How did Hungary become the “land of waters”, without any real connection to any sea or ocean? Take a trip, plan your stay and discover its incredible natural spas and the world’s largest network of underground caves in Hungary.
As there is no sea on the horizon of Hungary, one may wonder how this small landlocked European nation could have acquired the name “Land of Waters”. The credit goes to the dense system of underground caves found all over Hungary, which distribute enormous quantities of thermal water. The capital, Budapest, has more than 123 springs, which supply Europe’s most famous spas with beneficial water.
Imagine yourself sitting outside, surrounded by the warm vapours of a healing water with many benefits, after a day of sightseeing on a cold autumn day. Visiting one of the spas twice a week as a resident of Budapest is not surprising, but it is part of the local culture. Enjoying therapeutic thermal water, playing chess in a swimming pool on floating boards, diving in “beer baths” or going to a “Sparty” in the Széchenyi Spa on Saturday night – all this is possible thanks to Hungary’s natural water resources. Do your research, the vacation destinations are still numerous, all you have to do is plan your stay for the week of your choice, book the hotels, list the destinations and discover every city in Hungary.
What are the advantages of thermal water?
Since Roman times, the people of Hungary have exploited the natural benefits of geothermal water and developed an extraordinary network of thermal baths. The relatively thin layer of the earth’s crust in the Carpathian Basin heated the mineral-rich aquifer. These naturally heated waters are said to have many healing properties. Among others, Hungarian thermal water is therapeutic for blood circulation problems due to its high mineral content, or for joint problems due to the “buoyancy” of the water.
The most important bathing establishments in Budapest
Over the years, dozens of thermal complexes have been built in Hungary. In fact, many more than in any other European country.
One of them is in the town of Hévíz, where the largest natural thermal lake in Europe, if not the world, is located, covering an area of 4 hectares.
What are the spas not to be missed during your stay in Budapest? This is where you can enjoy a few hours of relaxation during your visit to the capital of Hungary.
One of the best places is the extraordinary Art Nouveau Gellért bathroom with its rooms and marble walls decorated with the famous Zsolnay porcelain. Unique experiences at this spa include the exclusive thermal herbal pool or the optional chocolate massage. There is also live music played by the gallery as you dive into the pool, stimulating all your senses. The beauty of the architecture, combined with the relaxing atmosphere of the spa, has also inspired many filmmakers. The rooms in this 1920s building have been the setting for some famous movies, such as Evita (1996) or Mephisto (1981). Here you will find useful information on costs and entrance hours to organize your stop at the spa.
The Széchenyi Bathroom is located in a castle-like building in the city center and opened in 1913. The thermal water that feeds this spa descends to the surface from a depth of 1246 meters, at a temperature of about 76 degrees Celsius. Due to its composition, it is considered a “medical water”. During the summer period, the bath also hosts special evenings, rightly called “Sparties”, to attract the younger generation and familiarize them with modern bathing culture. This seems to be a success, in fact the number of customers has tripled in recent years, and the spa complex now has about 1100 employees. On the official website of the baths you can find more information about costs and opening hours, types of stay, list and prices of hotels and finally the price of each destination to organize your visit.
Some of the first Hungarian bathhouses in the city date back to the 16th century. They were built during the 150 years of the Ottoman occupation of Hungary. These baths have central octagon-shaped pools under high dome-shaped ceilings, which will most likely give you a feeling of authenticity.
The most amazing examples of these Turkish baths in Budapest are the Király Thermal Bath (official website), the Veli Bej Bath (information and schedules) and the Rudas Bath (costs and location). The latter has recently been expanded with modern facilities, such as a new wellness area and a beautiful panoramic terrace. From here you can enjoy outdoor swimming while admiring the Danube and the city center of Budapest. You can also book accommodation or opt for hotels near the Danube to enjoy your stay while admiring the Danube.
An underground and secret world of spas
The bravest and most adventurous can discover a secret underground world in Hungary by immersing themselves in the most impressive thermal cave system in the world.
The Molnár János Cave is located just below the place where the first Turkish baths were established a few hundred years ago. The mill on the lake (Malom tó) has been used to feed the mills since the Middle Ages. However, it wasn’t until the 19th century that a pharmacist, János Molnár János, began to explore its arid areas and analyze the water in Hungary.
Underwater exploration began in the 1950s in this protected area when divers drew a map of more than 400 meters of cave systems. Very recently, in 2002, researchers found a new passage leading to an extraordinarily large hall, as large as 350 double-decker buses. Geologists, biologists and chemists are constantly working to expand research in the Hungarian country. In the meantime, certified divers can dive and discover the cave system by swimming in crystal clear and naturally warm water between 22° and 26° C.
Protection of thermal waters and promotion of responsible tourism
While Budapest is more popular than ever, due to its architecture, historical past and gourmet restaurants, a record number of tourists visited Hungary’s capital in 2018. However, the Hungarian government wants to attract a more specific type of visitor to Budapest, the “health tourists”. The goal is certainly to increase the GDP related to tourism (by 10l 16nt by 2030), especially by taking advantage of this particular sector, as the balanced and more health-conscious lifestyle of the Hungarian country began to gain popularity in the Hungarian territory, Europe and the world.
Another fundamental objective is the enhancement of these historic baths and the protection of Budapest’s water resources in order to develop responsible tourism linked to the identity of the Hungarian country. Ecological behaviour also includes the recognition of possible vacation destinations, which have been built not at the expense of the natural environment or the community, but by valuing the places and the people who live there. By visiting Hungary’s natural spas, you will not only experience the centuries-old culture, but you will also be able to support the local economy in its attempt to invest in the protection of the natural resources of the Hungarian country. Whether for a week or for a longer period of time, your vacation will showcase every tour and every city in Hungary.