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Natural treasures of the Balaton region
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Natural treasures of the Balaton region

Badacsony Hill (Badacsony hegy) | Botanical garden (Arborétum) – Cserszegtomaj | Mineral springs (Gyógyforrások) - Balatonfüred | Lóczy Cave and Jókai look-out (Lóczy barlang és Jókai kilátó) – Balatonfüred | Koloska valley (Koloska-völgy) | The lakes of Tihany (Tihanyi tavak) | Lajos Lóczy (Educational) Pathway (Lóczy Lajos tanösvény) | The Shore of Lake Balaton and the Bozsai Bay (Balatonpart és a Bozsai öböl) | Wonderberry cave (Csodabogyós barlang) - Balatonederics | Nagyberek - Fehérvíz marshland (Fehérvízi láp) | Lake Hévíz | Kál Basin - Hegyestű (Káli medence – Hegyestű) | Kis-Balaton (Small Balaton) | Kányavári Island and the ‘Great crested grebe’ Educational Pathway (Kányavári-sziget és a Búbos vöcsök tanösvény) | Salföld Manor - Domestic animal farm and exhibition (Salföld major) | Small hill (Kishegy) - Balatonlelle | Tapolca Cave Lake (Tapolca tavasbarlang)


Natural treasures of Balaton region

An old dream of Hungarian nature conservation experts came true in 1997: a protected ecological system embracing the area of the Balaton Uplands was established by connecting previously-protected areas that had been separated from each other for a long time. As a result, the Balaton-felvidék (uplands) National Park today consists of six formerly-separate landscape protection areas over an area of 56,997 hectares.

Among these regions, Kis-Balaton (Small Balaton) is a particularly special one, as it is also protected by the international Ramsar Convention, serving the protection of wetland habitats. Tihany Peninsula - as a recognition of its outstanding geological values and the work of nature conservation in that region - was awarded a European Diploma in 2003. The areas of Natura 2000, partly covering the National Park and going beyond its area, ensure the possibility of the conservation of habitats and plant and animal species of European importance.

An initiative of the Bakony-Balaton Geopark - an area partly forming the National Park - sets a goal of realising geological, natural and cultural values and awakening consciousness towards their social significance.

The primary objective of the Balaton Uplands National Park is the comprehensive conservation and protection of natural treasures and areas. In addition to protection, it is also important to maintain the beautiful landscapes, living and non-living natural values, and provide possibilities for the present and future generation to learn and relax in nature.

These goals can be achieved only with the cooperation of visitors who demonstrate responsible behaviour in the protected areas. Please help us to protect nature: do not disturb the habitats and natural values! Think of your fellow visitors, who would also like to enjoy the beautiful and intact environment.

For more information on Balaton Uplands National Park:

Badacsony Hill

Badacsony Hill (437 m), on the southwestern shore, is an extinct table-shaped volcano quite characteristic of Balaton. Its slopes are covered with interesting geological formations, fossilised lava columns called basalt organs, as well as vineyards that produce the excellent wine of the Pauline monks, the Pinot Gris, locally called Grey Friar (Szürkebarát).

The highlights of the region forming part of the nature park are the volcanic Witness Hills, including Gulács (393 m), Csobánc (376 m) and St. George Hill (Szent György hegy - 415 m). They are called "witnesses" as they bear witness to the land surface level that was once much higher due to volcanic activity. Visitors following the geo-botanical path in the Folly Botanical Garden in Badacsonyörs will recognize the immense heritage of the place. The arboretum displays 400 types of conifers and is mainly characterized by cedars and cypresses.

Address: 8261 Badacsony, Római u. 139.

Botanical garden – Cserszegtomaj

On the western end of the village of Cserszegtomaj, covering an area of 20 hectares, some 200 pine species and other evergreens can be seen.

Address: Cserszegtomaj, Barát u. 15.

