The Őrség is not a single identifiable location, but a region that is mainly located in Western Hungary and to a lesser extent in the Slovenian Muravid.
If you like the real wonders where nature is untouched, the people are nice, the food is delicious and time has almost stopped, then this is the place for you to hike. Head to the Őrség!
History of the Őrség
Its name (Őrség=Guard) can be attributed to the conquering Hungarians, as watchtowers were stationed here to protect the country’s western gate.
And its most important role has long been in the area of guarding the border. However, the preservation of iron ore quarry and salt, as well as the provision of trade in horses and cattle, were also decisive.
The settlement structure is typical of the countryside: hilltop settlements consisting of a few houses. We can be so grateful for the mosaic design of the landscape to the people who live here: the small plot farming and the buildings that blend into the landscape have preserved the image of the countryside and changed along with nature.
As the border castles were built at the end of the Árpádian period, the role of the Őrség also diminished, and in the 1600s, it came under Turkish rule for almost 90 years. The associated ethnographic and landscape historical values still attract many people to the countryside to this day.
What sights are worth seeing in the Őrség?
The Őrség is the westernmost cusps of Hungary and is full of surprises. With fairy-tale forests and hilly countryside: those who like quiet, close-to-nature places and want a taste of authentic Hungarian folk customs, this is the right place for them.
Many people in the area like to characterize it as the gate of the Őrség: one of these places is Szentgotthárd, where, in addition to the beautiful Cistercian church, a quality water park awaits visitors.
If Körmend, then the Batthyány Castle and its English park, where we can take part in a real-time travel, are a must. Of course, it is also worth looking around in the castle, as we can dig into the past of the famous family life at a great exhibition.
If we are curious about the true essence of the Őrség, we should visit the heart of the place: Őrszentpéter and its surroundings. Here we can see the ancient “szer” villages which are characteristic of the settlement: these groups of houses standing on top of the hills, with their characteristic thatch roof, with all the scents and sounds of the beautiful countryside, are inimitable sights.
In the central part, Városszer, we can find the center of the Őrség National Park, where we can get even more information about the region.
Őriszentpéter itself consists of 9 “szer”, one of the best-known parts of which is the Templomszer and the Romanesque St. Peter’s Church. The saying that it is simple but great is really true for this church. This clean church with its ancient frescoes is a really great sight.
And if you’re already in the area, I have to mention the Pajta Bistro, which is a fresh highlight here: it is characterized by absolutely homemade ingredients sourced from the area, and the rethinking of typical guard food makes the place even more exciting. It is mandatory to come here for lunch or dinner.
If you want to know more about the past of the Őrség, the region, and folk customs, let’s head to Szalafő, where you will find the Őrség Folk Monument Ensemble in the Pityeszer part.
The buildings here are still in their original location. Here you can see wonders such as the strange-sounding boronaház (harrow house), füstösház (smokehouse), kastu, and others.
Now, obviously, you don’t even know what I’m talking about, but everything makes a lot of sense there, as they were once an integral part of the lives of the people in the Őrség.
For the kids, there is a real little play barn, petting zoo, and craft jobs. For the adults, while they try out all the courses, they can admire the free-grazing herd of European bison, but if they are very lucky, they can see the wild horse here.
Pankasz-Szoknyás harangláb (Belfry with skirt)
As we continue toward Pankasz, we can see a wonderful little country house, and also stands out the long concrete strip of the railway valley bridge, which is the longest railway viaduct in the country. Arriving in Pankasz, we find the symbol of the Őrség, the skirted belfry, which stands on top of a steep hill.
This ancient bell has been standing on the highest hill in the village since 1755. This characteristic architectural work from Őrség was largely made of oak, which has survived in surprisingly good condition. Anyone who feels an inexplicable attraction to belfries should travel even further.
It is also worth stopping in Magyarszombatfa, which was once the pottery center of the area. We can get acquainted with this ancient craft in a real antique, thatched-roof pottery house with rammed floors.
Here we can see products made of local clay and even the manufacturing process is opening up in front of our eyes.
Not far from here, in Velemér, we can admire the most significant medieval, Romanesque church in Hungary. The frescoes decorating the inner walls of the building are the most complete, intact medieval murals in Hungary.
Let’s go back to the northern part of the Őrség National Park, to the Rába valley, where the already mentioned Szentgotthárd is located. The water park here has greatly boosted the tourism of the town: the large and modern spa and wellness area exudes a real Mediterranean atmosphere.
We must not forget about the thermal bath, where people go to heal and relax. In addition to relaxation, the various slides and other services ensure that you do not get bored not even for a minute.
Lake Vadása and Lake Hársas
For those who want a little natural water in the Őrség National Park, where you can even swim, should visit Lake Vadása near Hegyhátszentjakab, which had to be completely rebuilt due to a flood, and Lake Hársas, located only a few km from Szentgotthárd, is also a perfect location.
There is a nature trail around it, so you can explore it as part of a trip, and we can talk about a real fishing paradise, some sections of which are also open for swimming.
If you are curious about other interesting things in the Őrség, you should not miss the Bagoly-ház (Owl House) on the border of Felsőszenterzsébet. This wonderful work is due to the Ybl, Kossuth, Steindl, and Primissima award-winning architect Imre Makovecz.
Lovers of nature and good food, or people who are just wondering what a real organic farm is like should visit the Kerca or Ozone organic farm. We can admire free-range animals throughout the day and, of course, taste homemade goat and cow cheeses, chemical-free organic vegetables and fruits.
Afterward, if you feel like it, you can explore the surrounding forest, picking mushrooms, bathe, or even collect herbs.
We have the opportunity to return almost completely to the states of paradise, where only we and mother nature and of course some other tourists exist.
And if it is nature, then the Budafapuszta Arboretum is a must. There are more than 200 species of plants and almost most of the Hungarian flora can be recalled.
I highly recommend visiting the arboretum in early May, as this is when azaleas are blooming, providing a beautiful view. We can walk along the shores of the cool spring, relax in the wonderful nature and even give our heads for a little bacon frying.
Why do I recommend the Őrség
The Őrség region is certainly one of the most colorful and beautiful regions in the country. The ever-changing and living nature, which has been touched as little as possible by man, is an amazing sight for everyone.
In addition to exploring the forests and hilly landscapes, it is also worth visiting here because of the beautifully preserved local folk traditions, as we can really feel in a good way, that time has stopped.