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Sights to See in Hungary – Lake Balaton: The Hungarian Sea

Updated on November 22, 2011

The Lake

Although Hungary is in the middle of Europe, it has a “sea”, which provides joy, fun and relaxation not only for Hungarians. It also welcomes tourists from all over the world.

Lake Balaton is the largest lake in Central Europe with its 592 square kilometres of sweet and warm water situated in Hungary in the Carpathian Basin. Since its water is not very deep – in average 4 metres – it warms up easily and its temperature might reach 27 ºC in the hottest days of summer. So it is a perfect place for swimming and sunbathing even for young children. In the early morning and late evening hours the temperature of the water is warmer than that of the air so it invites us for a romantic swim under the moon or the raising sun.

The length of the lake is 77 kilometres and you can find pleasant beaches almost everywhere along its 200 km long coast. The southern coast of Lake Balaton is shallow and you might walk several hundred metres into the lake to reach deeper water than one meter. The beach on this coast is sandy and soft like velvet. On the northern coast you can reach deep water faster but the beach is muddy and at places full of pebbles. Lake Balaton is a long narrow lake and its width is 14 kilometres at its widest and only 4 kilometres at its narrowest point.

Lake Balaton has a slightly alkaline, soft water and it is considered to be healing water. It contains a considerable quantity of magnesium and lime and it helps in case of exhaustion, anaemia and neurological symptoms.

Because Lake Balaton is shallow and the wind can easily stir it up and since it is full of microscopic creatures called planktons its water is not crystal clear but it is rather opalescent. When its colour is green or yellowish green and the opposite bank looks dim because of the vapour over the lake, it means that the weather will be sunny, warm and calm. But when the water turns blue and the opposite bank can be seen clearly and seems to be at arm’s length it is the sign of a coming storm and rain even if the sun is shining at the moment. And it is advisable to listen to the storm alarms because strong winds might come from among the southern hills rather fast and can stir huge waves which are dangerous for swimmers and for small boats.

Map of Lake Balaton

View of Lake Balaton

A view of Lake Balaton from the southern coast. Opposite the well known hill, Badacsony can be seen, which is famous for its delicious wine.
A view of Lake Balaton from the southern coast. Opposite the well known hill, Badacsony can be seen, which is famous for its delicious wine.

Summer Offers

Summer is the real season for visiting Lake Balaton. You can enjoy the fresh air, the sunshine and the refreshing water of the lake. To lovers of different water sports the lake provides different facilities. You can surf or windsurf on the lake or try a velocipede. There are also several places where you can rent boats for sailing. You can choose from small ones for only a day or just a couple of hours or you can rent a big one for weeks or even months to live on it. It is up to your needs or wallet. It might be a real adventure to sail around the lake and to spend each day in a different harbour in a different little town. But if you are not familiar with sailing you can still buy a ticket on a ship and cross the lake to see the other side of it. Both sides offer great places to visit from mediaeval fortresses, museums and romantic little towns to the northern hills and caves, which were once the shelters of hermits.

The Beach of Lake Balaton

Winter Joys

Although winter is not as busy at Lake Balaton as summer, it can offer some interesting activities. Those who like winter sports might find the lake inviting. Since its water is not too deep – as mentioned before – it usually freezes during the winter. You can listen to the information on the radio or TV weather forecast where it is indicated how thick the ice is and where it is allowed to skate or sledge on it. In certain places where the ice is smooth and even you can also try ice surfing. But simply the sight of the lake and a long walk along the beach can provide you a pleasant experience. There are also festivals all the year round and you should not miss tasting the famous roast fish and wines of Lake Balaton.


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