Mineral springs - Balatonfüred

The fame and greatness of Balatonfüred as a health resort have been earned by the carbonated springs emanating from here, and their exploitation for centuries. Several springs containing a significant amount of minerals arise in different parts of the town. It is a calcium-magnesium-hydrogen-carbonated, sulphated type of water with a considerable amount of free carbon-dioxide (so-called "sour water") and is classified as natural mineral water. Today, the medicinal water of Füred is used for healing heart and circulatory diseases and treating general exhaustion. As a drinking treatment, it is effective against gastric influenza, diseases of the bile and intestines as well as diabetes.

Visitors coming to the town can taste the 'sour water' of Füred at several places (e.g. the Kossuth Lajos Ivócsarnok on Gyógy Square, or the Tagore Promenade).

Lóczy Cave and Jókai Lookout – Balatonfüred

The 120m-long Lóczy Cave (at the end of Öreghegyi Street in Balatonfüred) was first explored in 1882, and since 1934 has been open to visitors. It is characterized by varied shapes of dissolved limestone, and walls with thin layers showing the structure of the mountain. There are guided tours in the illuminated cave.

A marked hiking trail leads from Lóczy Cave to the wooden, 3-storey Jókai Lookout tower (Jókai-kilátó) on Tamás-hegy (317 m), from where there is a wonderful view of Lake Balaton and the Tihany Peninsula. Along the Golden Man Path, named after one of Jókai's protagonists, benches make your excursion even more pleasant and comfortable.

Koloska Valley

From the Jókai Lookout tower, you can reach the beautiful Koloska Valley and Koloska Rock on a marked hiking trail (blue and green). There is a small pond in front of Koloska Spring embedded in the rocks. However, it dries out during drought-stricken periods.

The 250-300m-high uplands around Balatonfüred are covered with typical sub-Mediterranean karst vegetation, while small brooks that have carved valleys into the limestone mountains slowly babble and flow into Lake Balaton.

The lakes of Tihany

Tihanyi-félsziget (Tihany Peninsula) divides the Balaton into two basins. The characteristic view of the Mediterranean landscape was formed by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, as shown today by two giant calderas. The remains of these craters form little lakes, without outlets and higher than the water level of Balaton: Belső-tó (Inner lake), which is popular with anglers, and Külső-tó (Outer lake), a birdlife paradise. The list is not complete however, since a third lake also appears during rain-heavy years: the Rátai-csáva. There are no springs or streams supplying the lake; they are simply filled with rainwater, which explains their periodic drying up, as has happened to all three lakes on some occasions over previous centuries.

The Inner Lake is situated directly under the village, with its clear water surface almost perfectly circular. It lies 26m above the level of Lake Balaton in the sunken caldera formed after a volcanic eruption. It was once famous for its rich flora and fauna. The Inner Lake is today a popular fishing spot.

The Outer Lake, once formed in the main crater of the peninsula's volcano, is a heavily-filled shallow lake 116m above sea level. During the early 1800s, drainage canals were dug to carry the water away via the Aszófő-séd stream into Lake Balaton. The drained area was used for haymaking. In 1976, management of the area was granted to the nature preservation authority at the time. This is when - by blocking off the drainage canal - the restoration of the original conditions of the lake began. During the two and a half decades since then, the water flora has totally resettled, and fauna characteristic of wet habitats have also reappeared. Insect life relying on water is diverse; several rare dragonflies have found suitable conditions for survival here. Among the large number of amphibians and reptiles living in the lake, there is an outstanding abundance of pond turtles. Among the birds, the greylag goose and the Western marsh harrier nest here, while in later years traces of red heron nests have also been found. This is an important autumn meeting place for heron species since the shallow water is ideal for migrant birds; groups of herons can frequently be seen together on the lake.

Lajos Lóczy Nature Trail

The stunning environment of the Tihany Peninsula – still part of the Balaton Uplands Natural Park - can be explored by taking the Lajos Lóczy Trail. Sights include wind-torn basalt rocks, a hermit’s niche carved from volcanic stone, monk’s dwellings where Basilite monk settlers lived in the 11th century, and almond trees and lavender fields. From the natural lookouts of the peninsula - Kiserdő Peakand the Aranyház (Golden House), the most beautiful view opens up over the hundreds of geyser cones onto the Inner Lake, much loved by anglers, and the Outer Lake, where tens of thousands of birds nest.

