The Route of Kings, The King of Routes
Magyar Természetjáró Szövetség Verified partner Explorers Choice
Panoráma a Dunakanyarra Visegrád fölöttPhoto: Péter Farkas, Magyar Természetjáró Szövetség
It is truly the Route of Kings that we are about to embark on at the ship station: The area of the Danube Bend, the “Pilis Woods” as it was already referred to in historic times, was the estate of the Hungarian chieftains since the time of the Conquest of the Carpathian Basin, and later belonged to the Árpád Dynasty. The first written documentation on Dömös dates back to 1079, during the reign of Ladislaus I, and the place was known to be one of the favourites of the king. There even used to be a palace, and the ruins of the old priory are lying somewhat off route of our trail, towards the centre of the municipality, on the P (red) trail. The famous 11th-century capital depicting a rider and a lion that belonged to its chapel is one of the most beautiful artefacts of the Hungarian Romanesque art of sculpture.
And leaving behind the residential area, one of the most exciting trails of Hungary awaits us: after gathering our strength quietly at Szentfa Chapel, we climb past the Vadálló Stones to reach the magnificent panorama of Prédikálószék summit, stop to rest at the Kis Rigó restaurant half way, then set out on the recently opened and at places unusually exposed, narrow Spartacus Hunting Trail, at the end of which, coming out of the romantic wilderness of the woods, we can marvel at Szent Mihály Hill towering above the Danube from a new angle. Finally, after a pleasant, winding stroll in the forest above the valley of Apát-kút, we reach Visegrád, the city of kings.
- The route may seem demanding on paper, but after conquering the first 4.5-kilometre-steep ascent to the Vadálló Stones, the rest of the trail is an easy, gentle descent almost entirely. Still, be prepared to find some more challenging parts between Szentfa Chapel and Prédikálószék where the trail is steep, and interwoven with tree roots. Watch your step at these parts, and avoid them in wintertime, when the ground is icy. It is still better to go uphill here than downhill, so make sure to follow this trail in the recommended direction.
- The cosy Kis Rigó restaurant, famous of its kitchen, is found exactly half way on the trail, at Pilisszentlászló. It is a perfect place to stop for a lunch break, but keep in mind that they are closed on Wednesdays, and it might get crowded during weekends.
- At the start of the Spartacus Hunting Trail, an old sign reminds us that the trail ahead of us is only recommended for experienced hikers. Do not let it scare you though, it only means that the level path meandering along the occasionally steep hillside is only wide enough for one person at places.
- If we are caught by a shower, we can find shelter in the always open Jenő Hut, one of the few bivouac shelters of the country. It is even equipped with a tiled stove, and we can sleep in its room if we want to.
- As an alternative choice, we can abandon the end of the trail marked on the map, and follow the Z+ (green cross) trail down to the valley of Apát-kút to see Ördögmalom Waterfall, then reach the end of our hike at the Nagymaros ferry on the red (P) trail.
Track typesShow elevation profile
Rest stopsRám-szakadék fogadóépület
- Due to the rough terrain surrounding the Vadálló Stones, make sure to wear comfortable, non-slippery shoes, or rather a pair of hiking boots.
- Do not leave the path under any circumstances on the Spartacus Hunting Trail.
Tips and hintsKis Rigó restaurant website
- From Dömös ship station, follow the yellow (S) and the green(Z) trails, which will soon be joined by the red (P) trail too. These will lead us out of the municipality on Királykúti street.
- Having passed Szentfa Chapel, turn left onto the red triangle (P▲) trail, which will lead us through the Vadálló Stones to Prédikálószék.
- From there, keep to the P▲ trail, which will be joined by the red cross (P+) trail after a while. From here on just follow this trail to the centre of Pilisszentlászló, going past Kis Rigó restaurant. (The P▲ trail will turn right at a point, do not follow it.)
- At the centre of Pilisszentlászló, turn left on the Z trail. This will be our path from here to the end of the route.
After spending some time marvelling at the sight of the Danube at the Dömös ship station—do not miss Remete Cave gaping in the side of Szent Mihály Hill across the river!—, we can begin our leisurely hike up on the S and Z trails starting from here. As we leave the municipality on the increasingly picturesque Királykúti street and the houses get scarce, we are accompanied by Malom Creek. After crossing it on a wooden bridge and step into the forest, we are about to reach Róza Tunnel, the origin of which is shrouded in mystery. It is said to have been built at the beginning of the 19th century for mining lignite, but based on the mineral composition of the ground here, that is highly unlikely. Looking at the small hole, we would be surprised to know that the tunnel is actually 337 metres long and 2.1 metres high. But it is strictly off limits, for two reasons: First of all, the first 80-metre section of it is under water, but more importantly because it is home to a large, 600–1300-member colony of greater mouse-eared bats. The mineshaft is protected since 2015.
