This Western European, very flat, river-crossed country shares borders with Belgium, Germany and the North Sea. As much of the country hovers just above sea level and a good portion lies beneath
it, the country is aptly named in Dutch "Neder (low) land," or "the Low Countries" (which also references Belgium). The country's low lands are innovatively inhabited using intricate systems of canals and levees, which were created and are maintained by some of the finest engineers in the world: the Dutch!
People frequently call the Netherlands "Holland," but South Holland and North Holland are actually just two of the country's twelve provinces. (Amsterdam is the largest city in North Holland, while Rotterdam is the largest in South Holland.) The country's north is largely rural countryside, occasionally dotted with pretty villages, cheese farms and windmills.
For nature lovers, the Netherlands has a great variety of national parks, nature reserves and astonishingly beautiful gardens. From March to May, the Dutch flower culture shines through in full force with flower parades and the opening of the legendary Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, home to some of the world's most beautiful tulips. Flower fans can also travel to the Dutch town of Aalsmeer to tour the world's largest flower auction. (Visitors are welcome to visit; just be sure to wake up early to see the action!)
It's also worth mentioning that it's easy to combine a trip to the Netherlands with other Western European countries; Amsterdam for example has terrific train connections to Brussels and Paris.
Largest cities: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht
Other great places to visit: Haarlem, Utrecht, Leiden, Volendam, Delft, Gouda, Maastricht (Click here
to read more.)