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Scene of Europe’s largest thermal lake
Scenic beauty, luxury spas, health, and last but not least state of the art dentistry, that’s the combination to be found in Lake Balaton, western Hungary. Just a 2 hour flight from London now serviced by budget airline Ryan Air, the area has everything for the sophisticated discerning traveller.
Lake Balaton, in Western Hungary, may not register in many people’s minds as it is an area mostly unknown to Brits. However discerning Germans, Austrians and Swiss have been holidaying there for years! It is an area of outstanding natural beauty with central Europe’s largest lake, with 200 km of shoreline. In February this year Ryan Air launched 3 direct flights a week from London Stanstead opening the area to the British Market.
We were based in the town of Hévíz, built on the world’s second largest thermal lake and one of the local spa towns surrounding Lake Balaton. The five hectare thermal lake features a natural hot spring where the temperature rarely falls below 26 degrees even in the depths of winter. The lake is covered with water lilies and surrounded by parkland, giving it a truly fairytale setting. Hungary has a rich heritage of thermal water and the lake at Hévíz is perhaps the crowning glory! Contemplative time spent in the lake is a daily routine for both tourists and locals. The aim is not to swim in the waters but to relax. The radio active lake is therapeutic for all types of conditions, rheumatism, arthritis, breathing difficulties and muscular pain. At the time of our visit my companion had been suffering from severe back pain but despite initial pessimism time spent in the thermal waters proved truly beneficial.For our trip we were based at the 4* Hotel Carbona. Having visited many Spa Hotels and health resorts worldwide I can confirm that the hotel has everything one could possibly require for a relaxing holiday. The hotel spa has a huge range of therapies and well being treatments, too numerous to mention in this article. However some treatments worth a special mention are the underwater massage (guaranteed to banish those aches and pains) and the massage centre where massages on offer include lavender and Aloe Vera. The hotel also has its own stunning Roman Style thermal bath with water temperatures between 35 degrees and 37 degrees. We also got the chance to visit the nearby Hotel Europa Fit, the proud winner of the Beauty Institute of the Year award. Again, an extensive range of spa treatments, wellness and fitness programmes are offered with special rooms set aside for those with allergies or disabilities.
The town of Hévíz is a lively bustling town with numerous bars, shops and restaurants on offer. Money does go amazingly far, with a glass of wine or a pint of beer for as little as 250 Huf (70 pence). The Hungarian cuisine is worth a mention with the rich agricultural land providing fresh ingredients cooked to a high standard. Tradional Hungarian cuisine is on offer as well as international. Again it is possible to eat out incredibly cheaply. One thing worth mentioning is that a lot of the local shops and restaurants don’t accept credit cards (although all the major hotels do) but there are numerous banks and bureau de changes in the town. One restaurant well worth a mention is the Gyongyosi Betyarcsarda, just outside Hévíz, where we were taken by our Host, Janos. Traditionally Hungarian, we dined on fine cuisine under a blossom scented pergola, whilst being serenaded by tradional Hungarian Gipsy violinists, …bliss!
If you have the time it is well worth hiring a car to explore some of the beautiful surrounding countryside, although train and bus connections are also available. We used a local firm Regina Cars who provided us with a new Peugeot 1007 which we both found incredibly easy to drive. The capital Budapest is just a two hour drive away, so a day excursion is possible. The roads are quite the countryside lush and over the summer there are numerous music festivals and village fetes taking place. All around there is a warm welcome for tourists and a real wish to provide the best standards to ensure a return visit.
It was two years ago whilst on a trip to Budapest that we first became aware of the high standard of dentistry in Hungary. My husband’s nightly drinking partner was a German dentist married to a Hungarian who was bemoaning the exodus of Germans now having their dentistry done in Hungary. A dental inspection had been arranged at the Gelencser Dental Surgery clinic on the outskirts of Hévíz. Janos Gelencser, Marketing Manager of the dentists, introduced us to our dentist (one of 19 working from the surgery) who took the time to reassure us before giving us each detailed forms to fill in requesting general health information. After years drinking too much tea, coffee, not to mention the occasional glass of red wine my teeth are not at their best. A power whitening treatment was recommended costing only £200; I had been quoted in excess of £700 in the UK. However it is the more complex dental work where even greater saving can be made. My companion needed extensive dental work on a crown for which he had been quoted just over £2000 in the UK. The cost in of the treatment in Hungary was an incredible £500. After our consultations Janos took us on a tour where we were shown everything from technicians making dental implants to the relaxing terrace where clients relax after having a treatment. Turnaround time is excellent and the surgery is open weekends. Prices are 70% to 80% cheaper than the UK making the clinic a Mecca for those needing extensive dental work.
Inevitably our short stay in Hévíz came to an end all too quickly. With contact numbers exchanged and promises of a rapid return we reluctantly said our goodbyes. As yet Hévíz is undiscovered by the British so why not take a holiday and see what all the fuss is about!
Ryanair – www.ryanair.com
Regina Car Rental – www.reginaauto.hu
Hungarian National Tourist Office – www.gotohungary.co.uk