Flevoland is the Netherlands' youngest province, almost completely formed through land reclamation in the 20th century. It is fair to say that most tourists would find it less interesting than neighbouring provinces. All the larger cities and most of the smaller settlements have only been created in the latter part of the 20th century, and there are only two older villages on former islands. That said, Flevoland can be of interest for those into urban planning, land reclamation, nature (it features the country's largest nature reserve) or, to some extent, archeology. It also has a fair share of lesser-known attractions.
Flevoland is divided into six municipalities, each offering a very different set of experiences:
- Almere — the burgeoning new city is a mecca for modern architecture and urbanism buffs, with an ultra-modern city centre designed by Dutch and international bigwigs, state-of-the-art bus rapid transit and a growing number of establishments devoted to culture, architecture and urbanism
- Dronten — the small town on the railway line running through the Flevopolder is the seat of the municipality encompassing Swifterbant, famous for architectural finds of an ancient culture, and Biddinghuizen, hosting Walibi Holland and many annual events including the Lowlands Music Festival and Defqon.1
- Lelystad — capital of Flevoland; its coastal area features a number of musea, and a replica of 17th century VOC merchant ship Batavia including its shipyard. Close by is Batavia Stad, an outlet shopping centre. An aviation museum is located near Lelystad Airport. Nature points of interest: Oostvaardersplassen and Natuurpark Lelystad
- Noordoostpolder — the first reclamed island of Flevoland, with Emmeloord as its main town. The most important sight is Schokland, which used to be an island village, but an evacuation in 1870 put an end to it all. It's an interesting place to go and qualified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Urk — a Protestant community with long traditions that mainly lives off fishery, with its own culture, dialect and anthem. It used to be an island, but is now almost entirely surrounded by Noordoostpolde.
- Zeewolde — with a strikingly low population density for a Dutch municipality (less than 80 people per square kilometre), and with most of it concentrated in the namesake town, Zeewolde offers large expanses of open plains, nature - and naturist beaches
Flevoland was created by a large land reclamation project in the former North Sea inlet of Zuiderzee, called Zuiderzeewerken (Zuiderzee Works). Planning for it started in late 19th century, led by government minister and engineer dr Cornelis Lely, but it took several decades to complete it. Flevoland consists of two polders: the larger Flevopolder, only reclaimed in the late 1960s, which includes the largest city of Almere and the provincial capital of Lelystad, and the older Noordoostpolder, created in late 1930s and early 1940s around the former islands of Urk and Schokland, which are now incorporated into the newly created land mass.
While Flevoland has been the Netherlands' fastest-growing province, first in land area and then in population, it remains one of the smallest and least populated. Population distribution is very imbalanced: Over half of the population lives within the boundaries of the municipality and city of Almere in the westernmost extremity of the province, where population density is comparable to that of the Randstad. The city of Lelystad, the province's capital, also has an urban character, while Emmeloord and Dronten are small towns. Most areas outside of them are rural or completely uninhabited. The natural reserve of Oostvaardersplassen was created in the vast space between Almere and Lelystad, and several species of wild animals were introduced there, living in almost completely undisturbed conditions.
The landscape of the province, due to the nature of its construction, is almost entirely flat. Most of its development took place in the second half of the 20th century or later. The opportunity to create new settlements of large magnitude from scratch provided proving grounds for urban planners, and the effects of their efforts can be seen and studied today, particularly in Almere. While Flevoland may seem to be lacking in rich heritage, the province contains many sites devoted to history and conservation. Lelystad features an archeological museum and a collection of reconstructed ships raised from the bottom of the drained Zuiderzee, while the communities of Urk and Schokland remain preserved. The area of the present Flevoland also used to be inhabited by the mesolithic "Swifterbant culture", named after the present-day village of Swifterbant, and thus Flevoland remains an archeologically rich and interesting location.
