Sights – the way we see them

After all, we don’t travel just to sleep elsewhere.

HEGYESTŰ

Half-excavated witness mountain, once covered with basalt along the Andrássy road. It’s definitely worth going up here because it’s very close to the National Park visitor center, and from the top, there’s a fantastic view of the area. If you want to soften your loved one’s heart, time your visit for the sunset. It used to annoy me that they charge an entrance fee, but the truth is, it’s worth it even so. You can drive up quite high; you only need to climb stairs on the top section. From the Mókus-körút running along the side of Hegyestű, you can see half of Lake Balaton, and the fireworks of the lakeside villages on August 20 are also clearly visible. (Of course, only on August 20.)

SZENT BALÁZS TEMPLE RUINS

An iconic location in the history of Balatoncsicsó – they also hold weddings here. It used to be a separate village, according to writings, called Szentbalázsfalva. Allegedly, a German baron later used it as a castle, but it’s hard to believe. The entrance is a framed gate, likely from the 12th or 13th century, with two ancient fig trees on either side. A cool place for a picnic, a marriage proposal, or a wedding, but only if you don’t mind that half of Lake Balaton is in view.

KAPOLCS

The Valley of Arts event is usually held around the turn of July and August, but recently there are several other artistic events: the Bondoró street theater festival, Kapolcska for children’s artistic events. In 2020, the Valley of Arts took the form of 4 autumn Valley Weekends. The valley is now called Malmok Valley, and it’s 20 minutes away from us by car. If you know the way, you can mountain bike from Vigántpetend about 7 km. Balatoncsicsó is halfway between Kapolcs and Lake Balaton, so rain or shine, there’s always an available program nearby from July to August. It’s worth visiting even outside the festival period: a charming village with streams, bridges, mills, and even an island. Once upon a time, a hill fort stood on the hill covered with beech forest above the village.

BALATONUDVARI CEMETERY – HEART-SHAPED GRAVESTONES

The heart-shaped gravestones are special, and their legend is touching. Every time we pass by, I have to tell the story to the kids: the stone carver boy who came from the mountains and fell in love with the only daughter of a fisherman. A true Bakony-Balaton story: When the girl said goodbye to Lake Balaton before the wedding to move to the mountains with her lover, she paddled too deep into the lake, and the rapidly strengthening storm swallowed them both. In his grief, her lover carved a heart-shaped gravestone for her and many other deceased in the following period. To stay close to the beloved girl’s grave, he settled in the village and earned his living as a stone carver. The kids are always guessing which one could be the earliest gravestone – the story of the girl from the legend is not revealed by the information boards.

KOSSUTH LOOKOUT

Located on the border of Mencshely and Dörgicse, with a beautiful view of the area and Lake Balaton. There is also a nature trail that well explains the operation of volcanoes. You can’t drive all the way to the top by car, but you can meander among the cellars for a while – then it’s time for a walk. In summer, bring enough water, and in other seasons, bring an extra sweater because it can be quite windy at the lookout. Recently, it’s also a venue for events, but on a regular day, don’t expect any services up there.

SZENTBÉKKÁLLA STONE SEA

The walking area of the Káli Basin. It’s very crowded in summer, and it’s a great hiking spot in autumn and spring. A cool place for families to play hide-and-seek and older kids to have battles. How it was formed, why it stayed, and how millstones were carved out of it – you’ll find out there from the National Park signs. There is a giant rock on top of several rocks, and if we balance skillfully, it’s movable on top. Its little brother is the Kővágóörs Stone Sea. It’s less popular, fewer tourists, and its area is somewhat smaller.

KORNYI LAKE

Dry in summer, with some water in autumn and spring. Nice to walk around; it’s right in the middle of the Káli Basin. In May, you can see spiderwebs – don’t step on them.

MAGYAR IGÁSLÓ Ecotourism and Landscape Center

If you love animals, maybe you’d like to drive a carriage in the picturesque Balaton Uplands… or if you’d like to show the kids what travel speed was like in the Middle Ages. It’s in Nemesleányfalu, and you need to make a reservation outside the peak season.

