Fortress Island Pampus Eiland - Daytrip from Amsterdam (Netherlands)

This article first appeared in My Travelogue by Bhushavali 

ULTIMATE GUIDE TO VISIT PAMPUS ISLAND
 
I spotted this place too partially on Google maps (like how I found Baarle-Hertog & Vennbahn)! Well, I was searching for 'Defence Line of Amsterdam' which is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Netherlands and Google images showed this little oval shaped island in the middle of nowhere! I searched for that on Google Maps and there I saw Pampus Island, off Amsterdam, so small that it starts getting visible only after I zoom in a bit! Here's my Amsterdam Travelogue to one of the most unique places to see in Amsterdam!

Pampus Eiland UNESCO Netherlands
Pic Credits: ©Tony Perez. Used with permission from Pampus.nl

Defence line of Amsterdam (Stelling van Amsterdam or Dutch Waterline) is a 135km long defence line built around Amsterdam at a radius of 15-20km. It is a group of 45 forts built in 1883-1920 CE. If you refer my post on Kinderdijk windmills, you may know that the Dutch have mastered their relationship with water since 16th C CE. When a country is mostly below sea-level with their lowest point being 6m below sea-level, they've learnt their way around water. This Defence line is unique because, unlike anywhere else in the world, here, their weapon is hydraulic engineering i.e. water - they fight with dikes, sluices, canals and inundation polders! These forts would cause temporary flooding to prevent the enemy for progressing! More about this coming up in the next post.

PAMPUS EILAND - FORTRESS ISLAND PAMPUS

Pampus Forteiland is the most unique of the 45 forts that form the Defence line of Amsterdam. This is a completely man-made island and farthest from the mainland. The island was built from 1888 for 8 years - obviously, dunking several thousands of bags of sand in the huge lake of IJmeer to create a viable island takes time! 

The entire fort is a maze. Watch my walk-through of Forteiland Pampus in the below video, to get an idea of what I am talking about. It is a maze. It doesn't give the slightest idea from the top or outside, but once inside, you can keep moving through this jumbled puzzle! The fort has 3 levels. There were 4 large caliber guns deployed in 2 hydraulically operated cupolas. Its those 2 cupolas that's visible from the sky - on Google Maps! The fort is in 2 areas - the wall area and the central area. There are quite a few interesting things to see in Pampus Fort including the good-old toilets, a speaking tube - that's something like a DIY voice pipe phone, an old morse-code telegram machine, a water pulley, ammunition, anchors & canons etc. There are quite a few demo and movies like the war-scenes which are displayed on the ceiling and you watch like laying down on bean-bags. Today, one of the major features of visiting Pampus is the Virtual Hot-air Balloon experience where we get onto a 'hot-air balloon' and the story, purpose and function of the island is played on the balloon! Yes, it is completely static, indoors on the floor.
 
Hot air balloon experience Fortress Island Pampus

Fortress Island Pampus - UNESCO world heritage site in Netherlands

Fortress Island Pampus - UNESCO world heritage site in Netherlands

Things to do in Pampus Island

Fortress Island Pampus Eiland, Amsterdam daytrip

Outside of the main fort are the Bunker house (het bunkerhuis) and Mist Clock House (mistklokhuis). Walk around the island to experience the flora and fauna of the island as well as to discover some secret foresty spots and a couple of beach-like spots. There's also a small vegetable garden. There are seating arrangements at many points near the edges of the island, making them the ideal spots to just sit-back, relax and watch the IJmeer!

One of the specialties of Pampus Island is that it is completely self-sufficient in terms of energy! Being away from the mainland, and being completely off-grid, it relies on diesel generators supported by reused electric car-batteries. The battery unit helps in reducing the diesel consumption! Not just that, I was amazed by little things on Pampus island like the outdoor dining tables that are covered with solar panels, maximizing the energy savings!

Visiting Pampus Island is one of the best day-trips from Amsterdam. Yes, you need an entire day to visit this place. Ideally plan your day catching the first ferry from Amsterdam (IJburg) or Muiden to reach Pampus and taking the last ferry to return. Begin your day walking around the fort exploring the greenery and the views of the sea & sails and finding every nook and corner of the island and its secret 'beach-like' spots and jump in the cold waters of Ijmeer. By noon have your lunch at the Pampus Paviljoen (Pampus Pavilion) and take rest for some time. Then end your day by exploring the fortress, which is a perfect maze and experience the hot-air balloon activity. That would be your ideal 1 day trip from Amsterdam.

