In the north-east of Hungary, you can find the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, which are known as the North Hungarian Mountains. Nature lovers and hikers can discover exciting landscapes here, such as 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 on the highest peaks in Hungary. Bélapátfalva is a village in the west of the Bükk Mountains and the starting point for many hikes. An old Cistercian abbey, a former limestone quarry and the numerous peaks in the book forests of the Bükk Mountains are particularly popular. In this blog post I will introduce you to a wonderful hiking route that I mastered during my trip through Hungary. I am very happy that you found my blog and that you are interested in the beauty of Hungarian nature. Have fun reading.
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 Bélapátfalva. Here a small hiking trail runs through grass and meadows towards the Cistercian abbey, which is beautifully situated in the forest. This is followed by an uphill section of an asphalt hiking trail that leads past several viewpoints. Then you reach the summit of the Bél-kő, where you have a wide view of the Bükk Mountains and the adjacent limestone quarry. The rest of the route runs slowly downhill through a beautiful beech forest back to the abbey and finally to Bélapátfalva. In summary, the entire hike is approximately 14 kilometers. 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 important points on the map.
14 km (circa 3 hours)
Apátság Parkoló Bélapátfalva
Forest paths, no steep incline
How to get to Bélapátfalva
Travel by car
The starting point of the hike is the village of Bélapátfalva, which can be easily reached by car via the winding road 2506. While the journey from Eger takes around 25 minutes, the journey from Budapest takes around 2 hours. You can park for free at the “Apátság Parkoló” car park (see map), which is located near the abbey.
Travel by public transport
There are two train stations in Bélapátfalva (see map). Both stations are about the same close to the hiking route and both are 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 from Budapest. Lines 1054, 3408 and 3411 run here, for example. The “Bélapátfalva, városháza” stop is closest to the Bükk National Park (see map). Current timetables can be found on the following page.
Circular hike in the Bükk National Park
The Cistercian Abbey of Bélapátfalva
We start from the parking lot just mentioned, descend a staircase, and follow a small path through meadows and grasses. After about 600 meters we reach the beautiful Cistercian abbey, which is surrounded by green trees. In the background the mighty rock wall rises up and conjures up a wonderful atmosphere at the church. Bélapátfalva Abbey can be toured for 400 ft all year round. In the main season the abbey is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm but closed on Mondays. You can find more information on the website of the Cistercian Abbey.
Short Facts for your Trip
The main season in Bélapátfalva is from April to October. In the winter months, paths can be closed due to ice or snow. However, the beech forest certainly looks particularly beautiful in autumn, when the leaves change color. We were in Hungary in July, and it was very hot and dry. Many tourists come to the Bükk Mountains at this time, but we hardly met other people on this route.
Hiking trail uphill to Bél-kő
Starting from the abbey, we follow the path to the east and soon come to an asphalt hiking trail, which is signposted with a B-9. The path leads us up and is always based on the huge rock. After about 3.5 kilometers we reach a small picnic area with several seats on a hilly field. From here you have a direct view of the steep rock faces of the mountain.
The next vantage point awaits us just 500 meters further. From here we have an unobstructed view of the forests of the Bükk National Park and therefore take a break. In the further course the hiking trail leads us through forest areas up to the summit of the mountain. From the Cistercian abbey it is a good 450 meters in altitude that we had to conquer.
View of the Bükk National Park and Bélapátfalva
The summit of the Bél-kő is 815 meters above sea level and also has a viewing platform. From here we can see as far as Eger and have a spectacular view over the vastness of the Bükk Mountains. The dense forests cover the mountains of the region with dark green tones and impressively illustrate why the Bükk National Park is also called the lungs of Hungary. In the foreground is also the former limestone quarry, which looks like a huge light spot between the shades of green. The trees that grow in the quarry look tiny in the sea of rubble. A truly impressive vantage point that you should definitely visit on your trip to Bélapátfalva.
Through the forests of the Bükk Mountains to Bélapátfalva
We leave the Bél-kő and orientate ourselves on the yellow marked hiking trail until after 500 meters we turn onto the green marked path. Our route now runs through a beech forest and opens up the beautiful nature of the forest to us. Singing of the birds, rustling in the bushes, the scent of earth fills our nose. The sun glistens through the treetops, the soft forest floor muffles our steps, and the wind blows leaves from the trees. We enjoy our hike back into the valley and don’t visit the peaks Galya-tető and Homonna-tető, which can be reached by small detours. After 8.5 kilometers we arrive again at the Cistercian abbey and shortly afterwards at the parking lot.
Conclusion on the hike in Bélapátfalval
Our hike in Bélapátfalval was very idyllic. The trail is easy to do and does not require any experience. However, the way up is exhausting, so you should be in good physical condition. Especially when descending on forest paths, be careful of tree roots, slippery leaves, or potholes. We met very few other people on our hike during the high season, so you can enjoy the surroundings in peace. Moreover, we were the only visitors at the popular Cistercian abbey. Since there are many hiking trails in the Bükk National Park, the hike presented here can also be shortened or lengthened as required. There are enough possibilities. Overall, I can highly recommend Bélapátfalval. There are no moments when you catch your breath, but the surroundings and nature are still very beautiful and unique.
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Highlights in the surroundings
If you are in the region, I definitely recommend visiting the Szalajka Valley. This beautiful recreational area borders the village of Szilvásvárad and is only 5 kilometers north of Bélapátfalva. You can expect great viewpoints, picturesque lakes, several waterfalls, and hidden caves. There are also good hiking opportunities in the area around Szilvásvárad. Take a look at my blog post about the Szalajka Valley and see for yourself.
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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