BALATON

Hungary’s largest lake, about 80 km long. The water is shallow on the southern shore and somewhat deeper on the northern side. Its deepest part is near Tihany, about 12 m deep. Most people know its summer face, but it’s beautiful in both autumn and spring. In winter, I love it when it freezes, and the winter sun shines brightly on it. The nearby beaches usually charge admission, except for the free beach in Örvényes. Outside the summer season, there’s no entrance fee anywhere, and during this time, we use the beaches as public parks: for picnics, running, playing with children on the playground, chasing ducks, and even drinking hot tea. It’s as beautiful as the City Park. You can take a ferry between Tihany and Szántód; it takes a few minutes, and it’s worth trying. On the northern side, the forested hills of the Balaton Uplands, forming the foreground of the Bakony, elevate it to one of the most beautiful areas in the country.

ASZÓFŐ: Apple Spring and the Kövesdi Church Ruins

Not very popular, a hidden place, but an excellent location for a picnic. Can you find the Roman altar stone left in the grass in front of the church? If you’re not going in the summer heat, retreat to the Nagyi Kertje teahouse for a cake and hot tea. From here, you can also walk up to the Tihany lookout, but that requires hiking boots. The church ruin itself was the church of Kövesd village, built in the late Romanesque style in the 13th century. Most of the building has been destroyed.

TIHANY

It’s worth spending a whole day in Tihany. The Benedictine Abbey was founded by King Andrew I in 1055, and the monks still pray for King Andrew daily, as he ordered. Perhaps they took a little break during the Ottoman times, but they quickly resumed their routine. Don’t miss the abbey and its museum, but be prepared for a day of walking. The Inner Lake, the Hermit Houses, the Golden House, and the Lookout are accessible places on the tourist trail. In bad weather, alternatives include the Lavender House and other museums, but be careful: former large groups of paying German tourists created shops and stores disguised as museums. This is not the village where you should shop, although the Saturday farmers’ market offers quite good products.

DÖRGICSE

This village is worth a visit. In the Middle Ages, there were about 5 villages, so there’s a church ruin in every bush. It’s worth visiting them all and having tea at Levendárium. On Saturday mornings, there’s also a farmers’ market. There’s a museum, the Kaáli Car and Motor Museum, where you can see beautiful old cars. Advance reservation is required. The ruins of the Saint Balázs Church are located between Dörgicse and Balatoncsicsó on the vineyard hill, actually closer to Dörgicse, although it belongs to Csicsó. If you walk up from Dörgicse, you can also see the 400-year-old oak tree with a small detour. It’s frightening to think about it: if the oak is really 400 years old, it existed in three parts during the time of the Ottoman occupation in Hungary.

BARNAG

A small, one-street village. It used to have two parts: Magyarbarnag and Németbarnag. The two groups built separate churches and maintained cemeteries at each end of the village. Look for the Calvary in Németbarnag, which, according to old German fashion, consists of not 14 but only 7 stations, and it commemorates the suffering of Mary, not Jesus. Barnag has been inhabited since the 11th century; initially, the cooks of the queen lived here, and from the 13th century, it was owned by the lords of Vázsonykő (today Nagyvázsony). To replenish the population during the Ottoman times, German farmers were settled here from South Germany in 1714. They built the Calvary according to their own regional customs. Barnag is considered the oldest Calvary in Veszprém County.

MONOSZLÓ

The village closest to Csicsó in the Káli Basin. A beautiful new road leads from Csicsó, and it’s also accessible by bike or on foot, less than 4 km. The gate of the church in Monoszló dates back to the 12th-13th centuries, even though the church has been functioning as a Reformed church for a long time. Monoszló experienced its heyday in the 19th century; there was even a school here. Monoszló is also associated with Hegyestű, but its small cellar hillside is also inviting for photography.

