Being a long Easter weekend here in Hungary, we decided to take a trip and explore the countryside around Lake Balaton. This lake is the largest in Central Europe… just to give you an idea about its size, you could easily fit the island of Malta twice in there! 😵
Lake Balaton is a popular summer destination with both locals and tourists alike. It is also sometimes referred to as the Hungarian Sea, and as you can imagine Summer is the busiest season here around the lake. We had wanted to explore the area during a quieter season and enjoy the beautiful countryside that surrounds it. Last year, we had been to Tihany, a small peninsula jutting out into this lake. The scenery there was amazing, however, that was just a tiny part and we had to return to explore more. 🙂
The northern coast of the lake is known for its wine-growing regions and the beautiful hiking trails in the Balaton Uplands National Park. Spring makes this region more appealing to the eye, with all the trees beginning to dress up. On the other hand, the southern coast is best known for its numerous resorts, beaches and the party scene.
On Friday, we explored mainly the area of Badacsony, which is famous for its wine. Various vineyards and inns stand perched on the slopes overlooking Lake Balaton.
Later in the afternoon, we went down to a beach close by. There was a man courageous enough to take a swim and enjoy the cool water. Fishermen lined the shore, and there was one who was lucky to catch some nice big fish, while the others stood there in awe. Apart from some people walking around enjoying the afternoon sun, the beach was so peaceful.
After a nice sunny day, the cherry on the cake was the stunning sunset colours.
In the evening, we had dinner at one of the restaurants in the area overlooking Lake Balaton. Although it was a bit fresh, we decided to dine outside and enjoy the view!
The following morning, the weather was not as nice as predicted the days before. We made a slight change of plans and decided to head towards the south coast. We drove through a lot of small villages lining the coast. Most of the buildings around were either hotels, inns or restaurants. It is still the low season and the majority of them were still shut down. It was also interesting noticing that signs on various shops and inns were both in Hungarian and German… and most people also spoke fluent German here!
We stopped at Siófok. In Summer, this area is the mecca of activity… people enjoying the cool water, restaurants are open and resorts are full. The story was completely different while we were there! It was still nice to enjoy a quiet stroll along the beach.
We continued on our way towards the far west side of Lake Balaton. After checking in at our next accommodation, we visited Keszthely, the largest city by the lake. We walked around the centre of the town, visited the gardens of one of the palaces, Helikon Kastély, and also the waterfront area.
The next day, while heading home we decided to tour the Balaton Uplands National Park. The first stop was at Szigliget, an old small village built on volcanic hills. The castle which stands on the highest point of the area offers magnificent panoramic views of Lake Balaton and the surrounding hills.
Our next stop was at an interesting geological site. The topography of the area was created by volcanic activity and one of the places where this is most visible is at a cliff face by the village of Monoszló, where cooling lava formed long columns of rock in the cliff face that kind of reminded me of the Giant’s Causeway, in Northern Ireland.
A steep stairway takes you on top of this cliff face. It is totally worth going up there as the views are really breathtaking.
It was a great short break and we really enjoyed our time in this area. We were lucky with the weather too and the views were captivating. I hope we will return before the busy Summer season commences and will have the chance to explore other areas around Lake Balaton. 🙂