Beyond Budapest: The Lakes and Spas of Rural Hungary

Natasha Blair is a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers and where possible travels with her passport carrying dog, Trixie. Not a beach worshippper, she is always on the lookout for new and interesting places to visit, preferably in comfort.

Just 30 minutes from Budapest is Lake Velence near the Hungarian town of Gárdony. Due to the area’s sunny climate and the lake’s shallow waters, Lake Velence is the warmest lake in Europe (around 80 degrees in summer) and a popular vacation destination. Life here is taken at a slow pace. There are lots of spots to bird watch as well as to enjoy the benefits of thermal spa waters. An added bonus is their glorious sunsets.

Lake Velence

Traffic here is minimal and bicycling is one of the favored means of transport. We stayed at the four-star Hotel Nautis bordering Lake Velence, one of the best hotels in the area. From my bedroom, I had views of the lake with the Vértes foothills in the distance.

Thirty percent of the lake is covered in reeds, and it is one of several places in the area to come bird watching. There are around 300 different types of birds that can be seen here at different times of the year. The birding enthusiasts among us told us that May and June were the best time to see them, as 146 species nest and breed in the area at that time.

We joined a boat tour in Agard on the opposite side of the lake from our hotel. Mooring up against one of the floating islets, we trained our binoculars on anything that moved. The birders made phishing noises (we had to learn a whole new language), a noise that imitates birds, which was supposed to make them come out of hiding. I am a novice to the hobby, but quickly learned that in a lot of cases, birders (apparently the word twitterers is considered derogatory) hear the bird before they actually see it. Birds pointed out to us included a crested lark, a long beak snipe, and an eastern imperial eagle, the latter being something of a rarity.

This area is also good for plants and wild flowers, particularly during April and May when they can be seen in all their splendor. While we were moored in the middle of the lake, a couple in a canoe passed by. The setting is very romantic particularly as the sun, a dark red shining ball, began to set. We also saw a man fishing from a small boat. From time to time we could see him pulling in fish, obviously a good spot!

Food and Drink

Near where we boarded the boat is Hala’szcsa’r Da, a fish restaurant where you can taste fresh, locally caught catfish and carp from the lake. Both have a strong flavor and are definitely an acquired taste! Hanging baskets filled with flowers hang outside on the veranda where food is served, weather permitting.

One of the industries in the area is the production of pálinka, Hungarian brandy, which is often flavored with different fruits. Travelers can visit both the small artisan places such as Simon Guest House and Vineyard as well as the larger, more sophisticated Agárdi distillery.

Thermal Spas

The nearby Bull Valley is the source of thermal waters, which are pumped to various places in the area. The lakeside Velence Resort & Spa has 13 pools both inside and out. This is very much a family destination. Although a comparatively new building, from the outside, its featureless bland architecture looks as if it dates back to the Communist era.

Having discovered the luxurious spa in our hotel, the Vital Nautis, I couldn’t resist the sound of the chocolate, coffee and coconut oil massage, which certainly left me well-oiled and I imagine, quite tasty! Although the hotel does not have thermal waters, the spa is spread over two floors and has numerous facilities—a pleasurable way to end an altogether relaxing break.


To keep up with Natasha and her travels, check out: Barkbitetravel

Featured Image: Lake Balaton in Summer (

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