Hiking around the Old Lake of Tata: a walk in the town of waters
Magyar Természetjáró Szövetség Verified partner Explorers Choice
The lake from the mouth of Által CreekPhoto: Német-Bucsi Attila, Magyar Természetjáró Szövetség
Varied wetland habitat is one of the greatest natural values of Hungary including thermal springs, clean mountain springs, marshes and lakes. The town of Tata is not just rich in such values but makes serious efforts to preserve and show them to visitors. Tata has been one of the sites on the list of wetlands of international importance by the Ramsar Convention since the 1990s. The town has implemented an environmental policy accordingly to protect water birds and encourage locals to save this wonderful ecological community. In return, thousands of waterfowls and other migratory birds chose the lake to be their shelter in spring and autumn.
But the town and Öreg-tó (Old Lake) offers a variety of further attractions both natural and cultural, which you can explore during several thematic tours. Information boards on both sides of the lake, at the plane-tree near the castle and in the parking lot at the holiday houses display local natural and cultural values along nature trails. You tell about the history of the town, local wetland and forest habitats and pass mills, churches, castles, mine pits, lakes and springs.
Explore this exciting place, where nature and history blends near a glimmering lake.
- No doubt Tata is the town of waters and most of its events are themed accordingly. Check out its summer festival, the fishing festival or waterfowl festival in autumn.
- Besides exploring nature include cultural attractions in your visit.
- Near Old Lake the nature trails of Cseke-tó and Fényes-forrás are also well-worth the visit.
- Kálvária Hill nearby offers the geosite of Gerecse Mountains at a former mine pit and the most beautiful view in the town from Fellner Jakab Lookout Tower. Guided tours are available to explore underground wonders of the area. It is a short detour from Esterházy Castle on the lakeside along Fazekas Street.
- Check local classic style coffee shops and cake shops.
- The inhabited side of the lake is less shady. Makes sure to have proper sun protection.
- Follow the markers of the nature trail (white leaves in green background) all the way long around the lake.
The hike begins near the town centre and the castle at the floodgate of the lake. The robust device was built in the mid-18th century. The moat of the castle and lake formed by damming a creek to create a fish pond had already existed in the 14th century, which makes it the oldest artificial fishing lake in the country. Past the summer season water is drained gradually forcing fish to move to deeper pockets. In every October, a spectacular fishing event commemorates local seine fishing traditions.
Although the trail is well-marked (white leaves with green background) it is easy to find your way along the wide gravel path. Runners also prefer this route to complete their daily challenge. Old Lake has an area of 200 hectares and it is a heaven for water sports, such as rowing, sailing or dragon boating. Canoes and kayaks are available for rent, if you wish for a closer contact with water, and you may take a more comfortable boat trip also from Szent János Kikötő (port) to Építők parkja.
Past the port building disappear and the trail enters a more natural environment. The lake opens at its southern part reaching a width of more than a kilometre. The castle appears smaller and smaller, so does the number of people around. You leave the noise of the town behind.
A shelter for wanderers of the sky
The trail passes a bird observatory tower providing a wide angle view of the lake. Thousands of migratory birds find shelter at the lake with a low water level in winter. Flocks of water birds arrive from their breeding ground in Eurasian tundra areas as cold weather commences. Some graylag geese have been fitted with trackers, which revealed astonishing details of their migratory flight patterns. Data have shown that they are able to fly up to 1500 kilometres a day. After departing from west Siberian river mouths and rounding Ural Mountains they cross several countries to find safe haven in the Carpathian Basin.
While wintering they spend the night on the lake and feed on nearby lands and marshes at daytime. Accordingly, evening fly-ins or rather morning fly-outs present great opportunities to observe these birds. The best occasion for this is the Wild Goose Festival of Tata the last week of November, when large magnification telescopes are set up and specialists provide guidance for birdwatching.