ONE DAY TRIP FROM AMSTERDAM WITH KIDS TO PAMPUS ISLAND
Apart from the above mentioned things to do in Pampus Island, there is a Black-light Scavenger hunt (€2.50 extra), which is one of the top things to do in Pampus with kids. It is essentially a UV light pen with which 'invisible' symbols and secret signs can be found. At the end of it, kids even get a 'diploma' for it! If there are kids in your family/group and its summer holidays, the best idea is to choose the 'Eindeloos Pampus' ticket which, along with ferry & fort-entry, also includes a light dinner of sandwiches, fries and salad as well. This wraps up by 8PM, to fit with the bedtimes of children. 

ZOMERLICHT, WINTERLICHT & PROEF PAMPUS - UNUSUAL DINING EXPERIENCE AT PAMPUS ISLAND
Zomerlicht is an interesting ways to experience Pampus island during summers when the nightfall doesn't happen till very late! It is operational only in July & August. Winterlicht as the name suggests, happens in November & December and is a similar dinner experience at Pampus island. Proef Pampus is a similar experience but in Autumn and is operational only in the month of October. Usually it is a 4-day festival, but with 2020's restrictions, now it is more like Zomerlicht & Winterlicht.

Fortress Island Pampus Eiland, Amsterdam daytrip

Things to do in Pampus Island

Weekend trips from Amsterdam - Pampus

Zomerlicht Proef Pampus dinner in Pampus Eiland

The experience begins with an evening boat-ride on the IJmeer Lake from Amsterdam or Muiden. As soon as you reach the island, a short intro about the island, its history, its fortifications etc are given. Then the dinner begins with a starter course. Ofcourse it is customized according to your dietary preferences. We ofcourse chose for the vegetarian platter. We could take that plate and go anywhere in the island that we wanted to. One good idea would be to finish the starter quickly and explore the island, fort etc. Since we were on the island since morning, we had explored every nook and corner of the island and had found a cute spot on the island, hidden by a lot of vegetation and invisible from the fort and its walking path. No one else came here and we had it for ourselves and had our starters with some cheese bread, soup, avocado dip, salad and more. I was really really hungry at this point of time, that I actually forgot to even click a picture of that platter! Well.... After the starters, it was already bed-time for Atyudarini and with the heavy starter, she was already filled. I wore in the babywearing wrap and she instantly fell asleep. Its been a long day for her, running about the island and playing in the waters of the  IJmeer! 
The main course is a proper sit-down candle-light dinner. It was inside the restaurant and it was adorable. Our vegetarian maincourse platter consisted of roasted leek, tarragon vinegar, crumbled cheese, chanterelle mushrooms, potatoes, watercress, smoked beetroot, asparagus and romanesco broccoli!!! It was delicious. The combination of the flavours was just perfect. Since my extreme hunger was already gone with the starters, I could actually enjoy the flavours of the main-course. I did have a bit of a challenge to eat my main-course with Atyudarini asleep in my babywearing. The final part was ofcourse dessert. After main course, my stomach was very very filled but then there's always room for dessert and this was really really yummy. So what was for dessert? - It was a deconstructed strawberry cheesecake with strawberry cream-cheese, crumble, rhubarb, meringue and lemoncurd!
This wraps up around 10:30PM when the return ship sails back to Muiden//IJburg.

The most fascinating thing was after the dinner.... Why not make the best day-trip from Amsterdam into a fascinating 2 day trip from Amsterdam?
After dinner, at around 10:30PM, Zomerlicht diners leave the island, except the 14-15 people (about 7 couples), who have booked to stay on the island (this happens only in summers). That's when the magic begins. The island becomes silent, absolutely silent except the sound of the waves. People who want to socialize are on the bar's terrace and others are spread out - in the seating area, on the ship's deck, on the docks and more. Only the restaurant & bar are lit, the rest of the island is pitch dark! The fortress is locked and it is not possible to go inside, but the island around it can still be explored. If you're much into flora and fauna, it might be a good idea to bring UV torches and find insects and smaller creatures in the dark! Though there's a bird watching tour with a guide, there is no night-tour as such, in the dark (like I did in Karadi Malai camp), but I wish they organized one atleast once every season, just for those who are interested! It is dark but it is still not possible to do much of star-gazing as we are still close to Amsterdam and the light pollution of the city is high. 

