Budapest is known as the ‘Gem of Europe’. And while Budapest is understandably a bucket list destination for most people there is more to Hungary than just its capital city. It’s rich in breathtaking natural wonders, forests, mountains, blooming fields, lakes, rivers, and much more. Although travel is limited because of the pandemic, it’s never a bad time to update your bucket list. And while we all wait for the day when we quit our job to travel the world, we must keep our wanderlust at bay for future adventures to come.
Hungary is surrounded by jaw-dropping mountains. So for those who like to hike and explore wild and raw nature, this is definitely a great place to travel. One of the most beloved mountains for hiking is the Belkő Forest. This picturesque forest is an easier and shorter hike, making it enjoyable for families with children as well. It’s great for starters, but it’s just as exciting.
Hungary is full of gorgeous palaces in Szigliget, Diósgyőr, Eger, and more. But one of the most majestic of these palaces is the Festetics Palace in Keszthely. The construction of this palace started in the late 1700s and lasted more than a century.
This palace houses an incredibly big library and a museum and is an architectural wonder, but it all started as a country house. It is now known as one of the three largest country houses in Hungary. More than 200,000 people visit this wonder each year. If you step outside the borders of Budapest, this should definitely be a priority.
Known as the sea of Hungary, this large lake is the perfect place in the summer. Housing almost all huge festivals in Hungary, Balaton is a destination for everyone once the warm weather hits. The lake and everything surrounding it is gorgeous, and the lake is perfect for swimming, sailing, or renting ‘water bicycles’ with friends.
Either for the festivals and parties or the fairs and nature, this destination can’t be beaten in Hungary, or elsewhere.
The Tisza is the second largest (though technically the longest) river flowing through Hungary, the true largest being the Danube. The Tisza is lesser-known, but definitely the more beautiful and wild of the two. People who live in nearby cities such as Szeged know that this river is the untamed beauty of Hungary.
This river offers a huge variety of wildlife that leaves visitors breathless. Over two hundred species of birds reside near the river, and in the bird reserve of Tiszafüred. It’s known as the ‘most Hungarian river’, because once it flowed only through Hungary, and inspired most of the Hungarian classics. The yearly ‘flowering’ of the Tisza is considered a local natural wonder, as it attracts a number of mayflies that cover the entire area, so it looks like the entire surface is filled with fairies.
Esztergom Old City
The city of Esztergom is very close to Budapest and is one of the most beautiful cities in Hungary. Not only that, but this historic city was once the capital of Hungary. You can explore the castle, the basilica, or the Hungarian National Museum. It’s the perfect day trip while visiting Hungary.
It’s also surrounded by the Pilis mountains, perfect for a car ride for those who like winding roads leading up to a hill with a gorgeous view of the Danube. Car enthusiasts in Budapest often go riding here, enjoying the fresh air of the forest and the views.
Aggtelek National Park
If you have a car, this is a great day trip even if you’re staying in Budapest. This national park is nearly two hundred square kilometers and houses a number of caves and natural treasures.
The main attraction is the Baradla Cave, which is over 25 kilometers long, extending into Slovakia. It’s one of the most impressive stalactite caves in Europe. Stalagmites in all colors of the rainbow rise from the floor and hang from the roof like giant icicles.
Pécs is one of the bigger historic cities in Hungary. The climate is always a bit warmer, and it’s surrounded by the Mecsek mountains. So if you want to go wander outside of Budapest for just one day, Pécs is definitely one of the top choices. The city is gorgeous, the architecture and history are amazing, and there are loads of forests and mountains nearby.
This city stores a lot of historical treasures, like Early Christian burial chambers, Turkish mosques, and the Old Town housing the Cathedral Precincts, and the Pécs Cathedral.
Hortobágy National Park
Hortobágy is the definition of Hungarian nature. Inspiring a big part of Hungarian literature and art, this lowland prairie of grass-covered steppes and pasture is home to most cattle, sheep, and horses. Stretching over eight hundred square kilometers, traditional farmers found employment here from the 14th century.
For nature and animal lovers, this is the best destination in Hungary, housing a plethora of wild animals to look out for. It’s also a very romantic, picturesque place to explore.
Eger is a beautiful historic city. It has 17 Baroque churches, lots of thermal baths, and a Turkish minaret. It has beautiful panoramic destinations also, being the neighbor of the great Bükk mountains.
The city center is a great place for exploration, with little pedestrian streets, fairs, and more. Eger is also known for one of Hungary’s most famous wines. So if you like exploring historical cities and love wine, this is the perfect destination to enjoy both these passions.
Gemenc is the only tidal area of the Danube in Hungary. Its forest is jaw-dropping, with picturesque spots that remind people of the wildest romantic novels. Boars, storks, grey herons, gyrfalcons, white-tailed eagles, and kites can all be found in this area, therefore it’s beloved by all birdwatchers of Hungary. The stag population is also the biggest in the country, and it houses over 13 sheltered butterfly species.
This forest is truly alive, you will never feel alone hiking this area. It’s full of wonders and surprises, so it’s the best place to be as a photographer, animal enthusiast, or people who love adventure and exploring.
Hungary is much more than Budapest. It’s full of wonders straight out of a storybook, a wild history, romantic views, and architectural phenomena. When visiting Hungary for more than just a few days, be sure to take at least one of those days to explore any of these breathtaking destinations, and I guarantee you’ll fall in love.