The ultimate road trip from Budapest on a hot summer day is to the Lake Balaton, the largest freshwater lake in Europe also known as the Hungarian Sea. In good traffic it takes under an hour and double that during peak time, but is worth every minute with its bustling summer nightlife, busy beaches, peaceful countryside, good food and delicious local wines to offer visitors.
Covering an area of almost 600 km2, the shores of Lake Balaton offer quite a bit of diversity. The Northern areas are mainly hilly with rockier beaches and deeper water, making it ideal for sailing and other water sports. The Southern areas however, are mainly flat with shallow beaches. What makes Southern Balaton a unique beach experience is being able to wade in for over 100m without the water still being under your waist, and the grass-covered beaches oh-so different to what a sea or ocean beach-goer is used to.
Choosing your ideal Balaton destination will depend on whether you’re after a beach holiday, a countryside getaway or an active rest with plenty of water sports. We have put together the perfect two-day road trip including all the above mentioned.
First stop: Székesfehérvár, a historically significant city between Balaton and Budapest, where the coronation of St. Stephen took place in the year 1000. Check out the coronation church and its pleasant neighbourhood, and then have lunch at the Kiskulacs Vendéglő.
Second stop: Siófok, the centre of action on the Southern shores and one of the most easily accessible Balaton-side towns form Budapest. It is infamous for its wild summer nightlife and sandy beaches. Two large sandy beaches; Aranypart and Ezüstpart (Golden Beach and Silver Beach) stretch along its full length where the sandy beach club called Coke Club is located. Spend the early afternoon on the beach, experience the nightlife and spend the night at the La Riva Panzió.
Stop one: Balatonboglár, best known for its great restaurants and wineries. It is from here that the famous BB wine and champagne originates, and the annual Balatonboglár Harvest Festival takes place late August. Do a bit of wine tasting at any of the restaurants around town. Unfortunately the driver has to miss out on sampling, but the good local wince can also be bought by the bottle for later consumption!
Stop two: Tihany Peninsula, from where an overwhelming view opens of the lake and surrounding towns. Its attractions include the Tihany Abbey and Monastery, the old town and nature reserve. Extremely good fish soup and meat platters are served at the Csárdás Restaurant.
Stop three: Hévíz, an exclusive spa town giving home to the world’s second largest thermal lake onto which a recently renovated bath house extends. Spend the night at the Danubius Health Spa Resort Hévíz for a well deserved pampering. In the morning, it’s back to Budapest!