If you’ve been to Budapest then maybe you visited Széchenyi thermal baths; but did you know that with over 1,000 hot springs, Hungary boasts more medicinal spas than any other European country? What’s more, it even has a natural thermal lake – Lake Hévíz.
Hévíz (translated: thermal) is a naturally warmed lake only a two-hour drive from Budapest. It is said that 410 litres of water pump out every second from a spring 38m deep, completely replenishing the lake over a 72-hour period. The water reaches over 30°c in the summer and never drops below 23°c in winter, so Hévíz is warm enough to bathe in year round.
Their website says that the lake is rich in carbonic acid, sulphur, calcium, magnesium, and hydrogen carbonate, a thermal composition long believed to have medicinal properties.
A spa town has developed around Hévíz, with construction around the lake beginning in 1795; and the natural phenomenon has catered to a range of medical needs ever since. Built atop the lake, an 18th Century wooden bathhouse enables easy access down ladders leading directly into the warm waters. There are even mechanical chairlifts to lower those who are not mobile into the water. Amongst its facilities the Hévíz spa boasts hydrotherapy, movement therapy, a weight bath, medicinal mud, and a range of spa treatments.
If you want to bathe all you need is a towel, a pair of flip-flops, and a rubber ring. Top tip: take a bathrobe, rather than a towel. You will appreciate it! I took my parents on a day in September when there was enough of a chill in the air to make you feel cold getting out of the water.
Upon arrival you can choose what type of ticket to buy. I opted for a 4-hour pass. You receive a rubber wristband that looks like a watch. This is an automated pass that allocates and operates your locker inside. You can also use it to keep a regular time-check by swiping it at the machines placed all around the complex. Cubicles inside the changing rooms allow privacy for people not used to Europe’s unisex changing areas.
Swimming in the lake is a strange experience. Firstly, the sulphurous water emits an egg-like odour (significantly stronger in the indoor section), which gave me a headache early on – although I did stop noticing it after a while. Secondly, you can expect to feel some weeds underfoot and you will swim amongst lily pads. Informative signs explain that amongst the lake’s wildlife you might find fish and other pond-life, but I did not see or feel any of these.
Although these things don’t sound particularly pleasant, you’ll forget them once you sink into the surprisingly silky warm water and feel your aches and pains dissolving away. Because the lake is very deep, you will not be able to put your feet down; this is where a rubber ring is a useful thing to have with you – don’t worry about looking daft, everybody else will have them too! The lake manages a consistent temperature, so you can swim all around without worrying about losing the warm spots! If you want to raise the temperature a little, go inside where you can swim directly above the source where the water is hotter.
Amongst its other facilities, you will find a few kiosks selling fast food (think large sausages and fried potatoes), cafes, and a bar for beers or a glass of wine. On hot summer days you can take a lounger and relax on the sun terraces. It is easy to while away the hours at Hévíz.
As a designated wellness spa town, there is plenty on offer outside the lake too. There are many massage salons, plenty of souvenir shops, and coffee shops displaying cases of beautiful cakes. Those with a sweet tooth should try local marzipan products, which includes a yummy marzipan liquor. Of course, you must try traditional Hungarian goulash in any of the restaurants.
Visiting Hévíz is a unique experience and well-worth making the effort to visit.
I’d love to hear what you have to say about Hévíz! Have you been? Would you like to go? Have you been to any other thermal lakes? Please leave a comment below!
I would love to go to a thermal spa. I didn’t make it to the baths in Budapest because I was only there for a weekend and didn’t have time for it in the itinerary. This looks much more relaxing.
It is much bigger than the baths in Budapest, so even if it’s busy at the lake it doesn’t seem too bad. It was very relaxing!
This place sounds like a dream! Adding it to my bucket list now!
I hope you get there some day.
This place sounds like a dream! Adding it to my bucket list now
I’ve never been to a thermal lake, but I did bathe in Keszthely Lake in Hungary and the entire Lake bed was covered in mussels, it was so weird!
Hévíz is only a couple of miles away from Keszthely. I didn’t bathe there – it was too cold!
Wow I’ve never heard of this place! I’ve only ever been to Budapest, but would love to explore more of Hungary. Going on the list 🙂
I think that Hungary is really underrated. People go to Budapest, but don’t really go much further than that. There are some lovely places there.
Great to have you back in BlogPostSaturday zone Elaine. A bathe in Lake Hévíz sounds absolutely idyllic. Definitely another one for my must visit list 🙂
Thanks, Ali. This full-time teaching malarkey doesn’t leave room for much else, does it? How’s things?
Actually, when I visited Budapest my guide mentioned all the springs around and outside the city. She mentioned several places where locals do to spend the day. Of course, the prices there are way cheaper than what you will find in the capital. So, glad to get then name of one of these places form you since I do not remember the places they mentioned.
Oh, it’s a shame you can’t remember some of the other places. I would love to know where else to go. There is a great cave spa in Hungary, did your guide tell you about that one?