Surrounded by vineyards, volcanic mountains, and thermal spa resorts, Lake Balaton is a stunning body of water in western Hungary that attracts sun seekers, foodies, music lovers, and watersports fans from neighboring countries to Central Europe's largest lake. It's a freshwater lake, but it's a striking milky green color because of the algae that grows in the shallow waters. Around the lake you can roam the north shore's rolling hills, with medieval fortresses, climb an extinct volcano in the Tapolca Basin, sealing on a sail-boat, pick your own plants in Tihany's lavender fields and spot wild boar, lynx and stag in the Balaton Uplands National Park. For the best views, head to the Badacsony Hill on the north side of the lake, or discover the city of Balatonfüred, founden int he 19th century, today the capital of the cultural-, and sport-life of Balaton.
The average water temperature in the summer months is around 25 degrees centigrade (77 degrees Farenheit), and the safe shallow waters on the southern shores make it a great destination for families, but on the north shore the water gets deeper instantaneously.
Nor far from Keszthely, a nice town, is Lake Héviz the second largest hot-water lake in the world. At a temperature of 90°F open-air bathing is very pleasant even in winter in the thermal water. Due to the temperature and chemical composition of the water has a curative effect.
The place with the greatest historical significance on Lake Balaton is Tihany, a peninsula jutting 5km into the lake. Tihany village, perched on an 80m-high plateau along the peninsula’s eastern coast, is home to the celebrated Abbey Church (founded AD 1050), and in the height of summer the church attracts many visitors.
Visit small towns:
Right nearby is the world-renowned spa town of Hévíz, which boasts the world’s second-largest thermal lake and the largest fit for bathing.
Keszthely is a town of gently crumbling grand town houses perched at the western edge of Lake Balaton. It's hands down one of the loveliest spots to stay in the area, and far removed from the tourist hot spots on the lake. You can take a dip in small, shallow beaches by day, absorb the lively yet relaxed ambience by night, and get a dose of culture by popping into the town's handful of museums and admiring its historical buildings. Whatever you do, don't miss the Festetics Palace, a lavish baroque home fit for royalty.
Balatonfüred is not only the oldest resort on Lake Balaton’s northern shore, it’s also the most fashionable. In days gone by the wealthy and famous built large villas on its tree-lined streets, and their architectural legacy can still be seen today. Yes, it's highly touristy, but it's an excellent place to base yourself on the lake, with its endless lodging and dining options, and a superb tree-lined promenade along the shore where everyone goes for their pre- or postprandial dinner strolls. The town also has the most stylish marina on the lake and is known for the thermal waters of its world-famous heart hospital.