What do you think of when we say Hungary? Is it Budapest? Or Hungarian wine? Or ruin pubs? Lake Balaton? Sziget Fesztivál? These are all among those things that attract lots of tourists to Hungary each year – and for a good reason. However, if you’re like us, you like to see the natural attractions of a country, as well, and spend some days in nature between the eventful sightseeing days.
Which are the most famous and beautiful natural wonders of Hungary? Glad you asked, because we have amazing things to share:
1. The best view: Danube Bend, Danube-Ipoly National Park
Our favorite panorama in Hungary is the view of the Danube Bend, this natural curve on the River Danube north of Budapest. You can enjoy it from the terraces of the Royal Palace of Visegrád, or even from the water if you take a boat excursion from Budapest to Esztergom. However, our favorite Danube Bend view is from the new viewing tower on Prédikálószék peak in the Pilis Mountains (hiking required – and the trail from the village of Dömös to Prédikálószék is quite scenic, too!). Julianus viewpoint in Börzsöny Mountains offers Danube Bend views from a different angle (hiking also required).
2. Hungary’s largest dripstone cave in Aggtelek National Park
The gorgeous caves of Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst are located at the northeastern border of Hungary and the southeastern border of Slovakia. There are about 712 caves in a relatively small area!
The largest and most famous dripstone cave that can be visited on the Hungarian side is Baradla Cave. We took part in several guided tours from different entrances of the cave to see the stunning dripstones and karst formations inside – read more about the cave tours here!
3. Cave lake of Tapolca, Balaton Uplands National Park
Here’s another fabulous cave with a crystal clear lake: the cave lake of Tapolca in Balaton Uplands National Park, only 30 minutes drive from Keszthely. Navigating through it by boat is quite fun, and there’s also a brand new visitor center with an exciting exhibition about the cave. The boat ride is not long, maybe about 20 minutes, but it’s very impressive all the way!
4. Basalt columns of Hegyestű, Balaton Uplands National Park
Balaton Uplands National Park is rich in volcanic rock formations, and the most spectacular is Hegyestű. This protected site was once home to a mine, and the basalt columns of Hegyestű were quarried by hand.
The Hegyestű Geological Visitor Site can be accessed from the road between the towns of Monoszló and Zánka. There’s an admission fee to enter the site today, then you can visit an exhibition, and walk to the top of the basalt rock formation of Hegyestű on a well established path. The basalt cone is 337 meters high, and offers a pretty panorama of Lake Balaton, Tihany Peninsula, Káli and Tapolca Basins from the top.
5. Lake Hévíz, the largest thermal lake in Europe that’s available for swimming
Not far from Lake Balaton there’s another, much smaller but truly unique lake: 38 meters deep Lake Hévíz is a thermal lake with its water being 23-25 °C in winter and 33-36 °C in summer. It’s the most amazing thermal bath ever – created by nature. There’s a fee to access the lake, as well as the building complex built on it, but swimming among the water lilies in the warm water is quite an experience.
6. Hungary’s prettiest waterfall in Szalajka Valley, Bükk National Park
First of all, let me warn you that Hungary is not the country that takes your breath away when it comes to waterfalls. We don’t have many, and even those that we have are not the big, roaring kind of waterfalls. But we tell you where to go for the prettiest one: to the Szalajka Valley in Bükk National Park.
Though 17 meters high Veil Waterfall (Fátyol-vízesés in Hungarian) doesn’t impress with its size, it does with its look. With the limestone stairs and terraces, this waterfall is among the most unique karst phenomena in the country. You can reach it on a short, flat path from the town of Szilvásvárad on foot.
7. Lake Tisza, the best place for bird-watching in Hungary
If we wouldn’t have known, we couldn’t have figured that Lake Tisza in Hortobágy National Park is an artificial lake. Its life started as part of the ongoing Tisza River flood control project in the 1970s, but today it’s a diverse land of zigzagging channels, reedy areas, water passages, wide blue water areas and flood basin forests. It’s home to countless bird species, and its surface is decorated with colorful wetland flowers. Rent a canoe and go bird-watching!
8. Limestone terraces of Egerszalók
The 18 metres tall salt hill with the limestone terraces in Egerszalók is so unique that there are only two other places in the whole world that are similar: Pamukkale in Turkey, and the famous Mammoth Hot Springs terraces in the Yellowstone National Park in the USA.
Somewhat to our disappointment, the terraces of Egerszalók don’t look unspoilt, it’s a developed area with a huge thermal bath and wellness complex built below the salt hill. The thermal spring is hot (65-68°C) and helps to cure many diseases, making this place one of the most popular spa centers in Hungary. This thermal spring formed the salt hill, too, as it’s been dripping down the hillside. A path is established to take you to see the salt hill from up close, and it’s lit up at night.
9. Megyer-hegy tarn, Northeastern Hungary
Megyer-hegy Tarn is actually an abandoned mine in Northeastern Hungary, just outside of the town of Sárospatak. Once millstones were made here, and it was closed in the early 1900s. Later water filled it, and it became a protected area that belongs to the Aggtelek National Park – and it also became a favorite spot for Hungarian photographers. The rock walls surrounding it reach 70 meters at some places, making it a picturesque site.
A short and easy hiking trail takes you to the tarn from the parking lot. Then there’s a well-established loop trail with fences around the tarn. We also went up to a viewing tower on the way that offers 360 degrees panorama of the landscape, including the city of Sárospatak and the Zemplén Mountains in the north. (The tarn can’t be seen from the viewing tower, the pictures that show it from above are taken by drone.)
If you like adventures, there’s a via ferrata trail in the tarn, and you can borrow all the necessary equipment on the spot.
10. Thermal water
Last but not at all least: thermal water, Hungary’s greatest natural treasure. Our country is so rich in thermal springs that wherever you go, you always find wonderful thermal spas in the nearby towns or cities.
Our capital, Budapest is the city that has the most spas in the world. Five of them are famous historical thermal baths: the amazing Art Nouveau building complex of Gellért Thermal Bath, Széchenyi Thermal Bath with its 21 different pools, Rudas Thermal Bath with its amazing panorama pool, Lukács Thermal Bath and Király Baths – a small Turkish Bath.
But where to go for the greatest spas outside of Budapest? Plenty of options! Hajdúszoboszló, a small town near Debrecen, hosts one of the largest spa complexes in Europe. Miskolctapolca Cave Baths are also unique in Europe, with impressive swimming pools and waterways in the caves. The thermal spas of Harkány (near Pécs), Zalakaros, Gyula, Makó, Egerszalók, Eger or Székesfehérvár are also among the best ones in the country.
+1. Fall foliage
This is not a particular place, and honestly, it seemed no extraordinary to us for a long time. We’ve grown up with four seasons in Hungary, including colorful falls. We’ve only realized our luck since we started travelling extensively, and were faced with surprising and confusing facts, like people travelling to a place to see fall colors or snow. 😀 Because not everyone has fall – and fall colors (shocking, I know, but we’ve never given a single thought of this as kids).
Well, Hungary has spectacular fall colors! Whether you walk in the city parks or hike in our seasonal forests, you’ll get to enjoy trees dressed in golden, red, orange and brown. Our favorite fall hiking trips were in the Kőszeg Mountains, Zemplén Mountains and Börzsöny Mountains, but you can pick any of our hills or mountains from mid-October to early November. Also, you can take a walk on Gellért Hill or Margaret Island when in Budapest, or take a half day hiking trip in the Buda Hills.
Have you been to Hungary? Are you tempted for a visit?
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