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Balaton – All you need to know

Balaton, the so-called Hungarian sea is the biggest lake in Central Europe (592 square km). Its climate, shallow water and infrastructure allure mostly family with kids and cyclists. It’s still a holiday resort for many Hungarians. Compared to other European destinations, it’s cheap. And most of all Balaton is diversified. You’ll find Baroque palace in Keszthely, you can drink local wine in Badacsony, walk around the oldest medieval town in the region in Tihany or party during the Balaton Sound Festival in Zamardi.  

Go around, see more  

Balaton korut is a cycle path round the lake, nearly 200 km long. The bicycle infrastructure is well prepared to welcome cyclists. The terrain is varied, the path goes either through forest, by the main road, across the main cities, but most of all with a lake view. If cycling is not your cup of tea, don’t worry. You don’t have to be stuck at one place only, you can plan one day trips and go by train, which also goes around lake Balaton. Another possibility, a bit more expensive is ferry. You need to check out the schedule and plan the trip ahead. Ferries doesn’t go that often.  

Balaton - view on Badacsony
Balaton – view on Badacsony

Northern or Southern shore 

Balaton, in Hungarian means muddy lake. Although the deepest water reaches 12 meters, the average depth is only 3 meters. This is because of the fairly wide shallows occurring on the southern shore. In some places they reach up to one kilometre from the beach! That’s why the southern shore is ideal for family with kids. Instead of sandy beach, you’ll find grass though. The northern shore one the other hand is wild, overgrown with bulrush, sometimes it’s hard to find a spot to get into water. But it’s known from fantastic places like a lavender Tihany peninsula or volcanic hills of Badacsony.  

Balaton campsite in Fonyod
Balaton campsite in Fonyod

Campsite 

Balaton campsites are nowhere close in comparison with Eurocamp in Italy or Spain. Most of them don’t even resemble huge resorts with aquaparks, shops and swimming pools inside. Opposite, it seems like the time stopped here between 50’ and 70’. Often buildings are old, facilities do not function properly and you fear of going inside the toilet after dark. But the good news is, you have your own private beach at the Balaton lake. Also, prices are lower. Balatontourist site offers different type of accommodation, you may also find few on the booking.com.  

Balaton Campsite Zamardi
Balaton Campsite Zamardi

How to get to lake Balaton.  

As far as I remember, the journey itself is the worst part. It takes around 5 hours to get to Balaton lake by car from Brno. It’s either through Bratislava or Wien. After crossing the borders with Hungary the speed slowly decreases and the trip is getting a bit tiring, but once you see the turquoise waters of Balaton lake everything seems to be better.  There’s also a train connection between Budapest and most of the cities at Balaton lake – it’s 130 km away.  

The best of the best 

Here are few locations checked by us worth seeing:  

Keszthely 

It is one of the largest city at the west coast of the Balaton lake. Besides the campsites, Keszthely offers some luxury accommodation as well. Its main attraction is Festetics Palace, but one can also fall in love with the pier. In this part of the Balaton lake you need to pay to get to the beach. We ended up at Caravan Camping, which I do recommend. It is really close to the Amusement Park Beach Dias, where we spent the whole day and kids loved it.  

Festetics Palace Keszthely
Festetics Palace Keszthely

Tapolca 

Even though not entirely by the Balaton lake, remoted 30 km away from Keszthely Tapolca is worth visiting. It hides the crystal-clear lake cave that was discovered around 1903 and opened for public since 1912.  The guided tour last around 1 hour, but the last 20 minutes is the reason why tourists come here so eagerly.  You get the one and only chance to paddle the boat 15 meters below surface.  

Badacsony 

It ravishes with beautiful volcanic hills covered with vineyards. Filled with patches of grape growing farms, fields of lavender and limestone, the entire landscape is simply idyllic. Badacsony is one of the richest regions that captures the viticulture of Hungary. Its wine is simply fantastic.  

Tihany peninsula 

It is a home of the oldest medieval town in the region. The city lays on top of the hill with a view on the turquoise lake valley. It’s also known from the lavender fields, the Baroque abbey or Paprika House. In my opinion it’s by far the most beautiful place around the Balaton lake.  

Siofok 

This largest city in Balaton lays on the southern shore. It’s often called the Hungarian Ibiza. The symbol of the city is the 45-meter-high Water Tower, which captures a spectacular panorama of the surrounding area.  

Siofok Water Tower
Siofok Water Tower

Zamardi 

This mundane place, every year in July (except 2020🙁 ) goes through a metamorphosis thanks to Balaton Sound Festival. Thousands of young music lovers gather at Zamardi beach to party, enjoy and listen to electronic music.  

Fonyod 

With its well maintained and long grassy beaches Fonyod is a great place to relax. The place that is most often visited in Fonyod is the port with almost a half kilometre long pier.  Local cuisine and gift shops also attract many.

Balaton port Fonyod
Balaton port Fonyod

REMEMBER 

English- not everyone speaks English, prepare yourself to improvise 

Train – if there’s a possibility buy tickets in automats or at the ticket office, if you buy ticket at a controller, in a station where ticket office is opened you will be charged extra 

Bike service – There’re only few bike shops/services around the whole Balaton, mostly in big cities like Keszthley or Siofok. Better be prepared and take all the necessary tools with you. 

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