Hungary is the country of spas and medicinal waters. Hévíz, one of the world’s largest biologically active thermal lakes, which offers healing and recreation on a surface area of almost 50 hectares is living proof of that.
The 47,500 m2 Hévíz Lake is the largest warm-water lake in Europe, and one of Hungary’s most highly valued and protected natural assets. 2000 years ago, the ancient Romans already recognised and made use of the healing effects of its waters.
Construction of the present infrastructure began in 1795, when Count György Festetics commissioned engineers to chart the lake, and then had a spa building erected by the lakeside. Extension of the spa started in the second half of the 19th century, but really major improvements only got underway at the beginning of the 20th century: hotels were built, the lido was developed, and many private residences were also raised in the region.
The lake is fed by a number of springs from a depth of 38 metres, where the hot mineral-rich thermal waters mix with the cold karst waters. In the winter, the lake’s temperature is 23-25 °C, but in the summer it can reach 33-36 °C. The thermal water of the Hévíz Lake is rich in dissolved minerals and gases, including carbon dioxide, sulphur, calcium, magnesium and hydrogen carbonates. The peat mud at the bottom of the lake also has medicinal properties.
The special thermal water exerts therapeutic effects not only through bathing but by drinking it or inhaling its vapours, as well. The radon content has a pain-killing effect, the sulphur has excellent disinfecting and anti-inflammatory qualities. Alongside the spa, a hospital has also been built to utilise the unique effects of the lake. The medicinal water is primarily suitable for the treatment of locomotor disorders and for rehabilitation after injuries, while taken internally it can be used to treat stomach complaints and respiratory diseases.
The Eger Spa, with a history of over 500 years, offers radon-bearing medicinal water and leisure pools, while the Mezőkövesd outdoor spa has thermal water high in sulphur and a slide park for those seeking therapy or leisure.
Covering almost two thousand square kilometres, the Hortobágy steppe is a special place. It is also Hungary’s first and largest national park. It is the largest alkaline steppe in Europe, and a World Heritage sight full of wonders.
Mayflies, also known in Hungary as ‘Tisza flowers’ swarm for a brief period of their lives out of the water, offering a unique natural spectacle along Hungary’s second largest river, the Tisza, and a few sunny sections of its tributaries.
Three years, 150 days of shooting, four seasons: the end result is an enchanting 65-minute nature documentary about the largest shallow lake in Central Europe, Lake Balaton. Entitled Wild Balaton, it presents the fauna and flora living in and around the lake with spectacular cinematography.
Gellért Spa and Bath is one of the leading natural hot spring spa baths in Budapest, Hungary. Gellért Hotel and Spa opened up shop in 1918. It was later expanded with an artificial wave pool and a bubble bath. The original artificial wave machine, first put to use in 1927, is still operational and is a special treat of the spa.
Balaton, the largest lake in Central Europe, has been an inspiration for many artists, and recently it has provided an award-winning theme for a new genre, drone photography. The professional jury at the 2018 Hungarian Drone Photo Awards, where more than 1000 submissions were received, gave the Grand Price to the extraordinary image that Bulcsú Böröczky has captured from the air.
The Lukács Thermal Bath whose operation dates back to the Turkish era, was the favourite bath of Mustafa pasha. It is said to have one of the most effective medicinal waters of Budapest.
Lively crowds have always characterised Lake Balaton and its region. The spa life and tourism started to develop in the 18th century but first it was not based on the water of the lake but on the sparkling springs of the shore. First the turn of the 19th – 20th century, and later the years following World War II have brought a significant growth in tourism.
Due to its charming beauty, Margaret Island – the green heart of Budapest – had from the very start been a favourite residence of royals. Its landscaping was initiated in 1790 by the Palatine of Hungary, Archduke Alexander Leopold of Austria and after his death the works were continued by his hugely popular younger brother, Archduke Joseph of Austria, Palatine of Hungary.
A special series of photos of Hungary’s lakes and rivers has been produced to mark World Water Day in March 2019. The aerial photographs highlight the great variety of the country’s natural waters.