The starting point of the trail is at the Apáti Church ruins next to Sajkod, leading to over the Apáti Hill, Nyereg Hill and Csúcs Hill into the Sarkadi Forest, and then via the geyser field and Aranyház to the ancient settlement. From there, the trail leads along the Kiserdő Peak - Óvár – Hermits’ niche to Tihany Harbour. There are seven stops along the trail, each attached to a noteworthy place.

The stops are:

  • Nyereg-hegy (Saddle Hill)
  • Csúcs-hegy (Peak Hill)
  • Gejzírmező (Geyser Field)
  • Aranyház (Golden House)
  • Kiserdő-tető (Little Grove Peak)
  • Óvár (Ancient fortification)
  • Barátlakások (Hermits’ niches)

More information:

The Shore of Lake Balaton and the Bozsai Bay (Balatonpart és a Bozsai öböl)

The southwestern shoreline of Tihany Peninsula lies in a nearly natural state; in particular, the section stretching from the part below Gurbicza to the harbour has remained intact. The shore has preserved its original state at Sajkod and in the Bozsai Bay.

Bozsai Bay is one of the last almost-undisturbed reed bays of Lake Balaton. White water lilies (Nymphaea alba) bloom on islets within the reeds. Hay fields, meadows and the remains of fenlands decorate the bay on the shore, in addition to lax-flowered orchids, common cottongrass and Siberian iris (Iris siberica), along with a host of other protected plants.

The reeds offer breeding places to many rare bird species, like the greylag goose and the marsh harrier. Among mammals, the increasingly-protected otters are noteworthy.

Wonderberry cave - Balatonederics

Near Balatonederics, the beautiful forest of the Balaton Uplands Natural Park hides the highly-protected Wonderberry Cave, which was named after the shrubs growing next to its entrance. To date, a section of the tectonic cave longer than 5km has been discovered. The pathways (fissures) in the cave were formed by the tectonic movements of the plates. Certain corridors have been opened to the public. If you are curious to see this extraordinary underground world for yourself, and are interested in the history of the development of the cave and would like to admire the spectacular stalagmites, then discover the awe-inspiring sights together with skilled tour guides! Access to the cave through the forest is only possible on foot; a 40-minute walk uphill is necessary to reach the entrance.

For the types of tours available, the necessary clothing and other details, please call:
(+36 20) 454 7034
Detailed information, online tour arrangement:

Nagyberek - Fehérvíz marshland

The formation of the area was the result of a simple geological detachment, whereby the lake separated the area from the water surface with an offshore bar, which later became a swamp. Since this area is not particularly suitable for any kind of agricultural activity, it was never exposed to the harmful effects of urbanisation, and has been able to preserve its unity and natural beauty. The process of drainage in Nagyberek is carried out with a system of canals totalling 216km in length, through which an annual amount of 20 million m3 of water is pumped into the lake.

As Nagyberek was covered with an uninterrupted surface of water until the mid-1800s, the ground still contains a considerable amount of snail shells. When the wind sweeps across the area, these shells cause enormous damage by literally shaving off the tender shoots. To prevent this, forest belts have been planted.

Nagyberek has a narrow-gauge railway network of about 50km in length. It originally functioned as a means of transporting crops to the standard railway at Balatonfenyves, but now serves regular passengers  year-round and is a tourist attraction. The ride to Berek offers a pleasant time and many experiences, such as the beauty of the nature reserve, a wonderful swim at Csisztafürdő, the row of romantic wine cellars at Táska, or an excursion to Buzsák. Even if the railway is not a museum railway, its unique wooden-framed carriages, the tiny locomotives driven by lorry engines, and the renovated steam locomotive are all worthy of attention.

The ancient marshland has been a conservation area for more than twenty years now; it is only accessible for the purpose of scientific research and may be visited by guided tour only. Those interested in photography can be guided through the area on a photo-safari by specialists of the Berek Nature Reserve Fund upon request.

