Thermal springs and rubber rings at Hévíz – in Hungary

It was a somewhat surreal experience floating around in warm water of the the thermal lake at Hévíz in Hungary, among the drifts of water lilies with a sulphurous waft of rotten eggs in the air.

We spent the morning wandering the gardens of the palace at the palace at Keszthely, looking just like an 18th century French chateau and decided we’d spend the afternoon visiting the thermal lake at Hévíz nearby. I knew that this was an area that was very popular as a holiday resort and close to Lake Balaton where Hungarians come for their summer holidays, just as we were doing in August.

Waterlillies at Lake Hévíz, Hungary

Waterlillies at Lake Hévíz, Hungary

Navigating your way around the Hungarian system of baths and spas can be something of a daunting experience, unless you happen to have a friendly Hungarian speaker with you, but we’d already had some experience by visiting the baths on Margaret Island in Budapest. At Hévíz it was a little like going to into a rather smart leisure centre back home, luckily with some signs in English to explain the numerous options of tickets for different lengths of time.

We were given a plastic bracelet with microchip that got us through the turnstyles in to the communal changing rooms with lockers. You need to scan your bracelet on a machine to tell you which number locker to use, then find the locker and use the bracelet again to unlock it. Luckily there were some private changing cubicles, so it wasn’t quite so communal as it first appeared, and then we went through into the main spa complex.

The lake at Hévíz became known over the centuries for the curative properties of its naturally warm spring waters that are full of minerals such as calcium and magnesium and are slightly radioactive making them ideal for the treatment of rheumatism and other ailments.

Thermal Lake at Hévíz, Hungary

Thermal Lake at Hévíz, Hungary

The lake became especially popular in the early 1900s as a spa centre with modern hotels being built to support the increasing numbers of visitors. The Hungarians take the concept of wellness very seriously, based on an ideal of health and wellbeing more than beauty and there is even a hospital nearby where you can receive treatment with the water and mud from the Hévíz lake.

The current spa building is built in the centre of the lake with wings from which you can step down into the water and swim around, or sun decks where you can relax. As we walked through the complex which was pleasantly warm inside, there were plenty of sun loungers with people relaxing although unfortunately, due to the syndrome of reserving a lounger with your towel, there was nowhere we could find to sit, even though plenty of sun-loungers were unoccupied.

Thermal Spa at Hévíz, Hungary

Thermal Spa at Hévíz, Hungary

Thermal Lake at Hévíz, Hungary

Thermal Lake at Hévíz, Hungary

Undaunted we walked down into the water and swam around in the lake for a while, enjoying the warm lake water. Soon we realised why so many swimmers of all ages were floating with foam or rubber rings, an incongruous sight that you’d normally only expect to see with children. The lake was large and after a while you’d want to stop swimming to float in the warm water, hence the rubber rings. We made use of the wooden beams fixed by poles to the lake bottom that you could cling on to for a while in the middle of the lake, although they were a little slimy and covered with weed in places. Every so often there was a patch of water lilies growing beside the spa building that you could become entangled with.

Thermal Lake at Hévíz, Hungary

Thermal Lake at Hévíz, Hungary

After our swim we found some space on the bank and laid on our towels to dry off. All in all it was a rather surreal experience to float around among the rubber rings among a large number of older visitors who were obviously there for the curative properties. There are so many different thermal baths and spas in Budapest and Hungary, that visiting one at least once during your stay is part of the Hungarian experience.

Have you visited the spa at Hévíz and if so, what did you make of it? Did it cure your rheumatism?

Visitor information

Official Hévíz tourism website
Official Keszthely tourism website
We visited Hévíz while staying at Hullam Hostel at Révfülöp on the shores of Lake Balaton

Read more about our holiday in Hungary

Memento park – Icons of Budapest’s communist past
Sour cherry soup at Salföld in Hungary
Relaxed Indian style at Mandragora Boutique Hostel, Budapest

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com

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  • Reply
    December 5, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    There ARE so many different thermal baths and spas in Hungary that visiting them seems to be part of normal life for Hungarians and for visitors. Your photos are a delight and suggest something of the Good Life for those who have the spare time to enjoy it – fresh air, sunshine, mineral waters, physical activity (and, although it isn’t shown, healthy food).

    I think those late 19th century city planners understood healthy living, bless their hearts.

  • Reply
    December 6, 2010 at 1:32 am

    These look and sound beautiful. I didn’t know that Hungary was a major site for spas, I have to say.

  • Reply
    December 6, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    I think I’ll get my mother to visit and bath in this place. She has rheumatism and she said nothing’s really working to cure it. So, I guess letting her try this thermal spring wouldn’t hurt. It might really even give her that curative effect.

  • Reply
    December 9, 2010 at 11:13 am

    I have been looking for holiday spots that are in Europe but outside the eurozone (it is very expensive for people from Britain like me at the moment). I really hadn’t given Hungary much thought – but I think I will be looking to find out more now. Great post.

  • Reply
    Mark H
    December 9, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    I have swum at Lake Balaton though not at this location. I was struck by the huge weekend crowds from Budapest and the quiet “intensity” and seriousness with which the local people took to swimming in the lake (as against the shrieks and noise I associate with swimming at a beach or lake in Australia).

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    December 11, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    @ TThanks everyone for your comments. The Hungarians do take their Wellness pretty seriously and as Bob said it’s cheaper here to get your spa experience than many places in Europe – for that reason the area is a great favourite with the Germans too.

  • Reply
    Barbara Weibel
    December 11, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    I’ve visited thermal and mineral baths all over the world, but this is the first one I’ve ever seen that has water lilies growing in it. I somehow have a hard time with the idea of getting tangled in the roots while I’m supposed to be relaxing in the water and taking the cure. Weird thought!

  • Reply
    December 13, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Whoa! I was not at all expecting it to be so big actually. It looks incredibly relaxing, I wonder if it’s still warm enough during those cold Hungarian winters?

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    December 14, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    @ Anil Yes it is thermally heated so stays warm all year round

    @ Barbara – there are only small patches of lilies. A man rows around in a little boat clearing them when they get too big

  • Reply
    Donna Hull
    December 15, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    I like the idea of soaking in hot springs. There are many to visit in the western U.S. I’m not sure about those water lilies that populate the lake at Heviz.

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    August 14, 2016 at 2:14 am

    Thanks for sharing! I’m going to share on my FB page: https://www.facebook.com/danyelleekelly/

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