2961 Kinderdijk, Netherlands
The Windmills of Kinderdijk: How Dutchies Made the Netherlands"God made the world but the Dutch created the Netherlands" goes an old saying, popular in Holland. For proof, visit Kinderdijk—19 spinning windmills in a stunning natural landscape that would be underwater were it not for Dutch ingenuity. Built in the mid-18th century, the impressive collection pumped excess water from the low-lying Alblasserwaard polder and discharged it to the Lek River until the 1950s.
Modern pumping stations do the job today, but the iconic windmills are a tangible reminder of the Netherlands' 1,000-year battle against water, as well as an emergency backup system for unexpected flooding. The UNESCO World Heritage sight draws thousands of visitors annually, who come to experience what's involved in building and maintaining an authentic windmill.
With grazing cows, flying birds, creeping weasels and crawling amphibians, the pastoral setting is part traditional Dutch, part prehistoric. An 18th-century footbridge takes you back in time to a working windmill preserved in its original state, possibly in operation if the wind is right.
After touring the authentic structure and meeting the miller, venture farther afield by foot or bike. Numerous walking and cycling tours stretch from Alblasserdam to tiny villages and farms along the Lek and Alblas Rivers. Throughout the polder, you'll find a landscape laced with dikes and canals—an intricate water management system that's tangible evidence of Dutchies' ongoing battle against the encroaching sea.