People tend to associate Hungary with a holiday at Lake Balaton or a city trip to Budapest rather than an adventure holiday in nature. But, although Hungary is located in the Pannonian Plain, the country also offers nature lovers exciting landscapes and some mountains for hiking. In the north-east of the country, you can find the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, which are known as the North Hungarian Mountains. Within this region are the Bükk Mountains and the Bükk National Park of the same name. Bükk means as much as beech and it is precisely these trees that can be found in the national park. It is the largest forest-covered national park in Hungary and the lungs of the country. No wonder that the region is very popular with tourists and hikers. Countless caves, idyllic waterfalls and other natural spectacles await visitors in the park. In addition, well-marked hiking trails guarantee an unforgettable hiking experience in the forests and peaks of Hungary. The Szalajka Valley is a very popular region in the west of the Bükk Mountains. An easy hiking trail leads to lookout points, picturesque lakes, several waterfalls, and hidden caves. In this blog post I will introduce you to the Szalajka Valley and show you the beauty of the Hungarian nature. As always, I hope you enjoy reading. I am happy that you are here on my travel blog.
The route of my hike in brief
If you click on a link below, you will be taken directly to the corresponding section of the route. This starts in the village of Szilvásvárad. Here a steep hiking trail runs through a wooded area towards the Millennium Tower, which promises a wonderful view. This is followed by a section on an asphalt road back into the valley. A lively hiking trail leads past several highlights, such as a trout farm or the Szikla Forrás waterfall. Then you reach the multi-level Fátyol waterfall and at the end of the path you come to a large idyllic lake. This is followed by a very steep ascent to the Istállós Kő cave. The entire hike is approximately 14 kilometers. However, the ascent is strenuous for a short time, but not technically difficult. In addition, the paths are well developed and doable for everyone. I have marked the route and all the important points on the map.
14 km (around 3 hours)
Well-developed paths, no steep incline
How to get to the Szalajka Valley
Travel by car
The starting point of the hike is the village of Szilvásvárad, which can be easily reached by car via the winding road 2506. While the journey from Eger takes around 30 minutes, the journey from Budapest takes around 2 hours. Parking spaces are signposted in Szilvásvárad (see map) and cost 1400 ft for the day. But there are also cheaper tickets on an hourly basis for 280 ft per hour.
Getting here by public transport
There are two train stations in Szilvásvárad (see map). The Szilvásvárad-Szalajkavölgy station is closer to the Szalajka Valley and is regularly served by trains from Eger. You can find more information on the website of the railway company.
The place can also be reached by bus from the surrounding communities and even Budapest. Lines 1054, 3408, 3486 and 4194 run here for example. The stop is right at the entrance to the park (see map). Current timetables can be found on the following page.
The recreation area in the Szalajka Valley
Trail to the Millennium Tower
We start from the parking lot, which is directly on the main road, and turn into Park utca at the corner of the driveway. After a few meters, the hiking trail with the number B9 begins here, which leads to the Millennium Tower. The small path through the dense forest requires full energy straight away, because the ascent is steep, and the ground is littered with tree roots and leaves. At the end of the path, we come to a small parking lot on an asphalt road from which a gravel path leads to the observation tower. In total, the route is 2 kilometers long and requires an ascent of around 250 meters in altitude.
The Millennium Tower, built at the turn of the millennium, is 20 meters high and has a bizarre construction. There is an observation deck on top of the tower that can be viewed for 500 ft during opening hours. A bit too expensive in my opinion, but the view is definitely worth it, and the entrance fee benefits the protection of the Bükk National Park. There are also online or combination tickets that are cheaper.
10 am to 5 pm, Sa. and Su. till 6 pm
500 ft, reduced 400 ft
closed in case of ice, fog, thunderstorms
Short Facts for your Trip
The Szalajka Valley is open all year round and can be visited at any time. In the winter months, however, restaurants, shops and museums can be closed. The main season runs from April to October. We were in Hungary in July, and it was very hot and dry. Many tourists come to the Bükk Mountains at this time, so I recommend the early hours of the morning or the evening to visit Szilvásvárad.
Trail back to the Szalajka valley
After our rest at the Millennium Tower, we follow the paved road and after about 2 kilometers turn onto a yellow-marked hiking trail. We want to hike back to the Szalajka valley via a forest path. But after 15 minutes we must realize that the path through the forest is not a path but ends in front of a cliff. While we are wondering whether we can somehow continue here, we get a brief shock. Cracking branches, rolling stones and loud stamping can be heard from a herd of deer fleeing past us around 20 meters away. That was unexpected. We turn around and follow the paved road back down into the valley.
