In Hungary’s Northern Highlands, a large part of the Bükk Mountain region is classified as a National Park. The park is a protected environment for over 22 000 species of plants and animals. This area of outstanding beauty has also more than 800 caves, steep cliffs and lush beech forests – the word bükk means beech in Hungarian. For visitors, the national park’s beautiful landscape offers routes of every grades and lengths for hiking, climbing and caving as well as skiing during winter.
One of the most popular visiting spots in Bükk National Park is Szalajka Valley (Szalajka Völgy) which can be accessed from the town of Szilvásvárad. It is the starting point for the Millennium Nature and Woodland Study Trail on which you can discover the range’s geology and the valley’s lush flora and fauna – including a variety of rare butterflies and insects. Magnificent views from the The Millenium Viewing Tower’s observation point will reward you at the end of the trail.
Nearly half of the Szalajka valley’s flora consists of hornbeam oak forests and one third of the area is filled with tall beech trees trying to reach the sky. The woods are almost fairytale-looking when rain clouds travel through them. Tired hikers can find old moss covered oaks to rest under – and if they are very lucky – they may see boars, red deer, roe-deer or mouflons, since the Bükk forests and hillsides also provide habitat for the big game of Hungary.
Part of the Szalajka Valley can also be accessed with Narrow Gauge Railway that travels 5 km (3 miles) from Szilvávárad village to the Valley’s most popular sights. This route (which also can be walked or biked) follows the crystal clear Szalajka stream includes Open-Air Forestry Museum, game reserve, trout farm, rock spring, Fátyol-waterfall and prehistorical Istállóskő Cave.
The Szalajka stream tumbles down a 17-m (56-ft) long Fátyol (Veil) karst waterfall which consists of a series of naturally-formed staggered limestone steps. The steps grow little every year as the water deposits more lime.
At the head of the valley, the Istállóskő Cave lies under Mount Istállóskő – the highest peak of the Bükk mountain region. The archaeological findings from Istállóskő Cave have proven that the cave provided shelter for prehistoric people as early as 35–40 thousand years ago. Remains of bison, bears, mammoths and deer were found with tools fashioned from their bones. Notice that visiting the cave is not suitable for young children or old persons due to the difficult route. Prepare to climb long way from the bottom of the hill if you wish to visit the cave!
3 Tips for Bükk National Park
- Eat the high quality trout farmed in the Szalajka Valley. Smoked and roasted, the locally farmed trout is a delicacy on the menu of the restaurants
- Prepare yourself that the locals don’t know any English – try German instead!
- Most of the tourist take heads to the railway section of the Szalajka Valley – other parts of the national are less crowded and more peaceful