The major tourist attraction to the west of the capital is Lake Balaton, dubbed the “Hungarian sea”, and all that remains of the Pannonian Sea which once covered this part of Europe. Its built-up southern shore features loud resorts such as Siófok, which brands itself as the “Capital of Summer”, while gentler Keszthely perches on the western tip. Worth a visit if you fancy a spot of swimming, windsurfing or sailing while in Hungary, Siófok in particular is perhaps better avoided if you are looking for a restful or scenic break.By contrast, the four villages that cluster around the Badacsony, a hulk of volcanic rock on the northern shore of the lake, are very charming indeed and the perfect starting point for walks and wine-tasting tours in the Balaton region. Being flat, the lakeshore lends itself to cycling and there are plenty of places where you can rent bikes for around 1500Ft a day.
The western region of Transdanubia,of which Lake Balaton and Badacsony are part – is the most ethnically diverse in the country. Its valleys and hills, forests and mud flats have been settled by Magyars, Serbs, Slovaks and Germans and occupied by Romans, Ottomans and Habsburgs. Its towns have been through multiple evolutions and it shows: the delightful Sopron has a gorgeous medieval centre, Roman ruins and Baroque finery to its name, while Pécs boasts the country’s best-preserved Ottoman mosque as well as some fascinating early Christian excavated finds.
Top image: Keszthely © hofhauser/Shutterstock