Walking on, we will soon find ourselves at the charming Szentfa Chapel. It is said that Dömös was already an important religious destination in the Middle Ages, but the Ottoman invasion had erased any signs of this. Then, in May 1885, the radiant image of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus appeared on one of the young beech trees. The miracle was witnessed by two gooseherd girls, who spread the news of the apparition. At the beginning, only the people of Dömös went to pray at the tree, but Simon-dűlő, as it was called at the time, slowly became a popular pilgrimage destination. Unfortunately, the tree is gone now, but a small chapel with wooden roof was built at the place, and there are still some icons hung on the surrounding trees. Just below it, there is the origin of the Kaintz György Spring set in stones, named after a famous tourist; and on the small clearing next to it we will find a resting area with benches, where we can have a nice little break on our way to Rám Ravine.
It is worth the climb
The P▲ trail leading to Prédikálószék used to start from the narrow, rooty path above the spring, but they have moved it further up along Malom Creek since then, so we will have to follow the P, S and Z trails a little longer before it branches off them to the left, marking the beginning of the hardest, but also the most exciting section of our route. The P▲ trail follows the ridge straight up to the summit in the shades of an oakwood, protecting us even from the hottest summer sun, while we have to step over the tree roots on the ever steeper path. We also have a good chance of hearing the cries of mouflon lambs brought by the wind from Simon Valley below us. Soon our stamina will be tested by a bare, rocky slope spotted by grass tuffets and covered by a network of interwoven roots, but there is no need to be alarmed: We will soon be rewarded with the sight of the first Vadálló Stone, the “Big Stump”.
The scenery awaiting us will quickly take our minds off the demanding ascent behind us. The odd-shaped rock formations of volcanic andesite line the ridge looking like a row of teeth as seen from Dobogó-kő, but up close they resemble irregular, weathered little turrets. The scene in front of us is rather dramatic. Lying next to one of the Vadálló Stones, there is a barkless tree shaped as a contorted, dead hand; another stone seems to be held up only by a thin, crooked tree—hanging on heroically, with every last ounce of its strength. Some of the rocks are quite easy to climb on, and it is worth doing so too, as the panorama looking at the valley of Szőke Spring, Rám Hill and the ridge of Dobogó-kő is simply breathtaking. One of the nearby recesses of the landscape billowing below us hides Rám Ravine.
The P▲ trail continues along the Vadálló Stones, then leaves them behind with a left turn and enters the woods. It is not necessary to follow it though, as it leads to the summit on a rather unpleasant path sloping towards the valley that is dusty when the weather is dry and muddy when it rains, so it tends to be slippery either way. We can stay on the old trail running along the stones, enjoying a more scenic route to the summit. This is the last difficult section of our hike: saying goodbye to the rocky teeth of the ridge, the remaining few hundred metres to the summit are a gentle ascent to the 639-metre-high Prédikálószék, which gives us one of the most beautiful views of the Danube Bend in the Visegrád Hills.
The rock at the edge of the cliff has always provided a great viewing spot to enjoy the scenery of Szent Mihály Hill, but from the three-storey lookout tower built in 2016 we can see even further, all the way to Csobánka. We can get a glimpse of Szob across the river, see the picturesque Zebegény in the river bend, Nagymaros to the right, and Visegrád on this side of the river, with the mighty citadel above it. The last point of interest of the approximately 180-degree panorama is Pilisszentlászló in the valley, the next significant stop on our route.
Take a roll to Pilisszentlászló
After looking around and catching our breath, we can really lighten up: Although we are not even half way yet, from here it will be a gentle descent almost to the very end of our route. For now, we will keep following the P▲ trail running south-west along the side of Keserűs Hill. Soon the P+ trail will join our path from the left, and although they go in the same direction for a while, we will have to follow the latter from here. That will be the only marking to follow from Hármashatár. We can walk on fairly level forest roads, with a chance to get a glimpse of the Danube here and there. The landscape is spotted by some crab apple trees. That is how we reach the cosy Kis Rigó restaurant, which is definitely worth a visit if we want to have a hearty lunch or rehydrate ourselves a little. After all, it is exactly half way on our little hike.
The P+ trail will lead us to the centre of Pilisszentlászló crossing the serpentine connecting Visegrád and road 11. In the centre, we will have to switch to the Z trail turning left next to the remnants of a grocery store that had definitely seen better days. Jaunting down on the long Béke street, we leave the municipality; we can see a soccer field to the right and the stone cross of the Kálvária behind it. The next section is not particularly exciting—the monotony of the dirt road is only broken by a miniature chapel, a crucifix surrounded by a wooden fence, complete with a shaded bench, and finally an abandoned quarry—, but that is what makes the dramaturgy perfect. We are about to step on one of the most special trails of Hungary, the Spartacus Hunting Trail.
