Lake Balaton

Lake Balaton (Hungarian IPA [ˈbɒlɒton], German: Plattensee, Latin: Lacus Pelso, Croatian: Blatno jezero, Slovak: Blatenské jazero) is a freshwater lake in the Transdanubian region of Hungary. It is the largest lake in Central Europe,[3] and one of the region's foremost tourist destinations. The Zala River provides the largest inflow of water to the lake, and the canalised Sió is the only outflow.

The mountainous region of the northern shore is known both for its historic character and as a major wine region, while the flat southern shore is known for its resort towns. Balatonfüred and Hévíz developed early as resorts for the wealthy, but it was not until the late 19th century when landowners, ruined by Phylloxera attacking their grape vines, began building summer homes to rent out to the burgeoning middle classes.[4]

Lake Balaton
Balaton Hungary Landscape
Lake Balaton
Location of Balaton
Location of Lake Balaton within Hungary
Coordinates46°50′N 17°44′E / 46.833°N 17.733°ECoordinates: 46°50′N 17°44′E / 46.833°N 17.733°E
TypeRift lake
Primary inflowsZala River
Primary outflowsSió
Catchment area5,174 km2 (1,998 sq mi)[1]
Basin countriesHungary
Max. length78 km (48 mi)
Max. width14 km (8.7 mi)
Surface area600 km2 (230 sq mi)
Average depth3.3 m (11 ft)
Max. depth12.2 m (40 ft)
Water volume1.9 km3 (0.46 cu mi)
Residence time2 years
Shore length1235 km (146 mi)
Surface elevation104.8 m (344 ft)
SettlementsKeszthely, Siófok, Balatonfüred (see list)
Designated17 March 1989
Reference no.421[2]
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.


In distinction to all other endonyms for lakes, which universally bear the identifying suffix -tó (“lake”), Lake Balaton is known in Hungarian simply as (a) Balaton (the Balaton). It was called lacus Pelsodis or Pelso by the Romans.[5] The name is Indo-European in origin (cf. Czech pleso ‘sinkhole, deep end of a lake’), later replaced by the Slavic *bolto (Czech bláto, Slovak blato, Polish "błoto") meaning 'mud, swamp' (from earlier Proto-Slavic boltьno, Slovene: Blatno jezero,[6][7] Slovak: Blatenské jazero[8]).

In January 846 Slavic prince Pribina began to build a fortress as his seat of power and several churches in the region of Lake Balaton, in a territory of modern Zalavár surrounded by forests and swamps along the river Zala.[9][10][11] His well fortified castle and capital of Balaton Principality that became known as Blatnohrad or Moosburg ("Swamp Fortress") served as a bulwark both against the Bulgarians and the Moravians.[9][10][11]

The German name for the lake is Plattensee.[12] It is unlikely that the Germans named the lake so for being shallow since the adjective platt is a Greek loanword that was borrowed via French and entered the general German vocabulary in the 17th century.[13][14] It is also noteworthy that the average depth of Balaton (3.2 m [10 ft])[15] is not extraordinary for the area (cf. the average depth of the neighbouring Neusiedler See, which is roughly 1 m [3.3 ft]).[16]


Ancient balaton
Map of Balaton in ancient times

Lake Balaton affects the local area precipitation. The area receives approximately 5–7 cm (2–3 in) more precipitation than most of Hungary, resulting in more cloudy days and less extreme temperatures. The lake's surface freezes during winters. The microclimate around Lake Balaton has also made the region ideal for viticulture. The Mediterranean-like climate, combined with the soil (containing volcanic rock), has made the region notable for its production of wines since the Roman period two thousand years ago.[17]


Spread of Seuso at Lake Balaton
30-as túrajolle. Fortepan 25768
Lake Balaton 1939
25-ös túrajolle. Fortepan 26079
Lake Balaton 1939

While a few settlements on Lake Balaton, including Balatonfüred and Hévíz, have long been resort centres for the Hungarian aristocracy, it was only in the late 19th century that the Hungarian middle class began to visit the lake.[18] The construction of railways in 1861 and 1909 increased tourism substantially, but the post-war boom of the 1950s was much larger.