The only railway line in the province runs across the Flevopolder, forking out of the railway between Amsterdam and Utrecht, continuing through Almere, Lelystad and Dronten, and then onto Zwolle. This is a popular through line with frequent trains stopping in Almere and Lelystad, and continuing either way to many destinations across North Holland, South Holland, Overijssel Friesland and Gelderland. Changing trains, one can reach pretty much every province and major city in the Netherlands within up to 2–3 hours.
There is no railway station in the Noordostpolder. One has to change for a bus in Lelystad or Dronten, or reach it by bus from Overijssel or Friesland.
Several inter-province bus lines traverse Flevoland, connecting it to North Holland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel.
The main motorway crossing the most important towns in the province is the A 6. It forks out of the A 1 south of Amsterdam, in Muiderberg, runs through Almere, Lelystad and continues through Noordoostpolder around Emmeloord, eventually joining the A 7 in Friesland. Another motorway, the A 27 connects Almere to Utrecht.
The Noordostpolder is a peninsula, so it can also be accessed by local country roads from Friesland and Overijssel, with all the roads concentrically leading to Emmeloord, which somewhat aids navigation.
The Flevopolder is in effect an artificial island—entering it by car requires following either of the motorway links or smaller country roads that cross bridges. Such connections are available from Kampen in Overijssel, Elburg and Harderwijk and Nijkerk in Gelderland. A scenic way of entering Flevopolder from North Holland is to drive over the Houtribdijk (road N302) from Enkhuizen to North Holland.
The province's only airport is the Lelystad Airport, which only serves general aviation, being the biggest general aviation airport in the country. It was developed to become a reliever airport for Amsterdam Airport Schiphol at some point, but no regular passenger traffic was ever established as of 2013. For now, Schiphol Airport, which owns Lelystad Airport, has moved the Aviodrome museum there. Various aviation events are also held at Lelystad Airport, which both provides for a reason to come to Flevoland and restricts air access on some days.
The easiest way to get to Flevoland by air when not flying one's own plane is to land at Schiphol Airport and take a direct train from Schiphol to Almere or Lelystad.
Between Almere, Lelystad and Dronten one can travel on the railway line with frequent connections. Otherwise, buses are the only public transportation options. There are frequent and convenient city bus systems in Almere and Lelystad (bus lines are numbered one or two digits). Apart from those, a network of medium-range buses connects the cities in the province with each other and destinations beyond the province borders, those are numbered with three digits and some are limited to weekdays and peak hours. You would be best advised to consult 9292.nl to make sure a connection you want to take is available at a particular time.
Otherwise, the province is navigable by bike or car. Biking around the province requires covering much longer distances than in some other areas of the Netherlands, and there may be little to see along the way, except for undisturbed (man-made) nature. Almere has a well-developed bike path network, including a central "spoorbaanpad" (bike highway) constructed for fast biking across the town in lieu of taking the train or the meandering buses, and you can rent a bike from the local VVV in the library building in the city centre. Driving around should be uneventful and comfortable, and finding parking places relatively easy.
- Schokland - Walk around this old island.
- Oostvaardersplassen - Take a tour of this magnificent area.
- Notice the complete lack of relief.
- Modern architecture and urbanism - wander around Almere and visit the "Casa CASLa" in the city centre to learn more about how the city was planned and developed literally from scratch
- Nature - go for bird and wildlife watching in the Oostvaardersplassen, or just wander or bike around the Flevopolder to discover the eerily flat human-made landscape
- Learn and understand - visit the Nieuw Land Erfgoedcentrum to learn about the history of the polders and how they came about, follow on to Urk and Schokland to feel the atmosphere of days gone by
- Ships and airplanes - go see the Batavia and other ships in Bataviahafen in Lelystad and/or the planes and aviation artifacts at the Aviodrome at Lelystad Airport
- Veluwemeer - if you like watersports, hit the water on the Veluwemeer.
Flevoland is generally a very safe destination. Your greatest concern may be getting lost if you wander out of the larger towns. Make sure you have a map at hand and understand your route well, as there may be few people around to ask for directions. If you are on a bike, pay heed to all markings and knoppunts, and make sure your map includes them.