Migration into rural areas is often explained in terms of the rural idyll, the attraction of the countryside with its less hurried way of life in a quiet, spacious and green environment. However, this migration phenomenon has mostly been researched in attractive, amenity-rich, popular rural areas. This paper investigates the characteristics and motivations of migrants to less-popular rural areas using survey data (N = 664) for four municipalities in the North of the Netherlands. Our study shows a young group of in-migrants with relatively low incomes, but also a large proportion of working people and a considerable number of highly educated movers. Separating the motivations for choosing to live in a rural area in general from the motivations for choosing this specific rural area reveals that while the pull of the rural idyll is an important motivation for moving to a rural area in general, the reasons for choosing the specific rural area are a mixture of housing characteristics, the physical qualities of the environment, personal reasons and the low house prices in the area. Combining the motivations with the characteristics of the movers reveals the diversity within the movers group. Our analysis shows a group of movers motivated to live close to family and friends, consisting of return migrants, singles, the youngest and oldest age groups and also the lowest income group. The physical qualities of the environment attract a group of highly educated movers, people with high incomes and people aged between 35 and 64. The motivation of housing characteristics, referring in most cases to the availability of a specific house, is mentioned by a wide range of movers, but in particular by people moving from urban areas. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.