By the turn of the 20th century, Balaton had become a center of research by Hungarian biologists, geologists, hydrologists, and other scientists, leading to the country's first biological research institute being built on its shore in 1927.[19]

The last major German offensive of World War II, Operation Frühlingserwachen, was conducted in the region of Lake Balaton in March 1945, being referred to as "the Lake Balaton Offensive" in many British histories of the war. The battle was a German attack by Sepp Dietrich's Sixth Panzer Army and the Hungarian Third Army between 6 March and 16 March 1945, and in the end, resulted in a Red Army victory. Several Ilyushin Il-2 wrecks have been pulled out of the lake after having been shot down during the later months of the war.[20]

During the 1960s and 1970s, Balaton became a major tourist destination due to focused government efforts, causing the number of overnight guests in local hotels and campsites to increase from 700,000 in July 1965 to two million in July 1975. Weekend visitors to the region, including tens of thousands from Budapest, reached more than 600,000 by 1975.[19] It was visited by ordinary working Hungarians and especially for subsidised holiday excursions for labor union members. It also attracted many East Germans and other residents of the Eastern Bloc. West Germans could also visit, making Balaton a common meeting place for families and friends separated by the Berlin Wall until 1989.[21] The collapse of the Soviet Union after 1991 and the dismantling of the labor unions caused the gradual but steady reduction in numbers of lower-paid Hungarian visitors.


The major resorts around the lake are Siófok, Keszthely, and Balatonfüred. Zamárdi, another resort town on the southern shore, has been the site of Balaton Sound, a notable electronic music festival since 2007. Balatonkenese has hosted numerous traditional gastronomic events. Siófok is known for attracting young people to it because of its large clubs. Keszthely is the site of the Festetics Palace and Balatonfüred is a historical bathing town which hosts the annual Anna Ball.

The peak tourist season extends from June until the end of August. The average water temperature during the summer is 25 °C (77 °F), which makes bathing and swimming popular on the lake. Most of the beaches consist of either grass, rocks, or the silty sand that also makes up most of the bottom of the lake. Many resorts have artificial sandy beaches and all beaches have step access to the water. Other tourist attractions include sailing, fishing, and other water sports, as well as visiting the countryside and hills, wineries on the north coast, and nightlife on the south shore. The Tihany Peninsula is a historical district. Badacsony is a volcanic mountain and wine-growing region as well as a lakeside resort. The lake is almost completely surrounded by separated bike lanes to facilitate bicycle tourism. Although the peak season at the lake is the summer, Balaton is also frequented during the winter, when visitors go ice-fishing or even skate, sledge, or ice-sail on the lake if it freezes over.

Sármellék International Airport provides air service to Balaton (although most service is only seasonal).

Other resort towns include: Balatonalmádi, Balatonboglár, Balatonlelle, Fonyód and Vonyarcvashegy.

Towns and villages

Towns and villages alongside Lake Balaton.

North shore

From east to west:

Balatonfőkajár - Balatonakarattya - Balatonkenese - Balatonfűzfő - Balatonalmádi - Alsóörs - Paloznak - Csopak - Balatonarács - Balatonfüred - Tihany - Aszófő - Örvényes - Balatonudvari - Fövenyes - Balatonakali - Zánka - Balatonszepezd - Szepezdfürdő - Révfülöp - Pálköve - Ábrahámhegy - Balatonrendes - Badacsonytomaj - Badacsony - Badacsonytördemic - Szigliget - Balatonederics - Balatongyörök - Vonyarcvashegy - Gyenesdiás - Keszthely

South shore

From east to west:

Balatonakarattya - Balatonaliga - Balatonvilágos - Sóstó - Szabadifürdő - Siófok - Széplak - Zamárdi - Szántód - Balatonföldvár - Balatonszárszó - Balatonszemes - Balatonlelle - Balatonboglár - Fonyód - Fonyód–Alsóbélatelep - Bélatelep - Balatonfenyves - Balatonmáriafürdő - Balatonkeresztúr - Balatonberény - Fenékpuszta

Panorama from Balaton and Keszthely
Panorama from Balaton and Keszthely


Zala estuary

The estuary of Zala river

Balaton in winter (1)

