeurs" (Cycling and Hiking Fair), held in the RAI in Amsterdam. I'm not really a big fan of these fairs: too crowded, too much sales, and too little real information. But since it was almost literally in my backyard, I figured I could give it a try this year.
And it wasn't that bad after all. I actually got to talk with some nice people. Some I already knew, some I had only met online, and some were completely new to me, like Stefan Horn, who is the inventor and maintainer of one of The Netherlands' largest platforms for walkers and hikers: wandelzoekpagina.nl.
Search for a walk or hike
Wandelzoekpagina hosts - at the moment of writing - more than 5000 walks, ranging from 1 to 76 kilometers. Wow! Not all of these are hikes in nature, there's also city walks, or mixed ones. The landing page of the site has a menu, some ads, some news, and a simple search form for a quick search.
If you click through to the advanced search ("Uitgebreid Zoeken"), you can see why this site is a real gem: there's lots of options to choose from: The length of the walk, the province, the source, or creator of the walk, whether you can bring your dog, is there a route description available, a map, a gps-track, can you find your walk in the accompanying app, is it circular, blazed, a citywalk? Can you get there with public transport, do you need your hiking poles, or can you bring someone in a wheelchair?
It's an impressive list of options to choose from, and Stefan told me that soon, you can also expect an option to search for hikes and walks that are accessible by train.
The list of sources/creators is really long, and you'll find routes from the larger, well-known organisations (NS, ANWB) there, as well as lots of smaller organisations, most of which I hadn't even heard of. I think this makes wandelzoekpagina the most extensive collection of walking routes in The Netherlands.
I would have liked a list of all creators/sources, that explains what or who they are, and what their walks are like. Some names are self-explanatory (like Trage Tochten - Slow Journeys), but others leave me completely in the dark.
Other info and design
The site also has a large 'info' section, with diverse topics, like how to choose hiking boots, how to make better nature photos and more. There's also a news section, not accessible from the menu, but from small menus on the right. While valuable information, it all seems a bit random. A better menu structure would definitely help.
If you become a member, you can save hikes you're interested in for later reference. If you plan on using the site more than once, I definitely recommend this. There's also a yearly subscription for €12,50, that lets you print over 1000 topomaps of select routes. If you can't find the link: it's on the home page, right under the search form.
If you don't want to bring your kid, but do want some company, there's a small forum area to look for hiking buddies, and a calendar for organised walks, accessible from the menu on the left.
The fresh-looking site is designed on a 960 pixel grid, and is unfortunately not fully responsive, which means that it doesn't scale with your screen size or if you rotate your phone. The 960 pixel width makes the content seem a bit lost on bigger screens. Mobile users get redirected to a mobile site, and get dropped straight to the advanced search form, which is a nice touch. If you have one of the newer phones, not all of your precious, battery-eating screen-estate is used. The separation of the desktop and mobile site also makes it a bit harder to send links to and from your phone.
The site has a section for New Hikes, but you can't search for them. I hope that gets added in the future.
There's an app for that
Accompanying the website is an app, WandelZapp. It's available for iOS and Android, and has a little over 800 walks from the site, mostly hikes in nature or green areas. Downloading hikes from the app costs €1,79 for Android, €1,99 for iOS, and €12,99 for unlimited access for a 12-month period. The first walk is free. Downloaded walks are available from the app, and include descriptions and a map. No need to bring a paper map, a guidebook or a gps. Just your smartphone (and maybe an extra battery ;) ). My test download also had some nice photos to whet my appetite.
The app works well, and the walks included are beautiful, high-quality routes. But compared to the sheer amount of routes available on the site, it's not as impressive. Still, not everyone wants to dive deep into the tech of smartphone map apps and start downloading gps tracks. And with the routes included, you really can't go wrong (pun intended).
Wandelzoekpagina is an impressive collection of walks and hikes in The Netherlands. If you can't find something you fancy here, you might as well give up on your walking hobby. The accompanying info might seem a bit random, and the design, while looking modern, could have an update to make it better usable on screens of all sizes. But all that doesn't distract from the fact that Stefan has put together a site that should be on the top of your bookmark list if you like walking in The Netherlands.