Standing high above the rest of Hungary is Kékestető peak. Three thousand, three hundred and twenty six feet to be exact. While this may not seem incredibly tall in comparison to other infamous peaks around the globe, it holds its own magic when it comes to the north Hungarian countryside. At the top, there is a lookout tower, providing successful adventurers with a stunning panoramic view of the surrounding volcanic mountains.
Kékestető is a small part of Hungary’s larger Mátra mountain range. Nestled in northern Hungary between Gyöngyös and Eger, it has provided a natural retreat for locals for thousands of years. Having been built up by the young volcanic mountain range, it consists of a variety of shapes and sizes. In the southern most part, there are more rolling hills as the mountains build. The most well known valley as you enter is Nagy-völgy, also known as the Great Valley.
This vineyard-studded landscape will give you a warm welcome as you make your way to the central section of the Mátra mountains. As you ascend, you will follow the ridge to the plateau of Mátrabérc. In the east, you will experience the jagged peaks ranging from two thousand to three thousand feet. The most well known of these being Saskő, or Eagle Cliff. These eastern climbs will give you the fullest sense of the history, geography, and life of these young volcanic cliffs.
To the north, you will find Mátralába, affectionately known as Mátra’s feet. These foothills are much smaller, unique volcanic cones whose rich soil have been used for centuries for crops and other agricultural pursuits. Amidst the vineyards, rolling farmland, and unique volcanic features, this mountain range boasts one of the only place to ski in Hungary: the previously mentioned Kékestető peak. The lookout tower on top has a small bar and a few surrounding shops and eateries, so make sure to plan your day if these don’t pique your interest.
To hike Kékestető peak, you can start from a myriad of towns depending on the distance you would like to do. Each of these towns is followed by the mileage round trip. Kékestető summit from Mátraháza (3.2 miles), Mátrafüred or Mátrafüred-Sástó camping (6.8 miles), Parádóhuta (7.5 miles), Parádsasvár (8.7 miles), or Markaz (14.3 miles). The final suggested route, from Markaz, is truly the most challenging and stunning. You will start by wrapping around Markazi-tó Lake, through the village center, and past the Markaz Castle which crumbled during the Ottoman-Turkish raid of 1552. Continuing up the trail, you will summit Disznó-kő at 2411 feet. The next 1.8 miles will take your breathe away as you criss cross among jagged cliffs and steep ravines. Make sure to take a breather at Sas-kő to look back and take in the sights.
The view from both Sas-kő and the Kékestető summit overlooks the hundreds of acres of beech forests, small towns, lakes, and vineyards. If this view captivates you and entices you towards more adventure, check out the alternate route down the mountain. Head southeast towards the ‘small cliff’ Kis-kő, which is in fact not small at all. Make sure to have sturdy shoes with solid traction, as well as hiking poles to preserve your knees and add stability. The descend into the Vár-völgy valley from here is beautiful but slightly treacherous. It is not well marked, but following the slight trail you will make your way down to the stream centered in the valley, giving the most picturesque cap to your adventure.
As with any outdoor excursion, this stunning land has only been preserved and stayed secluded because people have stayed on the path and respected the surrounding nature. So, if the Mátra mountains have called to you, don’t ignore it. Follow the weaving trails up to the summits and enjoy the stellar complexity of this young volcanic range.
Lauren is a trekbible writer and story maker from Pine Valley, California. She and her husband work in the recreation department at a camp. In their free time, they enjoy mountain biking, building out their Sprinter van, and adventuring with their new puppy, Shadow.