Lake Balaton is a paradise for lovers of the great outdoors who crave stunning scenery and fresh air in their lungs. Watersports enthusiasts revel in the superb opportunities for sailing, windsurfing, wakeboarding and rowing; motorboats are prohibited, so you won’t find yourself swamped by wash. Less-energetic visitors laze on the beaches, hire fishing rods and go in pursuit of the pike perch – a delicacy found only here – or take a turn around the lake aboard a sightseeing boat
. Golfers are well catered for at the European Lakes Golf and Country Club
in Hencse and at the Birdland Spa and Golf Resort
in Bük, both of which boast beautifully manicured courses.
Countless marked trails circumnavigate the lake and lead hikers, cyclists and horse-riders to some of the region’s natural treasures. The northern shore is characterised by volcanic hills that harbour some spectacular rock formations. The 400m-high Badacsony Hill is a particular favourite, its slopes littered with cellars promising tasty refreshment and its flat-topped summit offering views to die for. The peninsula of Tihany
was formed of ancient volcanoes, and its geyser cones and crater lakes provide wonderful terrain for walkers and anglers alike. Alternatively you could head for some of the lookout points in the forested Keszthely hill range
or for the Lóczy Cave above Balatonfüred
, its limestone-layered walls resembling stacks of toast.
The Balaton region reveals nature in all its glory. The lake itself is home to a range of fish, including pike-perch, bream, carp, eel and razor fish, while its reed beds harbour various species of waterfowl. The 60,000-hectare Balaton Uplands National Park stretches from the lake’s western tip and covers much of the area above the northern shore. Kis (or ‘Small’) Balaton is a vast reed bed and an exceptional birdwatching
site. Up to 20,000 bean geese alight here during their migration, and the lake also holds all species of European heron, the great white egret and large numbers of nesting greylag geese. Kis Balaton is strictly protected, and you’ll need a guide to visit the bulk of it; you can arrange one by contacting the national park directorate (see below for website details).
Elsewhere, the dolomite slopes of the Keszthely Hills feature steppeland and dry scrub forest of Hungarian oak. Keep a look out for the rare leopard’s bane, and for the 1km-long ‘basalt road’ – an ancient lava formation. There are orchids
to be found among the volcanic hills of Badacsony, Csobánc and Szent György, while near by you can view native Hungarian animal breeds
at the Salföld Nature Conservation Site
. The Tihany peninsula falls within the country’s mildest micro-climate, and there are significant populations of sub-Mediterranean plant species and typically Mediterranean fauna like the scops owl.
Balaton’s network of marked trails leads you to the very choicest natural cuts, whether you’re a hiker, cyclist or horse-rider. The Balaton Uplands National Park Directorate
and provides a map detailing the walking trails and viewing points. Several companies run wildlife tours
to the region, including Ecotours