The "Hungarian Sea", is the people's name for the 50 mile long lake with silky green-yellow water in the middle of Transdanubia. Lake Balaton is one of Hungary's most precious treasures and most frequented resort. It is the largest lake in Central Europe. At its center, the depth is 52.5 ft. The southern shores are ideal for small children because of the shallow water. On the north shore the water gets deeper immediately. The summer water temperature of around 80 °F is warmer than the air in the morning and in the evening. The water and the silky mud of the lake are very good remedies for nervous complaints, anemia and nervous fatigue.
Rich vineyards in the region produce an assortment of excellent wines that go very well with the delicious local food. Large numbers of inns and restaurants welcome guests from home and abroad.
Between Balatonakarattya and Keszthely, there are approximately 25 lakeside resorts surrounded by hills on the northern lake shore. The innumerable sights in villages and towns away from the lake offer memorable outings for a cloudy day.
Balatonalmádi has the longest beach on the northern shore. Its Chapel of the Holy Right Hand is ornate with gold mosaic from Venice. On the 4-mile path called "Red Sandstone", signposts indicate the interesting sights of the Balaton Highlands National Park. The symbol of Vörösberény is its 13th-century medieval fortress church.
Felsőörs can be proud of its Provost's Church, built in the 13th century. Its 5-register organ made in 1745 is played for the popular summer organ concerts. There is a geological study path at Hill Forrás, allowing us an insight into the tertiary period of the Earth's history.
Balatonfüred was important to social life in the 18th century, even before bathing and swimming took off as a mass pastime a hundred years later. This is the place where the first Balaton steamship started its trips. The first yachtsmen's association began here. Here were built the villas of 19th-century celebrities, suchs as the villa (now a memorial museum) of the great romantic novelist, Jókai Mór. The town is still the center of festivities. The annual Anna Ball, with the coronation of the Queen of the Ball, has been organized in the town theatre for 170 years, on the last Saturday of July. Start-of-sailing parties are held each May in the Rose Garden.
Patients have been treated for three hundred years with the help of the mineral water sources. This water is good for diabetes and digestive malfunctions; you can taste it in the Kossuth Lajos drinking house next door to the Hospital of cardiology and the Sanatorium Building.
The twin-towered church of the Tihany peninsula is distinctly visible far and wide. The peninsula, inhabited almost a thousand years, is of volcanic origin, and has a profusion of rare plants and animals. The crypt of King András I, founded in 1055, survived the turbulent past and still stands in its original form. The present church was built over the crypt in the 18th century in Baroque style and has many precious wood carvings. In the Museum of the Benedictine Abbey, you can find an exhibition about ancient times. There are frequent organ concerts in the abbey church in summertime.
The Open-air Ethnographic Museum, the rural houses of the old village and the Potter's House show the life of fishermen. From the natural lookouts of the peninsula-the Kiserd. top and the 'Golden House', the most beautiful among more than a hundred geyser cones-an unforgettable panorama opens onto the Inner Lake, so loved by anglers, and the Outer Lake where tens of thousands of birds nest.
A ferry from one of the prettiest ports on Lake Balaton heads for Szántód, one mile from here, on the southern shore.
In Örvényes the still active water-mill that stands next to the more than 200 year-old bridge on the Pécsely stream, was milling wheat as early as 1211. It still uses the ancient tools of the millers' profession.
In the cemetery of Balatonudvari you can find approximately 50 graves with heart-shaped tombstones from the years 1808-1840.
Kál Basin region is particularly attractive because of the medieval ruins of palaces and churches, as well as the peculiar geological formations. Extinguished volcanoes surround the villages there. The mineral water source on the outskirts of Kékkút, producing the famous bottled water, Theodora, was known to the Romans. The clusters of basalt columns and small crater lakes like Lake Kornyi of Mount Hegyest., the basalt columns of the Fekete-hegy [Black Mount], and the wind-eroded stones of bizarre shape that are world-wide rarities and stand at Szentbékkálla, K.vágóörs and Salföld, are really special. This basin is a very popular place for rural tourism because of its old peasant houses, and the quiet life of the countryside.
It is worthwhile to tour the strange basalt formations of Badacsony. The panorama is amazing from the porch of the Baroque Kisfaludy House, or from Ranolder Cross. The excellent wine of the Pauline monks called 'Grey Monk' [Szürkebarát] is pressed here. The Badacsony Regional Protection Area consists of wonderful volcanic hills, such as Gulács, Csobánc, Mount St. George.
Szigliget has a unique atmosphere with its houses creeping up the hillside and its green gardens. The old village consists of thatched rural houses. There is a stunning panorama from the ruins of the 13th-century Szigliget Fortress on Castle Hill. The Esterházy Palace is now a house for writers. There are more than 150 types of pine trees in its well-kept park.
