Lake Balaton, Hungary

Lake Locations:

Hungary - Central Transdanubia - Veszprem - Southern Transdanubia - Somogy - Western Transdanubia - Zala -

For thousands of vacationers, holiday means Lake Balaton. Located in Hungary’s trans-Danube region, Lake Balaton is Central Europe’s largest lake. The Zala River is its main water source. Less than two hours southwest of Budapest, the lake’s 147 miles of shoreline is affectionately called Hungary’s seacoast. Covering more than 146,500 acres, Lake Balaton spans three of Hungary’s counties: Somogy, Vaszprem, and Zala. It isn’t solely Hungarian vacationers who flock to the welcoming water in this landlocked country; visitors from all over the world arrive at Lake Balaton prepared to have fun. Many years of catering to tourists has the Lake Balaton area supplied with a full complement of the activities and destinations that please every type of vacationer.

Since the opening of the Sio Canal in 1863, lower lake levels have opened up more flat shoreline for development. Nearly the entire south shore is a series of beaches, hotels, spas, villages, shops, parks and holiday villas. The south shore contrasts with the higher slopes of the north shore, known for centuries for their excellent vineyards and wines. The shallow waters offer excellent swimming beaches and fishing. As private motor-powered boats are prohibited, Lake Balaton has maintained its tradition as a sailing and yachting paradise. Commercial powered cruise and sightseeing launches are allowed to access the lake as are commercial shipping vessels. The Central-Transdanubian Environmental and Water Directorate controls access to the Sio Canal as well as determining when sluice gates will be opened to release water into the canal.

Several cities share the shoreline of Lake Balaton, all with their own personalities. Keszthely at the western end of the lake is a university town popular with students. For visitors wishing to see the more historical side of Balaton, Keszthely is home to the Festetics Palace as well as several museums. Nearby, the small thermal lake at Heviz is one of the most visited areas of Hungary, as holiday visitors come to soak in the refreshing warm mineral springs.

The southern basin of Lake Balaton is shallower, allowing for many family-oriented resorts along the south shore. At the eastern end of the south shore, Siofok is a municipality that is known for its bars, dance clubs and party atmosphere. Here, surrounding the Sio Canal entrance, marinas and yacht clubs house much of the pleasure fleet that sails Lake Balaton each summer. Dams and water control structures on the canal control the lake level, keeping it stable. Siofok also caters to a young adult crowd, with active sports such as kite-surfing, gliders and beach parties. The population swells to four or five times its winter population during the summer holidays. The summer season is full of activities, including swim competitions, folklore and music performances, and beer and wine festivals. The Sio Channel Festival draws thousands of visitors as do the other annual cultural festivals such as the Spring Festival, Stephanie Festival, the late summer Feast of Bread and Wine, and October’s most popular country-wide event, the Egg Festival. Casinos are popular year-round.

Visitors with quieter tastes enjoy the northern shore of Lake Balaton: Szigliget offers a picturesque experience with its medieval castle ruins tucked among lush green forests. The northern slopes are an ideal place for hiking and trekking; the many wine cellars of the region will provide a great taste of the Uplands. Several historical ruins of castles and fortresses dot the high summits of the old volcanic hills, including an old Austrian – Hungarian fortress that was besieged by the Turks; stone projectiles are still visible in the walls. Along the lakefront, Badascony showcases its striking tabletop mountain with magnificent basalt rock formations, and the Tihany Peninsula offers both a picturesque abbey and Hungary’s oldest National Park.

A bicycle track circles the entire lake and is an excellent way to discover the varied terrain, towns and historic attractions in the Lake Balaton area. Not far west of the western shore, Kis Balaton (Little Balaton) is one of Europe’s top wetland nature reserves and a favorite spot for birdwatchers. Nearby is Kapolnapuszta, a buffalo reserve where where water buffalo brought to the area centuries ago from Asia thrive. The resort area extends back from the shoreline several miles, with small towns and farm villages offering rustic lodging opportunities at reasonable prices. Hungary is one of the few Central European countries that encourages foreign real estate ownership, and lovely lake view properties are nearly always available. Those wishing to find vacation rentals can choose from a full complement of holiday cottages, youth hostels, chalets, timeshares and caravan resorts.

Fishing is also big business at Lake Balaton, with commercial fishing occurring over several centuries. The hobby angler will find bream, carp, zander or perch-pike, asp, ziege or sabre carp, pike and European eel. Some of these fish form the basis of one of the popular regional dishes, halaszle with pasta, or fish soup. In the winter, the lake often freezes, providing ice fishing and ice skating to delight winter visitors.

A visitor to Hungary will likely want to spend some time exploring the museums and attractions of Budapest about 60 miles to the east of Lake Balaton. One attraction that children especially enjoy is the Childrens Railway west of Budapest. Founded by the Communists in 1949 as a Young Pioneers’ project, the 6.8 mile narrow-gauge Childrens Railway runs through the forest of the Buda hills. Between 40 and 70 children ages 10 through 14 control the stations and daily traffic on the line, which is run strictly to the rules of the Hungarian State Railways. Only the diesel and steam engines are driven by adult engineers. To be selected to work on the railway is a great honor offered only to the best students.

One trip to Lake Balaton won’t be enough for the average visitor. No holiday is long enough to see everything there is to see, or experience every activity one wishes to try. So come to Lake Balaton and start a life-long love affair with the green waters and Hungarian culture. The friendly local residents are eager to welcome you.

Things to do at Lake Balaton

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Kite Surfing
  • Hiking
  • Ice Skating
  • Biking
  • National Park
  • Museum
  • Ruins
  • Casino Gambling

Fish species found at Lake Balaton

  • Carp
  • Eel
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Zander

Lake Balaton Photo Gallery

Lake Balaton Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Central-Transdanubian Environmental and Water Directorate

Surface Area: 146,533 acres

Shoreline Length: 147 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 328 feet

Average Depth: 11 feet

Maximum Depth: 40 feet

Water Volume: 1,540,355 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1863

Water Residence Time: 2 yrs

Drainage Area: 2,000 sq. miles

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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