Interesting sights you shouldn’t miss!
Those who are searching for the top of the country, will find it at Mátra, as this is where the peak of Kékes is at 1014m high. Since 1963 the area is titled a climatic spa, and in addition to the wonderful hiking trails it offers so many unique and interesting sights, that it’s worth to see by anybody. I picked out a few of these.
Kékestető TV and observation tower
Nearing the highest point of the country, you can see the Kékestető TV tower from far away, which also serves as an observation tower.
The 180m tall building is without a doubt the top of the country. The tower itself is at 45m height, from where you can see a wonderful scenery of the area, and if you’re lucky, in nice weather you may even see the Tatra mountains.
Under the observation tower, at 42m height a round café awaits visitors, where while having a cup of coffee you can also view the 8000 mini-bottles peace collection.
Kékes Forest Reserve
Once we checked out the view from above, it would worth to take a large walk at the Kékes Forest Reserve, where we can wander around in a novel-like area.
This once Károlyi hunting estate is now a specially protected forest reserve, where hikers can relax in the shade of over 200 years old trees.
This is where Lake Pisztrángos is found and one of Mátra’s largest sources of water, the Nagy-forrás. The areas near Mátra and Kékestető offer great hiking trails, such as Erzsébet-szikla, Sas-kő, Disznó-kő, to just mention three possible hiking destinations.
There are plenty of hiking options from easy to difficult ones, but no matter which way you go in the beautiful beech forest, it will take you among giant trees and rocks. If you’re in good health, you can find specific bike trails besides the hiking trails as well.
Galya-kilátó (Galya lookout tower)
Out of all the lookout towers in the area, one most definitely needs to be highlighted and that’s the Galya lookout tower.
The original tower was built in 1934, it was renovated in 2015 and it went so well, that it won the award in the “Building” category at the Média Építészeti Díja (Media Architecture Award) competition.
The tower is the work of Csaba Kovács, head architecture and Áron Vass-Eysen, builder. The fact that the two professionals raised the tower from 17m to 30m might have also player part in the jury’s decision.
The gem of Mátra – Ilona waterfall
Of course, there are plenty of trails at Mátra that doesn’t lead to a peak or a tower, but other natural beauties. One of these is the waterfall found 5km from Parádfürdő, which is also the country’s highest located waterfalls.
The Ilona waterfall falls from 10m height from a V shaped rock. Even the trail leading here provides great relaxation to hikers, as it leads beside huge trees and small streams.
While during summer it’s hiking, during winter skiing rules. Those who don’t want to walk kilometres to get around by foot, can take the train between Gyöngyös and Szalajkaház, thanks to Mátravasút (Mátra Railway).
Recommended attractions at Mátra
This castle, which is the home of one of the country’s most important nature history collection was built in 1769-70 by Lőrinc Orczy.
This baroque style building functions as a museum since 1957, and in addition to the hunting and local history collection those interested can view the palaeological collection too. The most exciting piece of this is the complete, authentic mammoth skeleton.
The interior design of the museum is also worth attention, its central piece is a 15m tall sessile oak, the exhibition is organised around it. As there is a palm house, aquariums, terrariums, botanic rarities and even a playground at the museum, it provides a great program for the whole family.
Mineral House Museum
Many museums can be viewed at Mátra, one that must be highlighted is the Mineral House Museum, which can be found at Hungary’s highest located town, at Mátraszentimre.
The exhibition is made up of minerals found in Hungary and Romania, but there are rarities from all over the world.
What makes this museum unique is this is where Hungary’s only functioning mineral abrasive workshop is found. This gives us an insight on how the stones we wear as necklaces and rings are born.
Ásványok Háza (House of Minerals)
If you’re interested in this topic, it would worth to visit near Gyöngyös as well, where the House of Minerals awaits its visitors. Those interested can view a 5000-piece collection here.
Cifra-stable (cifra means flashy/richly decorated) is worth to visit even just based on its name. This eclectic styled stable was built based on the plans of Miklós Ybl during the 1880s, and although there are horses today, it mainly functions as a carriage museum.
The collection is mostly made up of XIX.-XX. century carriages and wagons, but there are hunting wagons, konflis, fiacres and many former transportation methods.
The prettiest pieces are the decorative carriages of the Parliament and Esztergom.
Castles at Mátra
Hikes at the Mátra can be organised even focusing on castles, as there are plenty of them, so we can take a trip not only in nature but the past as well.
Benevár is barely more than a ruin, but what’s interesting that the stones of the former manor remained from the 1200s.
