Walking and trekking
Hungary is a great destination for walking, and is surprisingly diverse. There are several major mountain ranges which are of a comparable scale to British hills, split into five main ranges: the Alpokalja (foothills of the Alps) in the west on the border with Austria, the Transdanubian Medium Mountains, the Mecsek in the south, and the Northern Medium Mountains, which hold most of the country’s highest peaks. The highest mountain, Kekes, is something of a lump, and isn’t particularly dramatic. But it is hugely popular, and has a rolling charm which will please lovers of gentler mountain terrain.
The majority of the country sits in the Carpathian Basin which is known as the Great Plains, but The Northern Uplands are home to part of the Carpathian Mountain Range. Here you will find the Bukk and Matra national Parks, each offering great, expansive views. The North East of Hungary is a pleasing mix of the Great Plain and the Northern Uplands, gently rolling hills followed by a flattish terrain and gently sloping hills, and is an ideal place to find easy-medium level walking trails. Transdanubia is a hilly region lying west of the Danube and extending to the Austrian foothills of the Alps, and includes Lake Balaton - the largest freshwater lake in central Europe, and a popular tourist destination.
With well signed trails it is easy to get around but there are also many companies offering guided walking tours, ranging from day trips to wek long expeditions. Hungary is also home to the Hungarian section of the European Long Distance Walking Route E4. (Országos Kéktúra, or OKT). The total length of the blue tour is 1106 km and can be called relaxing: the total climb is a mere 26 metres on the whole route. It starts on the top of the Irottk Mountain (884m), which stands on the Austrian-Hungarian border and then winds its way through the northern part of the country coming to a stop at the village of Hollóháza at the Hungarian-Slovakian border.
Outside of Budapest, Hungary is relatively unknown as a tourist destination. But there is a lot for the outdoor enthusiast to do here: Horse riding, caving, rock climbing, quad biking, hot airballooning, carraige driving, and canoeing are just some of the many activities available for those searching for an adrenaline fix, usually at a fraction of the cost of UK prices.
Being landlocked, Hungary often experiences a lot of snow come winter and there are some places to ski in the Northern Uplands, including several pistes on Kekes, the country’s highest mountain. For those who to relax, there are hundreds of wine cellars offering tasting sessions, and many places to go bird watching and butterfly spotting. Hungary is also known as the land of springs, and there are hundreds to be found all over the country, and the thermal waters are said to have healing properties. Golf is also popular, and there are some upmarket resorts such as Zala Springs, and hour from Budapest, where a golfing break can be combined with wine and thermal springs.
The word ’Hungarian’ refers to the fact that Hungarians were descended from the Huns. FALSE. The English translation sounds similar, but the people who live in Hungary call themselves Magyars and always have done so. It is unlikely to ever come to light if there was ever a connection between the two. Despite this Atilla still remains a popular name in Hungary and almost all Hungarians believe they are related to the great Huns.
Must see and do
- Aggtelek National Park. (UNESCO site) Situated in the north-eastern part of Hungary. It is the first national park in the country which was primarily created for protecting geomorphological formations such as karst monoliths and caves. http://anp.nemzetipark.gov.hu/index.php?lang=en
- Bükk National Park. Famous for karstic formations, caves, canyons, striking cliffs of Bükk-mountains and the rarities of its flora and fauna. It was thefirst highland national park of Hungary, it currently has 43,254 hectares of conservation area. http://bnp.nemzetipark.gov.hu/index.php?lang=en
- Gellért Hill and the Citadella - Visible from almost everywhere in Budapest, Gellért Hill (hegy), with the impressive Freedom Monument on its peak, is one of the city's memorable landmarks. The summit is best approached along paths leading from opposite the Gellért Hotel and Spa. You can take a look around the Cave Church on your way up.
- Állami Ménesgazdaság in Szilvásvárad is a must for all horse lovers. It is the home of the celebrated Lipizzaner horses, considered to be the best riding horses in the world. Several shows and competitions are held here throughout the summer. http://www.menesgazdasag.hu/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=2&Itemid=9