After leaving hotels and holiday houses along the eastern shore behind the trail enters a forest area typical of floodplains with rich underbrush, mighty willows and aspens. The path lined with giant trees runs a bit farther from the lakeside here creating a true forest atmosphere. Lianas growing all over hide the inside of the floodplain. It is home to a variety of animals, such as foxes, wild boars, badgers and deers, forming a complete ecological system despite its proximity to urban civilization.
Under shades of lakeside aspens
At halfway the trail crosses the bridge over Által Creek where you may take a detour and walk to the mouth of the creek. Right past the bridge head right along the creek and you will soon arrive at the lakeside. On the right side of the path Által Creek feeds the lake through an artificial creekbed while on the left side you can see the original mouth restored recently. The protected marshy land is an ideal habitat for water birds and in summers you can observe egrets, cranes, cormorants and kingfishers feeding here.
Return to the trail and continue around the lake. Leaving the valley of Által Creek behind oaks, alders and planted pines tend to replace floodplain vegetation. The trail turns back to the lakeside and nearing the town again you will cross a pleasant forest scattered with clearings. You may access the lake on some platforms built on the shore, what’s more, there are spots to take a bath in the water.
Past a slight right bend of the trail the shoreline ascends passing at the foot of Kálvária-domb (hill). Kálvária Hill has a complex geology as the dislocated rock mass begins with a layer of Triassic rock on the eastern side and with Jurassic red marble in the middle ends with Quaternary fresh water limestone. Guided tours and a rock gallery help visitors to explore this geological heritage.
Additionally, Fellner Jakab Lookout Tower rising above the hill offers a great view of the town and the lake. Although several paths lead to the top from the lakeside, most of them landing in Kálvária Street, it is more comfortable to turn back at the end of the trail and walk back along Fazekas Street.
From rugged limestone rocks to the symbol of Tata
You can spot the rugged rocks along the trail at the foot of Kálvária Hill. Taking a closer look you can examine the porous surface typical of fresh water limestone. This indicates that Tata was built above the biggest calcareous spring system of the region. The geological fault between Gerecse and Vértes Mountains is close to the lowest point of the region, the Danube, consequently Tata Graben is one of the major outlet of the subsurface water system of the Transdanubian Mountains.
This considerable karst water supply accounts for the abundance of water in the area and the formation of rocks around the lake. When the underground karst streams spring up carbon-dioxide is discharged calcium carbonate starts to precipitate and calcite dissolved earlier inside the mountain is deposited. Mining activities around the nearly town of Tatabánya drained these springs for half a century allowing for the exploration of caves near Cseke-tó. Fortunately, when mining finished water level recovered.
After passing the rocks the trail lined continues in a park-like environment with old plane and chestnut trees rounding the riding hall of Esterházy Castle and guides you back to an urban environment. Passing a giant plane tree you will enter the medieval castle surrounded by a moat. It was used as a preferred retreat by King Sigismund of Luxembourg and Matthias Corvinus, today it is the symbol of Tata.
On the other side of the castle the trail arrives at the starting point. It is worth taking a detour to downtown of Tata on the other side of the castle and the fort. In front of the Parish Church (Plébániatemplom) in Kossuth Square, information boards help to choose among various thematic walks.
- Get off the coach at “Tata, autóbusz állomás”.
- Get off the train at “Tata, Tóvároskert” (a longer walk to Old Lake, recommended to visit Cseke-tó (Cseke Lake) and its picturesque English garden on the way).
- A few minutes’ walk from “Tata, autóbusz állomás” (bus station) to the starting point along Váralja Street.
- From train stop “Tata, tóvároskert” follow Baji Street, however, it is worth taking the first right and visit Cseke-tó.
- Park your car next to the bus station in the parking lot in front of the shop and pharmacy.
Author’s map recommendations
- Hiking map of Gerecse Mountains
- City map of Tata
Book recommendations for this region:
Basic gear: hiking boots, seasonable wear, drinking water, food. Use Természetjáró app. to navigate.
- 6 Waypoints
- 6 Waypoints
Questions and answers
Would you like to the ask the author a question?
Photos from others