Balaton in Winter

Balaton as seen from Alsórét szabadstrand

Balaton as seen from Alsórét, Balatonkenese

Szigliget, vár 2

Castle at Szigliget

A tihanyi apátság

Benedictine Abbey on Tihany Peninsula

Golden bridge

Golden bridge - Balatonkenese

A tihanyi félszigeten

On Tihany Peninsula

Naplemente a Balatonnál

Sunseet at the lake

Balatoni látkép

A view of the lake

See also


  1. ^ Herschy, Reginald W.; Fairbridge, Rhodes W. (1998). Encyclopedia of Hydrology and Lakes. Springer Nature. ISBN 978-0-412-74060-2. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
  2. ^ "Lake Balaton Regional Water Institute". Ramsar Sites Information Service. Retrieved 24 May 20189. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  3. ^ "Lake Balaton". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
  4. ^ "History of Lake Balaton - Lonely Planet Travel Information". Retrieved January 2, 2014.
  5. ^ Brill's New Pauly: encyclopaedia of the ancient world - Hubert Cancik, Helmuth Schneider, David E. Orton - Google Knihy. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
  6. ^ Historical review - Google Knihy. 2009-01-06. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
  7. ^ A bulwark against Germany: the fight of the Slovenes, the western branch of ... - Bogumil Vošnjak, Fanny S. Copeland - Google Knihy. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
  8. ^ Dejiny slovenského jazyka - Ján Stanislav - Google Knihy. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
  9. ^ a b Bartl 2002, p. 19.
  10. ^ a b Róna-Tas 1999, p. 243.
  11. ^ a b Goldberg 2006, p. 85.
  12. ^ "Urlaub in Ungarn - Ferienwohnung Ferienhaus am Plattensee in Ungarn". Retrieved January 2, 2014.
  13. ^ Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache, 24. Aufl., s. v.
  14. ^ "the Grimm dictionary". Retrieved January 2, 2014.
  15. ^ [1] Archived July 16, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ [2] Archived May 15, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ [3] Archived October 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Lake Balaton History at Lonely Planet
  19. ^ a b Láng, István (1978). "Hungary's Lake Balaton: A Program to Solve Its Problems". Ambio. 7 (4): 164–168. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  20. ^ "Lake Balaton and Herend". Retrieved 2018-03-22.
  21. ^ "German unity at Lake Balaton – a European history". Archived from the original on 2014-01-02. Retrieved January 2, 2014.

External links


Balatonboglár, in Hungary, is a resort town situated on the south shore of Lake Balaton. It is the official centre of the Balatonboglár wine region, and is often called the "town of grapes and wine."

Between 1979 and 1991 Balatonboglár formed a single settlement together with Balatonlelle under the name Boglárlelle.

Balatonboglár wine region

The Balatonboglár wine region, also known as the South Balaton wine region, is the only one wine region in Somogy County, Hungary. The area consists of 37 settlements, mainly located on the southern shore of Lake Balaton, but also some near Kaposvár like Böhönye, Csurgó and Nagyberki. It is part of the greater Balaton wine region.

Approximately two-thirds of the 3200 hectare vineyards of the wine region are white grapes and the remaining are Concord grapes. Champagne production plays an important role in the area as well.

The Winemaker of the Year award has been given three times to winemakers of the region since its founding: to Vencel Garamvári in 2006, to János Konyári in 2008 and to Ottó Légli in 2010.


Balatonendréd is a village in Somogy County, Hungary. The settlement is a holiday resort near to Lake Balaton known for its wine and for its bobbin lace. The most famous sight is the Kájel Lace Museum.The settlement is part of the Balatonboglár wine region.


Balatonfenyves is a village in Somogy county, Hungary.

The village has the longest beach on Lake Balaton with its about 1.8 km (1.12 mi). No entrance fee needed.


Balatongyörök is a village in Zala County, Hungary. Balatongyörök is located on the north shore of Lake Balaton, not far from Keszthely.


Balatonmáriafürdő is a village located on the southern shore of Lake Balaton in Somogy county, Hungary.


Balatonszentgyörgy is a village in Somogy county, Hungary. It is near to the village of Balatonberény. The village is next to Lake Balaton.


Balatonszárszó is a village along the southern shore of Lake Balaton in Somogy county, Hungary.

The settlement is part of the Balatonboglár wine region.

European route E661

European route E 661 is a part of the inter-European road system. This Class B north-south route is 449 kilometres (279 mi) long and it connects Lake Balaton in Hungary via western Slavonia in Croatia with Bosanska Krajina and central Bosnia.

Judgment of Lake Balaton

Judgment of Lake Balaton or Balaton Condemned (German title: Menschen im Sturm) is a 1933 Austrian-Hungarian drama film directed by Werner Hochbaum and starring Gyula Csortos, Maria Mindzenty and Antal Páger.

It is now a lost film. A separate Hungarian-language version The Verdict of Lake Balaton was also made, directed by Paul Fejos.

Open water swimming at the 2017 World Aquatics Championships

Open water swimming at the 2017 World Aquatics Championships was held from 15 to 21 July 2017 in Lake Balaton, Hungary.

Operation Spring Awakening

Operation Spring Awakening (Unternehmen Frühlingserwachen) (6 – 16 March 1945) was the last major German offensive of World War II. It took place in Hungary on the Eastern Front. This offensive was also referred to in Germany as the Plattensee Offensive and in the Soviet Union as the Balaton Defensive Operation (6 – 15 March 1945).

