Travel and Leisure — October 28, 2014 at 5:00 am

Hungary for a Beach Vacation? Lake Balaton’s Got What You Want

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©istockphoto/schmidt-z

©istockphoto/schmidt-z

When you think of going on a beach vacation, it’s very unlikely that your first thought is to travel to landlocked Hungary.  Well, think again.  Lake Balaton is known by the locals as the “Hungarian Sea,” and it is well worth a visit.

If you’re seeking more than sand and sun, you’re in luck!  The northern shore of the lake is dotted with wineries and full of historic character.  On the southern side, you’ll find plenty more resort towns and nightlife.

Beach Activities
To start with the most obvious, you’ll of course find most of your typical beach pastimes.  There are plenty of options for boating, swimming, getting a tan, or indulging in some ice cream.  Since the average water temperature in summer is around 25° Celsius (77° Fahrenheit), you won’t have to shy away from the water.

Wine Region
Being the largest lake in Central Europe, Balaton creates its own sort of climate that is much appreciated by wine makers.  Combining this with the fact that the terrain is favorable for growing, many a vineyard have been planted around.  And you’re actually lucky about the fact that you haven’t heard much about Hungarian wine because the quality is high, but the prices are still low.  The Balaton wine region has six sub-regions, one of the most popular being Badacsony.

Nightlife
In case you want to get your groove on after the sun sets, there are plenty of party places for young and old.  Siófok is a town on the southern shore that is clubbing central, so it’s definitely a good place to dance, drink, and create some hazy memories.

History
When you want to do something a little less conventional, you have plenty of historic sights to learn about.  The town of Keszthely is the home of the Festetics Palace, which is a beautiful Baroque palace dating back to 1745.  Even if you don’t go inside, you can spend some time in the sunny gardens and ponder your options in real estate investment.

Balaton Sound
If you really want to go all out, head to the lake during one of the music festivals.  Balaton Sound is a multi-day electronic festival that is famous throughout Europe, but there are many smaller events to choose from.

Spas
Hungary is a land full of mineral springs, and they’ve taken advantage of this over the centuries by constructing various spas and bath houses.  There are many places where you can find hotels with this hot water bubbling directly into them, but one popular destination is the north shore town of Balatonfüred.

Tihany Peninsula
About halfway down the long, narrow lake is a peninsula shooting right into the middle of the water.  This is the home to the town of Tihany, and it’s a place to check out if you want to experience some 1,000 year old history right in the middle of the beauty of nature.

Budapest
Finally, you might be trying to make the excuse that you don’t even know where Balaton (or Hungary) are located, so you’ll never be able to make it.  The clever Hungarians solved this problem by making sure that the capital, Budapest, has a modern airport, and there are trains, buses, and cars to take you to the lake.  Before or after, you should also spend some time in the capital as it’s also a growing tourist destination in itself.

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