Adventure trail in the Szalajka Valley
A well-developed hiking trail awaits us in the valley, which runs along a wide variety of sights. We pass different restaurants, several ponds with ducks and birds and a small petting zoo. In addition, a forest museum and various exhibits are on the way. You can even try fish in the restaurant at a trout farm. We meet a lot of people on this popular path through the Szalajka Valley, but the idyll of the park is not destroyed.
The Szikla Forrás Waterfall and Fátyol Waterfall
We reach a small pond again, but a small waterfall flows into it. This idyll is called Szikla-Forrás. The picturesque surroundings are beautifully reflected in the crystal-clear water and are ideal for a short break. Moreover, the 17-meter-long Fátyol waterfall, which has 18 steps, is just 200 meters away. Unfortunately, the water level is not very high in July, so that hardly any water flows. However, the sight is still very beautiful and impressive.
The greenest lake in Hungary
Most people turn around at the Fátyol waterfall, but at the end of the path there is a wonderfully beautiful lake. The lake shines through the surrounding trees in various shades of green and looks almost artificial. Unfortunately, there is no circular route, but here you can still endure longer.
Hike to the Istállós Kő cave
To the left of the lake there is a path that climbs very steeply. The ascent is arduous, sometimes slippery, and exhausting. But at the end of the hiking trail, we reach the Istállós Kő Cave, in which a large number of stone tools and bones from the Paleolithic were found. We visit the inside of the impressive cave for a while and then return to the parking lot via the same hiking trail through the Szalajka valley.
Conclusion on the Szalajka Valley
The trip to the Szalajka Valley in the Bükk National Park was very eventful. There are a variety of attractions on offer and the path through the park is nicely laid out. On the easy-to-negotiate hiking trail you will see ponds, waterfalls, caves, animals, museums, and lots of forest. However, you will also meet a lot of tourists, because Szalajka is a popular destination, especially for families. So come early or late if you want to avoid the tourists. You have even more peace and quiet on the hiking trails in the area, which run on the higher plains of the Bükk Mountains. Here you can also go on real hikes because the path through the valley is more like a walk. While there are plenty of restaurants along the way, I cannot recommend the food. Maybe I was just unlucky. Overall, however, I can highly recommend the Szalajka Valley. It is designed for tourists, but the park is beautiful, and you will experience wonderful nature that you will not forget.
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Highlights in the surrounding area
If you still have time, you can visit a few more sights in the village of Szilvásvárad. For example, there is the former Pallavicini Palace or the reformed round church in the classicism style. There is also the Orbán House Museum, where you can learn about local history and the Palóczen. I was able to get to know their story during my trip to Hungary in the village of Hollókő. This link takes you to my post about my visit in Hollókő.
About 5 kilometers south of Szilvásvárad is the village of Bélapátfalva, which can be easily reached by car or public transport. There are also some hiking trails and sights here. For example, the magnificent Cistercian abbey in particular attracts many visitors, but the former limestone quarry and the 815-meter high Bél-kő also invite you to hike in the region. Please take a look at my blog post about a beautiful hiking route in Bélapátfalva.
A little further south on the edge of the Bükk Mountains lies the baroque town of Eger, which is surrounded by small vineyards. The picturesque streets invite you to explore and give the city a special charm. Popular sights in Eger are the neoclassical domed basilica, the Minaret or Dobó Square. A visit to Eger Castle, which is located on a hill to the west of the city center, is also worthwhile. There are also several thermal springs and baths in the area for relaxation.
Lillafüred is on the other side of the Bükk National Park. This small place is the local recreation area in the east of the Bükk Mountains. There are countless sights and natural spectacles here. You can start your journey to Lillafüred with a ride in the traditional forest railway. The highest waterfall in Hungary, which falls behind the magnificent palace hotel (Palotaszálló), is particularly popular. On Lake Hámori, you can take a romantic tour in a rowboat or go around the lake on a hiking trail. There are also several show caves in Lillafüred, such as the Anna Cave or the Szent István stalactite cave. Furthermore, the area offers countless hiking opportunities to the surrounding peaks. Take a look at my blog post about Lillafüred and see for yourself.
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