The renowned Hungarian hunter in Africa, Endre von Nagy, established a Safari Park and Africa Museum at Balatonederics. Nearby, the recently uncovered enormous Csodabogyós stalactite cave can be visited by appointment.
Keszthely is the largest and oldest settlement of Lake Balaton. The beautiful Festetics Mansion, with 101 rooms surrounded by an English park, is the third largest chateau in the country. The Helikon Library contains 86 thousand books. In its Museum, decorative arms and the trophy collection of the Duke of Windischgrätz are exhibited. Weekly concerts are organized in the music hall of mirrors.
The Georgikon Agriculture Museum and the Balaton Museum display the flora and fauna of the Balaton Region. Remnants of the castrum (fortress) of the 2-4th century Roman town of Valcum can be seen at Fenékpuszta.
Velvety sands cover the 70-kilometre beach on the southern shore from Balatonaliga through Balatonszentgyörgy. The beach is an uninterrupted line of large and small resorts teeming with bustling life, a paradise for worshippers of sun and water, particularly families with small children.
Siófok is the largest town on the southern side of Lake Balaton. Its port serves every boat route on the lake. Cruise boats also start from here. The hotels of the Golden and Silver Beaches are very much in demand. The pleasant parks are ornamented with statues. The Lutheran church has a remarkable style. The composer of the internationally renowned operettas, Imre Kálmán (1882-1953), is the famous son of this city. His piano and many personal belongings can be seen in his museum. The Water Management Museum covers the history of shipping and fishery on Lake Balaton, while a huge collection of minerals is exhibited in the Museum of Minerals.
Many of the houses in Zamárdi are monuments of folk architecture. The Szántód ferry has been in operation for many centuries for people who headed for the northern shores; its port was built in 1802. Farms and good inns provide hospitality at this cultural and tourism center.
We find a row of villas mellowed with age in the popular resort of Balatonföldvár, founded in 1872. The lookout tower offers a 360 degree panorama. Organ concerts are held at Köröshegy, in the 15th-century Church.
Balatonboglár is the finish line for the popular Balaton-crossing swimming competitions which start at Révfülöp, on the opposite side (end of July). The local history collection at the Fischl House, the exhibitions at Kápolna Hill and the round panorama view on Fortress Hill are worth visiting.
The best view of the Balaton highland can be seen from the Berzsenyi Lookout at Fonyód. Here is the longest pier on Lake Balaton. The hundred-year old Cellar Restaurant, famous for its 22-metre long cellar, is near the medieval palisade fortress.
Beyond the Lake
When you visit Lake Balaton, it makes sense not to limit your visit to the towns directly on the shore. After all, the region beyond the lake has plenty of natural beauty, history, and culture to explore.
A wonderful panorama can be seen from the tower of the castle of Kinizsi Pál (15th century), at Nagyvázsony. The history and archaeological finds are shown in the Fortress Museum. The ruins of the Pauline church and monastery, and the interior of St. Stephen's church are reminiscent of the 15th century. The Zichy Palace is a hotel today with a functioning riding school. The garden, a protected area, is the venue for the current Nagyvázsony Horsemen Festivals. Exhibitions invite the visitor at the Post Office Museum and at the thatched Schumacher House.
The area of Tapolca has a splendid landscape: basalt hills covered with vineyards encircle the small town. You can have a great experience paddling a boat on a lake within the 2.3 mile-long Tavas Cave. The 200-year-old watermill on the shore of the picturesque Malom [Mill] Lake is now a hotel. One of the oldest elementary school buildings in Central Europe contains the town's library and museum.
Hévíz ['Hot Water'] is extremely fortunate to have its Thermal Bath which has been attracting visitors for more than two centuries. The Lake is covered with water-lilies and extends over an area of approximately 30 square-miles, with a depth of 118 feet at the center. It is the second largest hot-water lake in the world, at a temperature of 90°F, open-air bathing is very pleasant even in winter. Treatments are conducted under the supervision of specialized doctors from the Hospital of Rheumatology and Rehabilitation.
The Kis-Balaton [Balaton Minor] area is a swampy region with tens of thousands of birds nesting in the reeds. You can watch their life from the Kányavári Island and the lookout tower of Pap Island. These protected areas can only be visited with a special pass and an escort. In the near-by Kápolnapuszta, you can visit the one and only buffalo reserve of Central Europe.
The medicinal center of the Zalakaros spa is very popular with its tubs and underwater traction bath. In the well-tended garden, a new recreation complex is under development. New hotels and vacation houses are springing up, and the thermal caravan camp with its own swimming pool is also popular.
In Somogyvár the third historic memorial shrine of Hungary, the restored remains of the St. Egyed Benedictine Basilica (founded in 1091) can be seen.