sights & culture


Hike across Keszthelyi-hegység to discover monastery ruins and lookout towers


  • Farkas Ádám

4/4/2018 5:15 PM

Keszthely and its surroundings are dotted with lookout towers. You can climb six of them in just a few hours if you are persistent enough. If you're up for an adventure, here we show you which trails to follow across the forests of Keszthelyi-hegység, taking in an arboretum, the ruins of a medieval monastery and even a cemetery for military dogs.

1. The classic lookout hike: Darnay-Dornyai

This memorial hike named after local curator and historian Béla Darnay-Dornyai is medium-difficulty and 12 kilometers long. You should be able to finish it in four hours while also checking out the view from the other observation towers in the area. The tour starts from the center of Keszthely, from where you can reach Gyenesdiás by following the blue and red signs. Then head along Lőtéri út to Nagymező, where you’ll find a forest gym track. By following the blue triangle sign, you can reach the Festetics Observation Tower on Kerek-hegy, where you’ll be greeted by the view of the bay and the old quarries.

Photo: Tamás Kőrösi - We Love Balaton

Next go back to the yellow sign, and follow the yellow triangle to the Berzsenyi Lookout Tower, where you can even see as far as peaks of the Alps. The next stop is the Padkűi Lookout Tower in the direction of Büdöskút – there’s also an arboretum here with a collection established in 1937.

Photo: Tamás Kőrösi - We Love Balaton

Instead of visiting Padkű, you can also follow the trail indicated with a red sign along Hosszú-völgy while surrounded by black pines – you’ll have to switch colored signs at the clearance at Malacos-tető: follow the green triangle to get to the Kitaibel Pál Lookout Tower.

Photo: Tamás Kőrösi - We Love Balaton

From here you can reach the Bélapi rest stop at Balatongyörök through Zsölle-hát; follow the yellow triangle to get to Bél Mátyás Observation Tower or the red one that leads to Batsányi Observation Tower. If you are also interested in Szépkilátó, it’s easy to reach from the Batsányi tower.

Photo: Tamás Kőrösi - We Love Balaton

2. Adventurous orienteering from Vonyarcvashegy to Vállus

These forest trails are really popular with runners as it’s more comfortable to exercise here than on the asphalt roads. This trail of around nine kilometers starts in Vonyarcvashegy: look for the green stripe on Rákóczi Ferenc utca. Follow this north and you’ll reach the Büdöskút rest spot through Cser-völgy.

Photo: Tamás Kőrösi - We Love Balaton

From there, follow the same sign for four kilometers to reach Vállus. The military dog cemetery can be found along this trail. A base used to be located here at Görbe-tető, along with a broadcast relay station that also had a role in air defense. The area used to be closed off to the public, but now only the graves of the dogs who served here echo this distant era.

Photo: Tamás Kőrösi - We Love Balaton

Vállus is a really small village without any pubs or stores, but those hikers who are collecting stamps for the national trail can find them at the entrance of the small grocery. If you're done with walking for the day, you can take the bus back to Keszthely or Vonyarcvashegy.

Photo: Tamás Kőrösi - We Love Balaton

3. Visit springs and monastery ruins

Near Saint Nicholas Spring, the forest hides the ruins of a monastery that once belonged to the Pauline Order. You can visit this sight and other springs as part of a ten-kilometer hike that takes about three hours. It starts from Büdöskút – just follow the green sign north. Turn right onto the trail marked with a Z after the dog cemetery and you’ll find Saint Nicholas Spring. The remains of the monastery built in the 14th century can be also be found here: it was recently excavated by staff at the Balaton and Göcseji Museums, joined by archaeology students from Pécs.

Photo: Tamás Kőrösi - We Love Balaton

From here, first follow the green sign, then "Z+" at Szent Miklós-völgy, to get back to the village. The route to Várvölgy runs alongside the main road for a while, then turn right at the stone bridge to arrive at the winding forest path that cuts through the valley of a creek. This leads to the main road of Várvölgytapolca, where you have to turn right again. Soon you see a dirt road that runs between the vineyards and press houses of Láz-hegy.

Photo: Tamás Kőrösi - We Love Balaton

The blue sign becomes a red one at Kő-orra – follow it to reach the fine springs of Várvölgyi-medence. Then take the dirt road to the valley of Zsidi-patak: here an asphalt road takes you to Saint Dominic Church of Várvölgy, with its multiple springs to slake your thirst.

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