It is undeniably a very pleasant experience to finish a semester and leave behind all the exams that mark the ending period of a year at university. To ‘commemorate’ this time of post-exam relief, getting closer to nature and experiencing a vibrant summer alongside the natural wonders of Hungary might just be the perfect idea. We have listed 5 possible destinations that lovers of hiking and adventure can add to their to-do lists for this summer, presented below with short overviews and information about travelling, accommodation and ways to spend time.
The first destination on our list is the Dunakanyar (Danube-bend), a not-so-concrete term used to describe a region of the Danube between the cities of Budapest and Esztergom. This area includes the Danube-Ipoly National Park, the Szentendre Island, and several scenic towns and natural sights. Cited as one of the most beautiful areas of the country, Dunakanyar offers plenty of opportunities for hiking, sightseeing, and water-related activities, thanks to the proximity of the Danube itself. Being the closest destination to Budapest on our list, Dunakanyar can be reached by regional buses and trains within maximum two hours, although travelling by car significantly reduces this time. Finding accommodation will prove to be relatively simple, given the frequency of towns and cities in the area.
The Balaton coastline
A list about Hungarian nature could not be complete without Balaton: the biggest lake in Hungary (and Central Europe) is an everlasting source of activities and adventure. Locations worth visiting here are too many to count, but amongst the most notable ones are Balaton Uplands National Park, Tihany, Sümeg and the giant lake’s countless beaches themselves. Balaton and the surrounding areas can offer spectacular views, amazing activities, culinary experiences and even festivals, presenting the option of combining nightlife activities with serene trips in the embrace of nature and so on. Travelling to Balaton is straightforward (being the number 1 summer holiday destination of the populace), but different locations require alternating travel-times. Usually voyage by train takes 1.5-3 hours, while travelling by car is half of that. At summer, Balaton gets quite crowded and prices can sometimes border the ridiculous, but with proper research and preparation everybody can find affordable, appropriate and enjoyable destinations for themselves.
On the opposite side of the nature spectrum lies Mátra, a mountain-range to the north-east of Budapest that proudly houses the highest peak in the whole country. Home to numerous hiking-paths, cozy mountain-towns, and lookout towers with excellent views, the Mátrai Landscape Protection Area stands opposite to the vibrant and busy premises of Balaton, rather catering to those who seek relaxation and solemn adventure. The area is reachable by public transport in about 2 and a half hours from Budapest, while travelling by car would prove to be a shorter, pleasant ride, occasionally accompanied by beautiful scenery. Travelers can find refuge in one of the smaller towns in the area, but Mátra also offers a lavish alternative in the form of the castle-hotel of Parádsasvár. Hiking, getting in touch with nature, cleansing our lungs with the fresh mountain-air, or looking down on the endless rolling hills and plains of the country from the highest peak are amongst the options one can indulge in when choosing to visit Mátra.
To shuffle back to familiar, watery territory, the next entry on our list is another body of water: Tisza Lake. This lake is situated to the east of Budapest and is home to some of the most beautiful and serene natural sights in the country. Home to countless marshes, bogs, streams and more, Tisza Lake proudly presents what those have to offer in unparalleled abundance: plants, animals and untouched, sacred nature ready to be explored by the adventurous, but careful traveller. After a 2 - 3 hour journey by bus or train (with car, as expected, it’s much shorter), visitors usually find accommodation in the nearby town of Tiszafüred, from which they set out to embark on watery journeys of kayaking, boat-rides and swimming. The scenery here can truly be breath-taking, especially when the rays of the sun reflect from the still surface of the water lily speckled water.
The final destination on our list is a truly special one, and very close to the hearts of many who call Hungary home. The Great Plains of Hungary are famous in their own right, and one of the most popular part of them is the National Park of Hortobágy. Located in the eastern part of the country next to the large city of Debrecen, Hortobágy is a textbook example of the Great Plains, a rather curious and strange type of lowland that a lot of foreigners had never witnessed anywhere else before travelling there. It is the farthest destination on this list, and it is advised to dedicate at least 2 - 3 days to it, since the journey with train can take more than 3 hours. Hortobágy is famous for some of the most iconic Hungarian sights and motifs, such as the Csárda, a type of remote inn and refuge, the great, roaming Grey Cattle, or the endless plains with the occasional shadoof and fata morgana. Overall, it is a very interesting place to behold and if you are curious about some of the more spiritual and serene places in the country, Hortobágy should definitely be on your list.