Leaving behind the weekend houses, reaching the land of the stately beech trees, we will first hike on a rooty, rocky path before we are stopped by an old wooden sign warning us that “the Spartacus trail has difficult sections, which require adequate preparedness, equipment and physical condition to be hiked.” So the above mentioned dramaturgy is complete with the compulsory warnings, but there is no need to panic: There is nothing more to it than the path being narrow, and slightly exposed at places, but it is still easily doable for even people with fear of heights.
Following hunters of times past
The meandering, mostly level Spartacus Hunting Trail was established in the 1930s, but it was only marked as a hiking route in 2015. A large part of its western section and a few smaller branches leading to the valley of Apát-kút is still off limits to tourists. The environment becomes gradually more romantic; first it is a small, dusty path cutting through the young beech forest in the side of Öreg-Pap Hill, then we step into the primary forest at Szarvas Hill, where fallen trees give a primal, pristine beauty to the scenery. The slope becomes ever steeper, and stepping out from the tunnel of short, younger trees, we find ourselves in a spacious, majestic beech forest again. To the right, in the hillside, we may notice the grey rocks left behind from an old lava flow, the remnants of the volcanic activity that was once present in the area, before the first lookout spot of the hunting trail appears in front of us. From the edge of the grassy slope, the panorama is ruled by the mass of the neighbouring Ágas Hill, blocking the view of our previous stop, Prédikálószék. Of the latter, we may only see a little of its ridge. To the right, we can also see the edge of Szent Mihály Hill a little.
Returning to the woods, we might see a hint of the next, gently meandering part of the path through the beeches, which will lead us to a more exposed section. One of the rocks seems to resemble a miniature version of the Vadálló Stones. Stairs carved into the rock aid our path on the narrow trail—although they are not essential, we would not fall into the depth without them either—, then above Szarvas Hole, we step out into the most beautiful scenery of the entire Spartacus Hunting Trail. Looking towards the hill, we can see patches of bare andesite between the rupicolous grasses, in the distance in front of us the half concealed Szent Mihály Hill steals the show, and the tiny triangle sparkling at its foot is none other than the water of the Danube.
We will want to soak in the view here and store it in our hearts, because the scene is about to change again, becoming a bit more ordinary. Continuing on our winding path between the beech trees, we come upon Jenő Hut, which is one of the fairly rare bivouac shelters in Hungary that is always open and free to use, and which not only gives shelter from the weather, but we may even sleep here—yes, even in the winter, as our (otherwise strictly austere) comfort is served by a tiled stove.
Our path from the wooden hut will stay within the forest until the edge of Visegrád, still following the Z trail. Crossing to the east slope of Nagy-Bükk, we walk above the valley of Apát-kút, where another one of the nicest hiking trails of the Visegrád Hills go. If we would like to get a taste of it, we just have to follow the Z+ trail down to the valley to see Ördögmalom Waterfall or the Bertényi Miklós Botanic Gardens. Opting for this route, we can still reach the Nagymaros ferry if we follow the P trail north, the same as if we had stayed on the Z trail.
We have not seen everything yet
We chose the latter option this time. If our time allows, we can get to the 16-metre-tall Bányatető Lookout Tower built in 2015 on the Z▲ trail that branches off our path not far from here. Continuing our hike on the Z trail, we will reach the edge of Visegrád at Disznó-zug, where we will first notice some weekend houses appearing in front of us. It is worth following the path across the road at a right turn of the street, taking a small roundtrip to the hillside, where an amazing panorama of the Danube Bend awaits us. We can get a sense of the distance covered in the past couple of hours looking up to the summit of Prédikálószék on our left, and if we look carefully enough, we might be able to spot the contour of the Julianus Tower on the top of Szent Mihály Hill in front of us.
From here, it is a leisurely stroll on Rákóczi and then on Széchenyi street, and we are already at the final destination of our hike, the Nagymaros ferry in the centre of Visegrád, where we can choose to take the bus home, cross the Danube on the ferry, or to take a well-deserved rest in one of the many restaurants, cafés or cakeshops of the city.
- The route starts at Dömös ship station, which we can reach by bus from Esztergom or Budapest - the travel times are 30 minutes and 90 minutes respectively.
- The Budapest–Esztergom tourist boat also stops here, but the trip takes almost 4 hours.
- From the left bank of the Danube, there are 6–7 ships from Dömösi átkelés ship station every day except Mondays, when there is no service. We can go there by train on the Budapest–Vác–Szob line.
Getting thereThe route starts directly at Dömös ship station.
- Paid parking is available in Dömös at a designated parking area.
- It is better to park our car near the end of the route in Visegrád, where parking is free on the streets on weekends, and take a bus to Dömös. Near Visegrád, újtelep bus stop, parking is also free on weekdays.
Author’s map recommendations
Book recommendations for this region:
- Basic hiking equipment: boots, seasonal clothing, drinking water, food, maybe trekking poles.
- Természetjáró App (Trekking app) for navigation.
- 7 Waypoints
- 7 Waypoints
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