slapen onder de sterren pampus eiland

slapen onder de sterren pampus eiland

staying in pampus island

camping in pampus island

What's the most unusual accommodation that you've stayed in? For me, it was this, in one of the most unique 'hotels' in Amsterdam  - There are 2 ships with 4 rooms each to spend the night, but we spent most of the night in the out on the open island. The ship cabins are tiny and it does get a bit too warm over the night. Unlike regular hotels these ships do not have certain amenities like toiletries or towels or duvets which has to be taken by us, the guests. Personally, being a warm summer day, I didn't need the blankets that I had taken. There's one toilet and one shower in every boat and ofcourse there are quite a few toilets on the island itself. There's plenty of drinking water available on each ship. You can go to sleep in your room or in the common area or on the deck or if you bring your own tent, on the island itself or...... just don't sleep at all and enjoy the sound of the waves and the perfect wind. How often have you got an entire island for yourself (atleast 'almost' yourself, sharing with just about 10 other people)?????

This is completely magic. Heading to Pampus Island, exploring every nook & corner of the island, having a sumptuous dinner in a perfect spot in an island fort, sleeping in a restored historic ship in front of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, waking up and taking a dip in cold water..... That's magic!!! Pure magic. One of the best weekend trips from Amsterdam.
The staff comes in by around 9:30AM and the first ferry full of tourists arrives at 10:30AM, till then the island is all yours. We made the best out of it by waking early. We woke up early at around 6:30AM and we walked around the island. No one awake yet! The other 6 families were still asleep in the ships. We actually had the entire island to ourselves! Yes, the ship has a shower, but what's the fun in that? We went back to our secret spot and took a dip in the IJmeer and it was the ultimate of getting refreshed. Watching the sun-rise, listening to nothing except the sounds of swallows and waves, it was a brand new experience for Atyudarini. 
Soon, the other people woke up. There are ladders attached to the docks, like in a swimming pool. There were sea-gulls, ducks, geese and more and Atyudarini had so much fun. Ofcourse there are no life-guards here, so swimming here is at your own risk. There are floaters available as well as huge bean-bags. Soaking in the sun has never been this luxurious. At about 8:00AM, a breakfast basket is given - this is literally a basket filled with all that you need for a filling breakfast. Again you could take this anywhere and there are ofcourse the chairs & tables of the restaurant. We took this basket to the mini-beach, close to the docks. To be able to sit on a sandy shore, eat breakfast surrounded by nature, it was the best feeling. I really wanted that moment to never end.... It was precious!!! I'm literally at a loss for words to explain my feelings and experience about my early morning on Pampus Island! It was magical is an under-statement. 
The rest of the day is all yours to explore the island and choose any of the returning boats to get back to Muiden or IJburg.

Breakfast at Pampus Island

Breakfast at Pampus Island

Stay ovenight in Pampus Island

Pampus Eiland - werelderfgoed Nederland


The island has a small restaurant that serves snacks, cakes, drinks etc. But if you do have diet restrictions (vegan, gluten free, halal etc) or small kids with you, and you're only visiting on a day-trip, you are allowed to bring your own food. As a part of Eindeloos Pampus, Zomerlicht, Winterlicht and Proef Pampus, ofcourse dinner is included, which takes your diet-restrictions into consideration.

Of course under the stars in the sailing boat! That said, obviously it functions only for 2 summer months in July & August. Otherwise, the best option is to stay in Muiden or IJburg. There are a couple of hotels in Muiden and Weesp (nearest railway station to Muiden). IJburg on the other hand, has many hotels. Final option would be ofcourse to stay in the heart of Amsterdam city. 

Ofcourse by a ferry! Ferry options are available from Muiden and Amsterdam (IJburg). IJburg can be reached in 25mins from Amsterdam Centraal by tram but the ferry ride takes 1hr from here to Pampus Island. Muiden is 4km from Weesp, it is the nearest railway station than can be reached by train from Amsterdam. From Muiden the ferry takes just 20 mins. However there is no public transport from Weesp to Muiden and only option is to hire a taxi.

The island (as well as the boat/ferry) is not wheelchair/stroller friendly.
Don't forget your swimsuit.
There is no cash machine on the island, but the museum shop & restaurant do accept card payments.
There is cellphone reception on Pampus island and there is public wifi as well.
There is electricity in the island as well as on the ships, which also have plug points. 
During Zomerlicht's Stay on Pampus, one staff stays overnight in the island in his tent. There are 2 small high-speed boats here overnight. In case of emergency, it takes about 15 mins to reach the nearest mainland (Muiden) with these boats.