ZÁDOR CASTLE or HIMFFY CASTLE

Look for it between Pécsely and Barnag on the hill. There are signs from both Barnag and Pécsely indicating where to turn off the main road. It’s worth climbing or driving up: the former robber’s den is now a continuously renovated castle ruin, the venue for medieval events. Interestingly, the castle was never completed because its builder somehow built it on the neighbor’s estate, leading to a legal dispute. Construction was halted, and the castle became a haven for robbers who preyed on passing merchants from their hiding place. Every year, the castle comes to life: it hosts a Medieval Fair with a market, performances, and even a medieval battle demonstration.

MEZÍTKÁLI

One of the “created” attractions in the Káli Basin, located in Mindszentkálla – but we don’t blame them for that. It fills a gap in children’s activities and attractions. It’s not just a simple walkway but a rich collection of outdoor games. Our favorite was the ball track hidden in the grassy hill: we threw ping pong balls into holes and tried to predict where they would come out – with limited success.

KÁPTALANTÓTI: Lily Garden Market

A Sunday program, open all year round. It’s worth going after 9 in the morning, but the earlier, the better, because by 2 in the afternoon, it’s already closing. The smallest producers leave earlier as their goods run out. It’s a meeting and entertainment place in the Káli Basin, a unique phenomenon. It’s 24 km from us, but it’s worth the drive. It’s not bad for an Advent market either; it operates all winter, every Sunday (meaning “market day”).

TAPOLCA: Mill Pond and Cave Lake

A truly beautiful small town and not so touristy. One of our favorite activities is walking around the Mill Pond with an ice cream, feeding the goldfish, enjoying the garden, shopping on the pedestrian street, and if it’s Friday, going to the flea market. In the Cave Lake, you can travel by boat – it has recently been renovated. The cave is also used by the hospital; the cave air improves the condition of lung patients. In summer, there’s often a long line at the ticket office; it’s worth trying on weekdays and in the morning when the situation is better. The interesting thing about the Mill Pond is that it never freezes in winter because it is fed by a warm spring. A walking path has been created along the stream starting from here. The water can be quite clear because trout are bred in it on the outskirts of the city.

BALATONFÜRED: Tagore Promenade and Museums

If you want something sophisticated, or if you’re just tired of Lake Balaton. On the Tagore Promenade, festivals, wine days, and programs follow one another. There are art museums, galleries, and educational places. It’s worth taking children to the Bodorka House (bodorka is a Balaton fish), and the Sailing Museum is also interesting. On the way, photograph them sitting in the lap of Ötvös Csöpi; they haven’t seen Halász and Révész for a long time, and explaining that would take a while. For teenagers, I would take them to the Jókai Villa and the House of Jewish Excellences. The real downtown of Balatonfüred is not on the beach but ‘upstairs’. Its heart is in the market square and around the Municipal Building, as well as on Kossuth Street.

BALATONFÜRED: House of Jewish Excellences

Look for it in the upper part of Balatonfüred, but take a walk on Kossuth Street first. Small shops and bakeries indicate that this is the real city center. The museum building was once a synagogue, now it hosts a super-modern digital exhibition. It is about the great personalities of Jewish origin; don’t be surprised if you meet Zuckerberg – only 15 people from the Jewish community in Füred survived the Holocaust.

VIGÁNTPETEND: Roman Watchtower

When driving from Nagyvázsony towards Petend, we go ‘down seven times,’ as the locals say. We are on the former Roman road, where this slope was not always so winding – once the road went straight up the hillside. Many of the Vigántpetend people made a living by pulling carts with their oxen and buffaloes up the slope for passing merchant wagons. The saying still lives on, which was told to passers-by by the puzzled coachman at the bottom of the hill with a heavily loaded cart: “Trouble for the people of Petend.”

NAGYVÁZSONY

The castle of Vázsony was renovated in 2022 and has been fully accessible since Easter 2023. Nagyvázsony is famous for Kinizsi Pál, who received nobility and property from King Matthias and was originally a miller’s assistant, according to legend. He built the residential tower in the castle. He also had a church built, unfortunately, it is rarely visited, and you can find it opposite the gas station. The Vázsony Castle was a fashionable residential castle in its time, built above a spring, in the valley. It’s worth taking a 10-minute forest walk from the castle to see the ruins of the Pauline Monastery. Not only because Kinizsi and Hungarian Balázs were originally buried here, but also because the Paulines built their monasteries in special places. It’s an excellent resting place for a picnic, contemplation, and meditation. Nagyvázsony is a beautiful village: it not only has fishing ponds and tennis courts but also a park with a bubbling spring and a flowing stream. It’s worth going with children in rubber boots – they’ll play in the shallow stream for at least an hour.