The first owner of the area was a pagan warrior named Bene, from the Conquest era. The castle built by him was destroyed during the Tatar invasion, around 1250 the Aba nation rebuilt the castle, and its ruins can be freely visited to this day.
Markazi castle, built around 1270-1280, was left behind in an even worse state, which was probably destroyed during the Turkish era. It’s still worth to visit the ruins as the view of the area is beautiful from here.
Castle of Kisnána
The Castle of Kisnána is in a much better state, its oldest elements was also built in the XI-XII. century. Also, in the hands of the Abas is the estates courtyard, manor house and a church, to which they constantly added and fortified its walls.
Unfortunately, it was in vain, as in 1543 the Pasha of Buda destroyed it, as its then owner, László Móré directed his robbery raids from here and the Pasha got enough of it.
Fortunately, the gothic church tower and the palace building remained in a good state. If we come here during summer, we could easily step into a castle game of the past.
I must also quietly mention, that according to the legends László Móré hidden his treasures that he stole from the Turkish in the area, and they have not been found yet. So you can even spend a family treasure hunting day around the ancient walls. 🙂
Castle of Sirok
The story of the Castle of Sirok, which can easily be accessed by a pleasant walk is similar, it was built in the XIII. century also by the Abas.
This castle ruin at the top of a volcanic mountain peak provides many interesting things to visitors. The contemporary builders did not shy away from hard work, and they established smaller, bigger tunnels and halls in the mountain, probably for safety reasons, which formed a whole casemate system where it’s still exciting to wander around.
It’s probably due to its size, that this castle was the best enduring of the historical affairs at the Mátra, neither the Tatar nor the Turkish could do anything with it.
Unfortunately, just like other Hungarian castles, in 1717 it was exploded by the Habsburgs. In addition to wandering at the catacombs, there is also an exhibition hall at the lower castle and the view is beautiful from here.
It’s worth to turn our heads towards the Barát (Monk) and the Apáca (Nun) rock: according to the legends the rocks hide a couple that could never be together.
If we are talking about romantic locations, here is a detailed article where I collected the most romantic places in Budapest.
The castles of Lords
At Parádsasvár, among the huge pines, the Neo-renaissance style Károlyi Mansion was built in 1881-82, which is definitely worth to visit if we are in the area.
The castle was built based on the plans of world-famous architect Miklós Ybl, was named Sasvár (Eagle Castle) by the Károlyi family, mainly because of hunting reasons.
The novel-like and beautiful building was completely destroyed after the second world war, and in the spirit of the era pioneer movements were organised here.
Fortunately, by today it has regained its former glory and in addition to other things it attracts its visitors through wellness services. Besides the pools and sauna, bowling and squash court await guests.
Gyürky-Solymossy castle and park
For those who like castles it’s worth to visit Kisternyér as well, where Gyürky-Solymossy castle and park is found.
This baroque style castle was built by the Gyürky family around 1790, in the onion-domed building are 3-3 rooms, with huge vaulted ceilings.
Currently, the exhibition named Fába faragott élet (Life curved in wood) can be viewed here, in the memory of István Szabó, sculptur. Around the castle is a 14-hectare park, which is worth to visit any time of the year. Unique plants, like Kentucky coffeetree, malus halliana, cherry plum, juniperus chinensis, maidenhair tree can be found here, and the list could continue for a long time.
At the entrance of the castle garden, just like the exact opposite of the other building, a village museum can be seen where a local historical collection about the everyday lives of serf families is.
Maybe that’s exactly why this exhibition is located here, to show the viewers the contrast between the life of the nobles and peasants.
Those old Palóc
If you’re really interested in how the locals lived here back then, it’s worth to visit the Palóc néprajzi magángyűjtemény és palóc baba kiállítás (Palóc ethnographic personal collection and doll exhibition) at Mátrafüred.
In one of the halls you can admire Rita Juhász Lovászné, a folk costume artist’s 29 palóc doll, while getting to know the most important aspect of the local’s lives.
At the other hall of the exhibition, you can view the folk craftsman collection of Magda Mészáros Szakácsné. We can check out what a “clean room” once looked like, what furniture were at an old palóc house, but we can also admire handmade tablecloths and different textiles.
It’s also worth to visit the recski tájház (country house), if you would like to get familiar with the locals’ lives. This house considered a protected monument, brings us back to the 1800s and it even has a still functioning beehive oven.
