The Kis-Balaton is a great place for romantic adventurers and hobby historians as well – just think about the ruins of Martyr Adrian’s church or the basilica in Récéskút. But you won’t be disappointed either if you come here expecting a bigger dose of Mother Nature than what the northern Balaton shore can give you. While biking around two small lakes, you can also pet various animals or do a bit of birdwatching, and you will ask yourself the question: where are Matula, his hut and his dog, Csikasz from the beloved novel of István Fekete?
Compared to the Balaton Bike Ring, a much more romantic landscape awaits in the region between Balatonszentgyörgy and Zalakaros. Highways, stretches of asphalt covered bike paths and dirt roads encircle the two reservoirs of the Kis-Balaton with countless sights nearby.
It is worth noting that according to locals, truck traffic can be quite heavy on certain sections (for example, between Sármellék and Zalakomár or on Highway 76), so it might be a better idea to time your bike trip for the weekend. If you are setting out with kids, it is probably best to only use the sections reserved exclusively for bike and pedestrian traffic (in Zalakaros, Zalakomár, near Zalavár between the Kis-Balaton House and the sluice).
The Kis-Balaton bike trail is less popular, but offers a higher adventure factor for this exact reason. You won’t find lángos stands, fish fryers or restaurants every hundred metres along the way, so you are advised to stock up a bit more generously on food and drink.
Coming from the direction of Balatonszentgyörgy, turn off the Balaton Bike Ring between Balatonberény and Keszthely to find the path. Railway connections in the area are sparse, but you can reach the second reservoir by getting off the Budapest-Nagykanizsa train at Balatonszentgyörgy, Vörs or Sávoly. Getting off at Zalakomár will land you at the first reservoir. If you decide on getting your bikes here by car, you can basically start cycling anywhere, and bike rentals in the area will also provide you with wheels at any location on the trail. One such rental is located near the Kis-Balaton House: renting a bike costs HUF 500 for 30 minutes, HUF 1,000 for 60 minutes and HUF 2,000 for over 60 minutes.
If you decide to go around the first reservoir in a clockwise direction starting out from Zalaszabar, you’ll reach your first stop at the Kis-Balaton House in Zalavár, with the ruins of Martyr Adrian’s church located a bit further off. Make a 1-kilometre detour on the highway to Zalavár and visit the ruins of the Récéskút basilica on the left. There’s a bicycle path leading from the Kis-Balaton House to the Zala River sluice.
Stop at the look-out tower on your way, or try one of the cosy birdwatching posts made out of logs by the sluice. Continue southward to reach the petting zoo in Fenyvespuszta and the Kányavári Island, after which you can make your way to the Buffalo Reserve in Kápolnapuszta by making a right turn. Return to the highway and the next stop on your way south is Zalakomár, where you’ll come up to Zalakaros after turning right once more. Zalakaros has a thermal bath with all the facilities you can possibly think of. Round off your trip around the first reservoir by following the highway through Garabonc and Nagyrada.
This route might test your sense of adventure because parts of it run along busy highways and unmarked dirt roads. Start in Balatongyörök and go clockwise, making a stop at Csillagvár. Continue toward Vörs, where you’ll find not one, not two, but three look-out towers within a single square kilometre. Follow the dirt trail running along the railway tracks to Sávoly, and push on another 5 kilometres to reach the Buffalo Reserve in Kápolnapuszta.
The next section of the bicycle path runs on the territory of the reserve, so you’ll have to purchase a HUF 500 cycler ticket in the main building, regardless of which direction you are coming from. Back on the highway, go north toward Balatonmagyaród, passing once again the petting zoo in Fenyvespuszta and the Kányavári Island. After reaching the sluice, you have two options: go left and continue on the bike trail in the direction of the first reservoir, or stay on the highway and reach Sármellék by travelling through Zalavár and passing FlyBalaton on your way.
You can return to Balatongyörök if you make a right turn and follow Highway 76, but don’t pass up a visit to the popular locations of the Balaton Uplands National Park first. Guided tours to the Diás Island leave from the Kis-Balaton Research House twice a day. Here you’ll also find the István Fekete Memorial Room and Matula’s hut from the novel Téli berek.