ÓBUDAVÁR

Óbudavár is a one-street village at the gateway to the Nivegy Valley. It’s worth stopping at the top of the village for a drink in Nivegy-liget and watching the buffaloes. The replica of the small church in the village was also built in the Szentendre Skanzen. It’s worth walking down to the Szent Márton resting park at the bottom of the village: a beautiful valley with a spring, stream, and washhouse. Women used to come here to wash clothes. The signs of walking paths (Kábosztáskerti Road, Falupajtai Road, etc.) testify to the former flourishing agricultural activities. Despite being a poor village in the Middle Ages, Óbudavár was remotely controlled by the Prepost of Óbuda, and its border was so narrow that the driven cattle trod the same path on the way there and back – this led to complaints from the locals. It’s worth walking along Házaspárok út, winding through the goat pasture.

VESZPRÉM ZOO

This is a must-visit for families with children in the Balaton Highlands, and it’s worth spending a whole day here. At the entrance to Gulyadomb, there’s a giant savanna-themed playground. If you want to avoid this (about 1 hour loss), it’s worth entering through the other entrance, from the Séd Valley. There’s also a playground here, but indoors: the former monkey house has been converted into a tropical rainforest-themed playhouse. (It’s easier to bypass this unnoticed.) For small children, this is sometimes a greater experience than the animals themselves, although there is an excellent collection: lions, rhinos, zebras, camels, wildebeests, and many other small and large animals are visible. It’s a tiring program, and it’s advisable to bring a stroller or some kind of child-moving vehicle because the area is huge. It’s not a program for hot summer days; rather, choose a cooler or spring or autumn day. I would personally avoid the plastic dinosaur collection, but my children insist on it. There are several cafés and a proper restaurant inside.

RÉVFÜLÖP

A lakeside village, its harbor, and promenade are popular not only on summer evenings. It was already a ferry crossing in the 11-12th century, and boat trips still depart from here, unfortunately quite expensive. It’s worth climbing to the top of Fülöp Hill to the lookout tower. In the part of the village called Császta, there is an excellent beach, and with children, it’s worth choosing it for the huge ship-shaped playground.

SZENTANTALFA

The largest settlement and economic center in the Nivegy Valley. If you want to buy something, you can get it here: it has a gas station and a hardware store. Excellent wines are grown in its surroundings, the Dobosi Winery is open, and you need to make an appointment for smaller wineries (worth it!). Similar to Óbudavár, there is a Mosó here, where women used to knead their clothes in spring water. It has three churches, but they are only open during worship – it’s not appropriate to be a tourist then. But there is a radio collection and a playground, and a football field. The abandoned Jewish cemetery above the football field indicates that there was once a larger Jewish community here, and the former village hall used to be a synagogue.

Witness mountains

For a hiking trip, you can choose almost any volcanic hill – they were all volcanoes. There are a few of them: you have to pay at Hegyestű, but it’s worth it. Tóti Hill is not very high, but after the market, you can still walk up from the edge of Káptalantóti. Csobánc often sees paragliders, and there is also a castle ruin. Somló and Badacsony are farther away from us, but I recommend both. Tihany is worth a visit on its own; there are even geysers and a geyser lake. Once we set ourselves the goal of climbing all the volcanic hills, and we succeeded with those in Veszprém County. It’s especially good to go up in fog: the peaks are often above the clouds, where the sun shines brightly, and looking down into the foggy valley is a great sight. With children, it’s worth bringing Judit Berg’s Two Little Dinos as a travel read.

If you’re in the mood for the Balaton Highlands, book a house in Balatoncsicsó!

BOOK NOW