In addition to its natural beauty, this area boasts an extremely rich amount of flora and fauna. Among the 270 bird species living in the close environs of Lake Balaton, 123 have their habitat or nest here during the year. You can find great egrets (nagykócsag), small egrets, Eurasian spoonbills (kanalasgém), grey herons (szürke gém), Eurasian coots (szárcsa) and bitterns (bölömbika). The most notable predator bird breeding here is the Western marsh-harrier (barna rétihéja), but the honey buzzard (darázsölyv) or the white-tailed eagle (réti sas) is not uncommon either. Regarding flora, among the many rarities under protection, one can find the marsh pennywort, the marsh violet (mocsári ibolya) and the Siberian iris (szibériai nőszirom), but you will find white water lilies (fehér tündérrózsa), early marsh orchids (hússzínű ujjaskosbor) and marsh helleborines (mocsári nőszőfű) as well.

Due to environmental factors, the number of species and single organisms in the flora of the nature reserve is constantly changing. Nagyberek is also a paradise for hunters, where the deer are plentiful, but roe and wild boar in the swamps can also be spotted. In addition, the area is abundant in pheasants.

Together with Balaton and Kis-Balaton, the area plays a key role in bird migration.
For more information on photo-safaris, please call:  (+36 30) 969-2781 

Lake Hévíz

Lake Hévíz is located close to Hévíz, Hungary, near the western end of Lake Balaton, 5 miles from Keszthely. It is the largest thermal lake in Europe (47,500 m2 in area) and is 36m deep. In fact, it is a geyser which continually pours its mildly-radioactive, warm medicinal water into a natural crater, forming a lake. The flow of water is very strong and the lake is believed to be completely replenished each day. The waters are reputed to have curative effects, and there is a thriving health tourism industry in the area.

The fauna and flora are unique in Lake Hévíz due to the temperature and chemical composition of the water, which contains reduced sulfuric compounds as well as dissolved oxygen. Several species (mainly microscopic creatures) can only be found in this lake.

Kál Basin - Hegyestű

The Hegyestű (meaning "pointed needle") is a volcanic cone with a height of 337m above sea level, and is located between Zánka and Monoszló at the entrance of the Káli Basin. A part of the hill was demolished when the place served as a quarry, but the remaining part reveals the spectacular inner surface of a former volcano crater. As the lava rose to the surface in the course of an eruption, it froze to take the shape of vertical columns. This stunning formation is a rarity in Europe.

An exhibition in the buildings of the former basalt mine presents the geological structure, characteristic rocks and minerals of the Balaton Highlands and Transdanubia, and natural resources of the national park.

The Káli Basin offers numerous lookouts with amazing panoramas. The best one is located on the western edge of the former quarry, from where there is a beautiful view over the hills overlooking the basin, and landscape features can be identified with the help of a panorama guide.

Another bizarre place in the Káli Basin is the ‘Sea of Stones’, filled with sandstone boulders and rocky outcrops. As a result of post-volcanic activity, thermal springs have not only created more than one hundred geyser hills in the region, but glued the sand into interesting sandstone formations, the remains of which are scattered all around in a vast area.

Kis-Balaton (Small Balaton)

One of the most interesting landscapes in the tapering southwestern corner of Balaton is Kis-Balaton. This exceptional wetland habitat is a nature conservation area and was once the bay of the lake, before the Zala River gradually filled it up with debris. So the Kis-Balaton became one of the country's largest marshes, from which only an island emerges.
Inner areas covered by water and under high protection can only be visited on a specific route by bus on an organised trip. In the Kis-Balaton House in Zalavár, visitors are informed about the history and future of Kis-Balaton and its surroundings; discover the functioning of the Water Protection System, its role in the water quality of Lake Balaton and the unique flora and fauna of the highly-protected nature conservation area. Starting from the Kis-Balaton House, a part of Lake Hídvég can also be visited by bike as far as the side-road of Zalavár Balatonmagyaród, where you can enjoy the beauty of nature and the piece. The Excursion Centre on Kányavári Island can be visited without restrictions.

Places of interest at Kis-Balaton and surroundings are: Kis Balaton House, Chapel of Saint Stephen (Szt István kápolna), Cyril-Methodius Monument, Buffalo Reserve in Kápolnapuszta, Folklore Museum in Vörs, Zalakaros Spa and Lake Hévíz.