The offensive began in great secrecy on 6 March 1945 with an attack near Lake Balaton, the area included some of the last oil reserves still available to the Axis. The operation involved many German units withdrawn from the failed Ardennes Offensive on the Western Front, including the 6th Panzer Army and its subordinate Waffen-SS divisions. The operation was a failure for Germany.


Siófok (Latin: Fuk, German: Fock) is a town in Somogy County, Hungary on the southern bank of Lake Balaton. It is the second largest municipality in Somogy County and the seat of Siófok District. It covers an area of about 124.66 km2 (48.13 square miles) between Lake Balaton, the Mezőföld and the Outer Somogy-Hills. Lying at the firth of the Sió Channel, it serves as the most important logistic station for goods between Lake Balaton and the River Danube.

The town is Hungary's second most popular holiday destination (right after Budapest) thanks to its 17-kilometre-long (11 miles) coast, over 1,000 hotels, and plenty of bars, restaurants and night clubs. Siófok is one of the richest municipalities of Hungary due to tourism. Hungarians often call the town "the capital of Lake Balaton", as it is the largest town on its shores and acts as the financial, cultural, media, commercial and touristic hub of the northern part of Somogy County and the southern shore of Lake Balaton.


Szántód is a village in Somogy county, Hungary situated between Balatonföldvár and Zamárdi on the shore of the Lake Balaton. The village is famous for its ferry, ferryboats, the stunning view of Tihany from Szántód and the Szántódpuszta Tourist and Cultural Center which is a village museum ("skanzen").

It's just 13.4 km from Siófok, the major town of the area, 65.8 km from Kaposvár, the capital of Somogy County and 117 km from Budapest, the capital of Hungary.

Teleki (village)

Teleki is a village in Somogy county, Hungary, about 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) south of Lake Balaton.

The settlement is part of the Balatonboglár wine region.

The Verdict of Lake Balaton

The Verdict of Lake Balaton (Hungarian: Ítél a Balaton) is a 1933 Hungarian drama film directed by Pál Fejös and starring Antal Páger, Ernõ Elekes and Gyula Csortos. An English-language version, a German-language version Judgment of Lake Balaton (Menschen im Sturm) and a French-language version (Tempêtes) were also released.


Tihany is a village on the northern shore of Lake Balaton on the Tihany Peninsula (Hungary, Veszprém County). The whole peninsula is a historical district.

The center of the district is the Benedictine Tihany Abbey, which was founded in 1055 AD by András (Andrew) I, who is buried in the crypt. The founding charter of this abbey is the first extant record of Hungarian language, preserved in Pannonhalma Benedictine Archabbey. The church itself was rebuilt in baroque style in 1754. The still functioning abbey is a popular tourist attraction due to its historical and artistic significance. It also has the best view of Lake Balaton.

The abbey also features as a footnote in Habsburg history - the last Habsburg Emperor of Austria, Charles I was briefly held prisoner here following his second attempt to regain the throne of Hungary.

Tihany is famous for the echo, existing since the 18th century. There were poems written for this echo, like by Mihály Csokonai Vitéz and Mihály Vörösmarty, but the most famous is by János Garay, summing up the legend of the place. The echo has since abated, due to changes in the landscape. The other part of the legend concerns with the "goats' nails", washed ashore from Balaton, which are in fact corners of prehistoric clams. According to the story, there was a princess with golden-haired goats, but she was too proud and hard of heart and was punished (cursed by the king of the lake): her goats were lost in Balaton, only their nails remained, and she was obliged to answer to every passers-by. A stone, remembering the Shouting Girl, is still to be seen near the village.

On the shores of Lake Balaton stands the former summer residence of the Habsburg imperial family, which remained in the private ownership of the family until the end of the Second World War. It was since used as a hotel, but is now in private hands and not accessible to the public.

Tihany's inhabitants have the highest per capita income, and the village has the highest housing prices in the whole of Hungary.


Tikos is a municipality in Somogy county, Hungary. The city's coat of arms is a golden lion holding a stock of wheat against an azure background. Below the shield is a garland.

The postal code of Tikos is 8731. The village is located at the foot of Lake Balaton, about 180 km (110 mi) southeast of Budapest.


Zamárdi is a famous holiday town in Somogy County, Hungary known for its beaches at Lake Balaton and for its music festivals during the summer (e.g. Strand Festival, Balaton Sound etc.).

The settlement is part of the Balatonboglár wine region.


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