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7 great escapes from Budapest for active outdoor recreation

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  • We Love Budapest

7/24/2020 9:07 AM

With the prospect of longer trips unpredictable, there’s plenty of destinations to choose from if you’re just after a quick hop from Budapest. Here we suggest seven great getaways for back-to-nature excursions and active recreation.

Photo: Hirling Bálint - We Love Budapest

Blue Trail from Hűvösvölgy to Solymár

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Of the 27 sections of Hungary’s best-known hiking trails, No.14, just over 14 kilometres long, passes through the Buda hills. There are no extreme differences in gradient along this path, but hikers will find two lookouts offering jaw-dropping panoramas along the way. The trail, beginning in Hűvösvölgy, can be accessed by trams 61 or 56/56A, and you can enter the forest by turning into Rozália utca. All you need to do is follow the blue sign from here, and watch out for attractions such as the airfield on Hármashatár Hill, the memorial column of the former national park of Renaissance King Matthias, the legendary Oroszlán-szikla (‘Lion’s Rock’) and the Árpád lookout. Dutiful hikers can add the first stamp to their Blue Trail guidebook when reaching the lookout on Hármashatár Hill. The second stamp can be attained at Virágos-nyereg, followed by a pleasant 4.5-kilometre walk down to the Rozália brick factory, earning the third stamp. The best way to get back into the city is by taking the bus 218 from Solymár, téglagyári bekötő út, the stop on Bécsi út at the city limits of Budapest.

Photo: Dorka Bartha/WLB

Csóványos

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It also takes a whole day to conquer the tallest peak in the Börzsöny hills, Csóványos. The first step is to reach Királyrét, first by train from Nyugati, then changing at Kismaros for the Királyrét Forest Railway. You can also park the car at Királyrét in the Cseresznyefa car park. A map, a GPS or at least a mobile downloaded app showing the tourist routes is essential for your trip, because you will be wandering around a range of hills stretching across 600 square kilometres, significantly bigger than Andorra. During the tour, you might find an abandoned high tourist lodging, the hiking trail junction marked with a big wooden cross, the Szabó stones, Haramia hollow and the Vilma rest stop. On the 938-metre-high peak of Csóványos stands a 22-metre-high lookout tower, from where an amazing panorama unfolds. In clear weather, you can see up to 110km away, all the way as far as the blueish mountain range of the High Tatras.

Photo: WLB

Dobogókő

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Whether or not all the talk of energy currents encircling the planet and the Heart Chakra of the Earth is true, Dobogókő is one of the top three excursion destinations in Hungary, where you can recharge like nowhere else. It is no coincidence that an important staging post in the history of Hungarian hiking, including Hungary’s first forest shelter, was established here. Behind the former tourist lodging, which now functions as a museum and its successor, which still functions as accommodation, there is the famous lookout point, from where the picturesque Danube Bend, the Visegrád hills, the Börzsöny forests and, in clear weather, the High Tatras, can be seen. For a longer hike, you can reach Rám Gorge, Vadálló rocks, Prédikálószék and the heights of Pilis, but you can also take a lighter, shorter walk from here, such as the two-kilometre-long Thirring trail through the forest in the shadow of the lookout. As part of a longer trip, you can also hike to Pilisszentkereszt on the National Blue Trail, passing Zsivány cliff on the way.

Photo: Attila Kovács

Gerecse kapuja in Tatabánya

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The Gerecse kapuja Visitors’ Centre, opened two years ago, is still a bit of a novelty for local hikers, even though it’s perfect for anyone from beginners to the fittest of adventurers. Tatabánya can be reached in an hour by car or public transport, with the centre standing behind a statue of the emblematic turul bird, interwoven in Hungarian legend. It encompasses a restaurant, as well as a shop renting out bicycles and climbing equipment. There are three nature trails covering this area, where you can not only pass by a cave, but one of the most exciting attractions to be found here, the 30-metre lookout tower as well, which was built from former winding gear. The location’s well-frequented bike routes are best suited for experienced off-road cyclists. Larger hiking trails can also be found nearby in case you’re looking for a real adventure, but those only looking for outdoor relaxation can pick and choose between more comfortable sections as well.

Photo: Bálint Hirling/WLB

Nagy-Kopasz Hill & Pál Csergezán Lookout Tower

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The highest peak in the Buda hills is Nagy-Kopasz Hill, which allows for shorter and longer hikes. It can be reached by car on the road leading to Telki from town or by bus from Széna tér. The Hidegvölgy Forest rest stop and car park appear shortly after Budakeszi on the right-hand side, where you can start your hike on the Sisakvirág nature trail. This goes all the way to Nagykovácsi but after about 15 minutes, if you turn into the path marked with a yellow cross, it leads to the barren plateau of white dolomite rocks, the Tarna rest stop, with a fabulous view from these white cliffs. Not far from here is the sail-like Pál Csergezán Lookout Tower with a beautiful, full panorama. From here, you can either go back to Hidegvölgy rest stop, or continue Nagykovácsi and Nagy-Szénás, or make a round trip in the woods, taking in the Anna Hunting Lodge and the Pál Csergezán memorial. Here, in his favourite spot, are buried the ashes of this famed illustrator of wildlife, who once served the court of the Shah of Iran.

Photo: Bálint Hirling/WLB

Nagymaros & Zebegény

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Both of these destinations are among the most popular for an excursion around the Danube Bend, and it’s hard to pick a favourite. You can discover both by taking the hiking trail connecting them, specifically the eight-kilometre long path marked with a blue cross, which takes hikers from the stone cross above Nagymaros on Kövez-mező to the scenic Trianon Memorial lookout above Zebegény. This path is easily accessible by car, but those taking a train can stop by other great spots on the way, such as the rugged Remete cave and the Julianus lookout. The two settlements hold great attractions as well: Nagymaros awaits with a free beach, but you can also take a ferry to Visegrád or visit great venues like Piknik Manufaktúra or the Danu Bar. Zebegény entices hungry hikers with places such as Füstölgő Sarok BBQ and the Danu Kerékbár.

Photo: Kata Fári - We Love Budapest

Prédikálószék

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A more challenging terrain awaits anyone who chooses Prédikálószék (‘The Preaching Chair’) as their destination. This 16-kilometre hike can be completed in about six to seven hours and is recommended for more experienced walkers. Strong hiking boots and plenty of water are a must, as there’s nowhere to drink on the way. The starting point is Dömös, which can be reached by Volánbusz from Újpest-Városkapu in 90 minutes. By car, you can leave your vehicle in the paid-for parking space at the junction of Kossuth Lajos út and Malom stream in Dömös. From the bus stop and the car park, aim for Királykúti út, where you can turn and head out of the village. Follow the signs that lead you to the Szentfa Chapel pilgrimage site, next to the peculiar-looking Vadálló rocks and offering a wonderful view. The 639-metre peak and 12-metre-high lookout tower of Prédikálószék are not far from here, and that commanding view of the Danube Bend, the Börzsöny hills, Visegrád Castle and, in the distance, Naszály Hill above Vác.

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