Treasures and holiness at Mátra
Franciscan Parish church and monastery
Barátok square in Gyöngyös gives home to the Franciscan Parish church and monastery, built in 1494 in gothic style. The date wasn’t too fortunate, as the Turkish army destroyed the barely finished church in 1526.
The tireless Franciscan rebuilt it in 1531. It’s worth to visit here for two reasons.
Firstly, because at the crypt of the church is where the legendary leader of the Rákóczi’s War of Independence, Bottyán Vak rests, remembering him with a red marble stone.
Secondly, because in this small Mátra church is where the incomparably rich, 16,000 volume, incunabulum rich Franciscan Library. At the foreground of the library is a constant exhibition, portraying the lives of the Franciscan order.
Saint Martin’s Church
Saint Martin’s Church at Feldebrő is a real treasure of art history, it was the ancient family church of the Aba nation.
What makes this church so unique in all of Europe is the fact that its walls built in the XI. century is still decorated with the original murals to this day.
Looking up we can see the image of Christ and four Evangelist symbols. Besides them is the best-preserved mural shocks the viewers, which portrays the Cain killing his brother.
Those who visit the church will really take part in a time travel. The other thing that makes this Árpád era church so special is that the era’s European churches followed Western examples, however this structure in Feldebrő carries the style of Georgian and Armenian architecture.
Even art historians stand confused in front of the five-nave, central located church. Those visiting here can also check out the crypt, which is still untouched to this day, and you can easily shiver within the thousand years old walls, especially if you spot the vaulted tomb between the thick columns.
Each year many people visit the Maria Chapel, where the shrine of Fallóskút is found.
According to the story, it wasn’t so long ago, when in 1947 a local woman was visited by Our Lady, based on this vision they found the source of Fallóskút, its water is said to have healing and magic powers. It’s definitely worth to take a sip.
Csoma Memorial Park
Not only western religions represent themselves in the Mátra, but a small amount of eastern appears near the Tar village at the Csoma Memorial Park.
This Buddhist memorial park, with a snow-white stupa in the middle, was created in memory of the legendary linguist – who created the Tibetan-English dictionary by himself – for his 150th death anniversary.
This sanctum was handed over in 1992, and was inaugurated by no other, than the XIV. Dalai Lama.
The Buddhist church honours Sándor Kőrösi Csoma as enlightened, and in the spirit of this a constant exhibition can be viewed here, which portrays the whole of the religion and the life of the enlightened scientist.
The Szabadító Buddha Anya Templom (Church of the Saviour Buddha Mother) was built in 2011 in the memorial park, which was inaugurated by Cültrim Rinpoche and Lama Csöpel.
The building was created in the style of ancient Hun churches, which influences Tibetan and Mongolian architecture to this day.
Adrenalin bomb high up
If you aren’t satisfied by the large forest exploring and hiking, you can further “torture” your body, with a little adrenalin bomb at the Oxygen Adrenalin Park at Sástó.
At the country’s highest located adventure park what you can’t find probably doesn’t even exist, as you can pick from 35 different ways to entertain yourself.
There is a bobsleigh track open summer and winter, paintball, archery, water obstacle course, hanging bridge for the braver, multi-rider bicycles for those wanting to laugh, labyrinth for those who would prefer to get lost and the list could go on.
Meerkat in the forest
At the foot of the Mátra is the Gyöngyösi Zoo, which is the country’s only privately-owned zoo and is nearly 2 hectares.
Over 300 individuals of 90 species can be viewed here, many so exotic and distant like the lion, meerkat, llama or boa. For the joy of the little and large ones, there is a petting zoo as well at the park, where bunnies, goats and lambs await visitors.
For the sake of the kids and EU playground was also built at the park, which provides great fun for the little ones.
Mekk, the Handyman and Maya (cartoon characters)
The Nagyrédei Goat farm provides a great program for both children and adults. At the organic farm in addition to looking and petting animals you can try cheese and wine too.
It’s not your everyday tasting, as the quality of the cheese made here was recognised by the International Goat Association, as the unforgettable tastes were rewarded by two silver medals.
The here made wine doesn’t fall behind either, it’s no accident that this mansion is part of the Mátrai Wine Tour.
In addition to a petting zoo there are many exciting things you can doo at the Bee Garden at Sár Hill. Through a glass hive you can check out the busy bees and watch how is honey being made.
If you aren’t scared of them, you can open the hive, and you even have the opportunity to spin the honey yourself with a hand spinner. After the tasting you can even take home your own hand-made honey.