The Fauna

The fauna is extremely rich, as we can find dragonflies, 32 different species of fish (among which six are protected), frogs, water-salamanders, grass-snakes, lizards and pond turtles. Protected species of fish are the following: mud minnows, common loaches, spiny loaches, thunder fish, freshwater gobies and gudgeons. Umbra and loach species living in oxygen-poor swampy waters are highly protected. The local birds with 232 species (among which 38 are highly protected) are considerable even compared to other nature conservation areas. 13 of the highly-protected species breed in the Kis-Balaton region: great egrets, little egrets, herons (purple and grey), Eurasian spoonbills, squacco herons, white storks, white-tailed eagles, white owls, lich-owls, curlews, landrails, bee-eaters and the ferruginous duck.

The Flora

In the Kis-Balaton region, 29 protected and one highly-protected plant species can be observed. The most considerable and well-known species are: mud nettle, a kind of goldcup, cowslip, snow-flake (highly protected), moor-grass, poison-flag and white water lily.

More information:

Kányavári Island and the ‘Great crested grebe’ Natural Trail

Kányavári Island is a protected wetland habitat within the Kis-Balaton (Kis-Balaton) area, a part of Balaton Uplands Natural Park. The island and its flora and fauna are of outstanding beauty, and can be approached via a specially-constructed wooden bridge (there is a small ferry for the disabled and families with children). On the island, you can follow a nearly 2km-long nature trail named after the great crested grebe (búbos vöcsök), a typical inhabitant of the region.  The footpath – with its information points – aims to introduce the rich bird life as well as the bat population of the area (bat holes were created to enhance their breeding).

Indigenous species of course include the great crested grebe, but you will find great egrets (nagykócsag), cormorants (kormorán), Eurasian spoonbills (kanalasgém), squacco herons (üstökösgém), purple herons (vörös gém), grey herons (szürke gém), Eurasian coots (szárcsa), great reed warblers (nádirigó) and moustached warblers (fülemüle sitke) as well. As of the present time, 250 bird species have been spotted in this area, 150 of which also breed here.

Practical information:
Getting there is simple from the road between Sármellék and Balatonmagyaród.
The island and the educational path can be visited free of charge and without a guide.

Salföld Manor - Domestic animal farm and exhibition

Salföld is a village in the Káli Basin, in the heart of Balaton Uplands Natural Park, where significant geological, botanical and folk architectural treasures have been preserved.  Several indigenous species are on display here at the farm: the urial, also known as the arkars, buffalo, Hungarian grey cattle, poultry, shepherd dogs and horses. In a small botanical garden, medicinal herbs and spices are grown.

Address: 8256 Salföld
Phone: (+36 87) 702 857

Small Hill - Balatonlelle

The Small Hill connected to the town of Balatonlelle has been a wine-growing area for centuries. An 18th-century late Baroque chapel sits in the vineyard on the slopes of Kishegy. The exact date of its construction is unknown, but its first record is of the blessing of a bell in 1784. Mass is celebrated in the chapel on the feast of St Donatus on 7 August. Next to the chapel, you can find the 18th century wine-dresser’s house and cellar. A pleasant grove of 136 hectares stretches above the vineyard.

Tapolca Cave Lake

The Cave, which is unique in Central Europe, is right in the heart of the town. It was discovered in 1902 during a well-boring, and ten years later it was opened to the public. The halls and corridors of the three-level cave were formed by karst water. Water at a constant temperature of 19°C still flows in the lower chambers of the cave, and some parts of the upper corridors are partially flooded. This 300m-long section of the cave can be seen by boat (on a guided tour), and is illuminated with underwater lights. Observant visitors may be able to spot the sole fish species living in the water: the minnow. In the clear water, the paths leading to the lower chambers can also be clearly seen. The healing effects of the cave's special climate have been known for a long time. The extremely clean air, the relatively constant temperature (14-16 °C) and the 100% relative air humidity help cure patients suffering from allergies, asthma or other respiratory diseases; a separate section of the cave is used for this purpose (hospital wing).

Address: Tapolca, Kisfaludy Sándor utca 3.

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