In the land of waters
No wonder the Hungarians perform so well in rowing sports – our rivers, peaceful and calm, offer a five-star practicing ground for beginners and pros alike. Don't look for whitewater rafting here, but enjoy paddling on slowly flowing rivers, marvelling at the beauty of untouched nature. There are 28 water habitats protected by the Ramsar Agreement, some of which can be visited by tourists as well and many of the waterways run through Hungary's National Parks. The most important waterways include the Tisza, Bodrog and Körös in the Eastern part of Hungary; as well as Szigetköz ("the land of Thousand Islands"),
Dráva, Rába and the Mosoni Danube in the Western part of Hungary. For a particularly romantic experience, take your canoe or kayak to the Tisza Lake (Hungary's second largest lake) and row from one wonderful island to the next, watching wildlife going by its daily business.
Water touring is really more about chilling out on the boat, making use of the water's natural flow, sunbathing and observing nature. At Keszthely you can rent an electric motor boat – just make sure to bring your ID. If you're looking for a bit more speed and excitement, head to Lake Tisza. At the bay of Abádszalók (an area of about 14 square kilometres) motorised water sports are allowed – that's unique in Europe. Try the motorboat-drawn water banana, the water bob, ski or jet-ski on the water, and don't leave your wakeboard at home either.
For something a little more relaxing try sailing and head over toLake Balaton for the ultimate experience.
There are several well-equipped yacht clubs along the shores where visitors can rent a boat or join a professional captain on board and enjoy sailing through the calm, silver water.
The most important event for Hungary's sailors is the Kékszalag.. It's quite a spectacle when hundreds of boats sail the lake, dotting the water with their colourful sail-cloths. The Blue Ribbon is the Hungary's most prestigious regatta dating back to 1934 and with a length of 160 kilometres, the longest lake-circling race in Europe.
For those who like to tackle nature with nothing but their bare hands, numerous swimming competitions offer a real challenge. The first Hungarian to swim across the Balaton in 1880 was Kálmán Szekrényessy, completing the 14 km long route from Siófok to Balatonfüred in 6 hours and 40 minutes. This distance posed too much of a challenge for amateur swimmers though, so in 1982, the route was shifted to the 5200 m long distance between Révfülöp and Balatonboglár – yup, this year the route has celebrated its 30th birthday, with thousands of enthusiastic swimmers.
For some peaceful dipping, head to one of the numerous mine lakes around the country. Not every lake is suitable for bathing, though – make sure to check at the Tourinfrom offices first and pay attention to signs.
Swimming can be a lonely pursuit so if you're looking for a team challenge, opt for the dragon boat – a craze that has spread all over Hungary in the last few years. A dragonhead on the front, a dragon tail on the back, the rhythm of a drum dictating the tempo – it's pure fun, and good exercise too.