balaton 20120305 1000171924Balaton is the biggest lake in Central Europe and one of the major tourist destinations. Its size is impressing: with almost 600 km2 of freshwater surface it’s slightly bigger than the country’s capital, Budapest, a metropolis with 2 million inhabitants.

For us Hungarians Balaton means summer, sunshine, love and great holidays – every Hungarians carry the sweetest memories of summers spent here. The mountainous region of the northern shore is known both for its historic character and as a major wine region, while the flat southern shore is known for its resorts. The water temperature during the high season, from June to late August is around 25C which makes swimming and bathing pleasant. Silky smooth sand makes most of the lake’s bottom, while the beaches are mostly grassy with some sand or rocks. You can rent a yacht to sail across the lake, or go fishing, or visit a wineyard in the neighboring wine regions, or chill down in the thousand years old Tihany monastery.

Huge areas of the surrounding land are protected as National Parks. The western corner of the lake, called “little Balaton”, is a uniquely complex wetland habitat with more than 260 protected bird species, many of them nestling in the region – this is why it’s a birdwatcher’s paradise. The Tihany peninsula on the northern side is the home for Hungary’s very first Wildlife Preserve Area, formed in the 1950s, and also for the Tihany Monastery, founded in 1055 by the third king of Hungary, Andrew I., who was later buried there. The founding charter is among the first records of Hungarian language and a copy of that is on display in the monastery.balaton 20120305 1004636174

Autumn is the season for harvesting wine, and it gives the traveler plenty of activities. Wineyards owned by families for generations are waiting for you to present their famous wines that are sweet and fiery, just like Hungarian girls are. Colorful festivals held to greet the new wine and to preset the public the mature ones.

In the winter you can go skating on the frozen lake, or try ice fishing, or relax in the warm and healing water of the world famous Hévíz thermal spa.