At the Frisian shore of the IJsselmeer, in the south of the province, a unique piece of Fryslân is located: Gaasterland. Visitors who walk through the forest Rijsterbos and suddenly face the lake of IJsselmeer, will understand what makes this region so special. Together with the Frisian Lakes and the Hemmen Gaasterland forms the National landscape Southwest-Friesland.

Nature and landscape

A gaast is a Dutch word for a higher situated part in the landscape. This is also where Gaasterland got it’s name from; the territory consists of loam ridges that were formed during the Saalien ice age. Because the land south of Gaasterland eventually flooded the cliffs finally ended up at the open water.

The cliffs formed a natural security against the Zuiderzee for ages. At Oudemirdum we come across the Oudemirdumer klif, at Mirns is the Mirnserklif and near Scharl the Gaasterland hills connect to the IJsselmeer in means of the Rode Klif. After the closure of the IJsselmeer with the construction of the Afsluitdijk in 1932 the tides and the salt water disappeared, which caused the cliffs to become more wooded with trees, bushes and plants.

Forests were planted on the sand soil of the loam grounds of Gaasterland in the 17th century by the noble class that owned a lot of territory. The best known forest is near Rijs, but also worth while are the Coehoornbos, Lycklamabos and Jolderbosch. To prevent sand drifts new woods were planted around 1900.

Culture and settlements

Various archaeological finds, mostly fire stone objects, tell us that Gaasterland was inhabited very early in history. Possible as far back as 15,000 years ago, the time that deer hunters wandered the European tundra’s in search of prey. In the Rijsterbos a monument remembers the location where a so-called stone box was dug up in the nineteenth century, a cemetery that reminds of a hunebed.

The borders of the region Gaasterland match nearly the borders of the municipality Gaasterlân-Sleat. This municipality has about 10,000 inhabitants, one city (Sloten, or in Frisian: Sleat) and thirteen villages. From these towns Balk, Bakhuizen and Oudemirdum are the most substantial.

In the residences of Gaasterland there are beautiful town sights. The fortified town of Sleat is the smallest of the eleven Frisan cities and has kept its historical character, despite of new developments at the edge of the city. But also in Balk, the administrative centre of the region, we find a beautiful old town centre with beautiful facades that deservedly has received a protected status.

For tourists, Gaasterland has a lot to offer. The region has many camp sites, bed and breakfasts and other accommodation options. The woods and the water rich landscape offer abundance possibilities for making bicycle journeys and walks. The vicinity of the Frisian lakes, marinas and the IJsselmeer make it also an excellent holiday destination for the aquatic tourist.


Information about vacation and recreation in Gaasterland is available at VVV offices in the region. In Oudemirdum we find the regional information centre Mar and Klif, the visitor center for Gaasterland and the south west of Fryslân. From this information centre in the summer months various excursions are organized. Also maps of bicycle trips are available here.

Holiday and recreation in Gaasterland

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