Entry ticket only of Pampus Fort (this means, you sail your own boat/canoe/yacht to Pampus island!) - €12.50
Entry incl. Ferry ticket (Onward & Return ferry from Muiden + Entry ticket of Pampus fort) - €18.00 (€13.50 with I amsterdam City Card) - Can be booked online at Veerdienst Amsterdam (Amsterdam) & Veerdienst Pampus (Muiden)
Eindeloos Pampus (Endless Pampus) - Onward & Return ferry from Muiden + Entry ticket of Pampus fort + Snacks)€37.50
Zomerlicht, Proef Pampus, Winterlicht (Onward & Return ferry + entry ticket of fort + 3-course dinner) - €69.50 to 72.50
PROEF PAMPUS HAPPENS THIS YEAR FROM OCT 2, 2020 to OCT 31, 2020 EVERY FRIDAY & SATURDAY. (first 3 weekends from IJburg and last weekend from Muiden).
Slapen onder de Sterren (Operates only in July & August; Onward & Return ferry + entry ticket of fort + overnight stay in the boat + breakfast; Doesn't include dinner, book Zomerlicht mentioned above for dinner) - €110 per cabin (max 2 persons)

Changes according to season. Check the official website of Pampus island for latest schedule.

P.S: I was invited by Visit Amsterdam for review purposes, however the opinions are my own and this post does not to advertise the product/service.

Fortress Island Pampus Daytrip from Amsterdam Fort eiland Pampus Unique places to see in Amsterdam

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Netherlands Pampus Forteiland Ultimate Guide to Pampus Island pinterest

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.

10 comments:

  1. It is amazing to see the unique beauty of this fortress island! The place look relaxing and far from the stress of CBD. Maybe they could install huge solar panel instead of using diesel gasoline for energy to provide cheaper alternative energy. I guess if I want to be in isolation for a day, Pampus is a great place.

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  2. I haven't heard of this place before; your post intrigued me. Pampus Island is so small but offers such a vast history! The fortress looks terrific, and the all Defence Line of Amsterdam is for a sure worth visit. I had no idea that it is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The museum, Bunker house, and Mist Clock House make an impression.

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  3. What a fun way to find your next destination1 I wish it happens to me some time. People from years ago keep surprising me. It is hard for me to imagine how they did manmade islands without modern machinery. I would definitely give the diner experience a chance if I'm there on the right season.

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  4. I can't believe this is close to Amsterdam - looks so exotic. And I've never heard of this island before. Next time when in the Netherland, I will certainly visit - this is totally fascinating!

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  5. So great to read about a little known day trip from Amsterdam. Always great to head out for day trips. I am sure we would get lost wandering through the fortress. But that would probably be half the fun! So interesting to know you can plan a visit and have an interesting and tasty meal experience too. And then to stay and have the island to yourselves. Truly a unique experience.

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  6. Wow! Their defence line is interesting. This is the first time I heard about hydraulic engineering as a weapon/ defensive strategy but yes, it definitely makes sense.

    I agree with you that this definitely a great side trip from Amsterdam. We would surely love to visit if we get a chance. Happy to know that we can visit it with the kids too. Thank you for sharing this detailed post.

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  7. This tiny island is such an exciting place to visit. I am hearing the name for the first time but it has made quite an impression. Hopefully next year when we visit Amsterdam we certainly would be there. It was quite interesting to learn about the history.The Pampus fort is so impressive and the lovely pictures gives a good understanding.Can't wait to visit.

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  8. When I was in Netherlands last year, I could not go. My friend had visited the island two years ago and she had all the good things to talk about it. Now, you have covered it all in detail. This indeed looks like a unique island. The self -sufficiency and energy conservation part sounds great. I quite liked the history, forts and the whole romantic getaway kind of feel about it. And of course that breakfast basket got my heart. And like always you make travelling with a baby look so easy..

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  9. I honestly did not know much about Pampus. It sounds fascinating with all those 45 forts. And add to that the tech that they have mastered - the whole hydraulics system and the dykes. I would definitely enjoy seeing those morse code machines and the other antiques in the place. Lovely reading through it

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  10. Having lived on an island I could relate to every experience in this post. Though I never heard about this when I visited Amsterdam I am sure I would be visiting it when in Netherlands next. Pampus being the farthest island looks even more pristine. The fact that it's a short ride away from Amsterdam and one can visit with children, it must be very Populsar weekend trip. I loved the idea of rooms on the ship. Thanks for discovering this hidden gem near such a busy city. Weekend escape makes it very special

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