Rural Roadtrip - Winter Hungary - Culture, Nature, Wildlife - Christmas

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Guided trip
What's special?
special Full guidance by a local
special Authentic rural life
special Culture, nature, wildlife
Experience the true essence of Hungary with an 8-day winter road trip that ventures way beyond Budapest's renowned attractions. This journey offers a rich blend of cultural, natural, and leisurely experiences with the lead of a local anthropologist and wildlife enthusiast who’s been travelling and camping around the country since childhood. The journey offers full guidance, room for your preferences, and includes private transportation for the group. Explore bustling neighbour's markets, spend a night in a forest hut, and unwind in a rural Hungarian guesthouse while cooking under the winter sky. Delight in authentic Hungarian cuisine or embark on wildlife excursions in the country's forests and water habitats. Journey to the Great Hungarian Plain to visit a local vine cellar, encounter the robust "Magyar szürke" cattle and revel in the enchanting Christmas markets of Szentendre and Pécs. Finally, conclude the holiday with a relaxing day in Budapest's thermal baths, immersing in the city's captivating winter atmosphere. The road trip blends the rich tapestry of rural culture with city highlights. WHAT TO EXPECT - The trip includes hikes, they won’t be too challenging, and I will do my best always to give a hand and provide any gear if requested. - Wildlife watching before sunset is always optional, so you’ll have a chance to stay at the hut/guesthouse to explore nature at another pace. - The itinerary is designed to have flexible options for daytime activities where possible. - All nights will be spent in heated spaces, but bring a warm sleeping bag or tell me in advance to bring one for you (just in case). - Snow is never guaranteed, but is quite likely, let's hope for the best! We'll Winter in the forest can get cold, so bring warm clothing. - Changes in the schedule can always happen due to external factors: I will be transparent about everything unexpected and offer my best alternatives. Expect something highly similar to the itinerary below, with possible changes in details. RURAL HUNGARY AND CHRISTMASTIME The rural landscape of Hungary in the morning has a unique prehistoric silence, offering nothing too intense, but the reality of the earliest bonds between culture and nature. Around Christmastime, the old towns and small villages glow in different colours, complementing the cold beauty of nature with warmth. I encourage you to join the trip if you’d like to experience a hidden, authentic side of Hungary brochures never mention.

YOUR TRIPLEADER I'm Martin Kocsis, a Hungarian anthropologist, and I'll be your guide, driver (and occasional cook) on this road trip. My roots lie in the rural landscapes of Szeged, near Hungary's southern border. Growing up there fostered my fascination with remote wildlife and cultural groups around our planet. From an early age, I delved into wild camping and backpacking, gaining experience in organizing and leading such excursions. With a background in zoology and anthropology, I even had the privilege of living amongst nomadic communities in Central Asia. It's a true honor for me to share my respect and affection for these subjects, particularly the cultural heritage of my homeland. The selected road trip destinations stand as personal highlights from the southern and central areas of Hungary. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. See you in December! :)

ACCOMMODATION - The first night will be spent in a Budapest hostel/apartment. - The second night will be spent in a forest hut. In Hungary, we refer to these huts as "kulcsosház". I will arrange our arrival in the hut with the local forester, and by the time we get there, I'll have the keys on me. There is a stove in the house and beds. I will cook for the group. - The third and fourth nights are spent in a rural guesthouse (shower, heated rooms, breakfast). - The fifth and sixth nights are spent in yurts/guesthouse (shower, heated space). - The seventh night is spent in a hostel/apartment.

What's included?
Transport (+petrol, driver)
Local guide
Meals (where indicated)
Rural visits and entrance fees
Your Booking includes free protection from Trip cancellations.
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Trip Itinerary


Day 1-2
I will meet the group at the airport and you’ll be transported to the first day’s accommodation in Budapest. We’ll get to know one another, I’ll make tea and - depending on the part of the day - serve traditional Hungarian lunch or dinner. I’ll give you a short overview of the essentials for the upcoming days. If you have the time and energy, I can take you to the city centre for a night ride/walk, but you can simply stay, relax and prepare for the upcoming journey if that’s your preference. (The last day of the trip is a complete day in Budapest.) After these, I’ll go home to pack all the gear we need for the days out in nature.


Day 2
Depending on the time we leave in the morning, we’ll probably have a chance to immerse ourselves in the authentic atmosphere of the “Buda Flea Market”. This large communal gathering happens every weekend in Budaörs, an outer neighbourhood of Budapest, where merchants, craftsmen, antique dealers, and all kinds of interesting characters come together to find or sell unique items. You may find something interesting. I’ll help with the translations!


Day 2-3
Our final destination for the day is the Mecsek, a densely forested mountain range near the southern border, 220 km from Budapest. After a roughly 2-hour-long drive, I’ll park the car near the starting point of the forest trail we need. We’ll put on our bags and hike to the forest hut where we’ll spend the night. I’ll do my best to help carry the load if needed - so you can have a nice hike. When reaching the hut, I’ll start the fire in the furnace so everyone can warm up inside. The rest of the day is spent around the hut, setting a campfire, making tea, cooking over the campfire, having conversations, and enjoying the winter forest. For some, it may be a tiny bit challenging, but please, don’t worry. I will do my best to make you feel warm, comfortable, and cozy. I can provide extra blankets, sleeping bags, warm clothing, etc. if you request in advance.


Day 3
At dawn, you can choose to hike up to “Zengő”, the highest peak of Mecsek, and climb its wooden tower to watch the sunrise (shortly after 7 AM). Of course, you can choose to stay in the hut and sleep some extra hours too. In the morning forest, we may spot badgers, foxes, wildcats, beech- and pine martens, red deer, roe deer, and even fallow deer. Being quiet is key! Some rare birds nest here too, including the largest raptorial bird in Hungary with a wingspan of 2-2.5 m and a body weight of up to 7 kg, the white-tailed eagle. The hike is roughly 2 km. Arriving back at the hut, I’ll make some breakfast for the group. We’ll need energy to hike back to the car!


Day 3-4
Our next stop is the hidden gem of Óbánya. This small village has only one road and roughly 80 residents, one of whom will be our host for the upcoming two nights. You can shower, warm up and relax in the rustic guesthouse or spend some time in the garden with an outdoor fireplace. Try yourself out in some traditional handicrafts! If some people would like to visit the Óbánya Valley and the “Tündérlépcső” (Fairy Stairs Stream) for more time in the winter forest, I’ll show the way. The next day (after the 3rd night) I am planning to take the group early to the Gemenc Forest of the Danube-Drava National Park, roughly an hour drive away from Óbánya. The red deer population of the forest has worldwide fame since its genetic stock is outstanding with the largest antlers in Europe. We will discuss when to leave depending on preferences - animals are active mostly around dawn and twilight.

Gemenci erdő

Day 4
The Gemenc Forest is a 30km long tidal area, the largest in Hungary, with a spectacular richness of biodiversity. The list of raptorial- and water bird species is endless, but a more unique aspect is its large population of red deer, wild boars, beavers and river otters. If we reach the heart of the forest by sunrise or before sunset, it is almost certain that we will spot something interesting. Although I must add, I cannot 100% guarantee it as I am not in contact with the wild creatures... :) We will discuss all alternative options for an experience everyone can enjoy!


Day 4
In the afternoon/evening, we will drive to the ancient Hungarian city of Pécs in the foothills of Mecsek. The city was the winter headquarters of the national hero Árpád, and a famous religious centre of Hungary in the historic ages. We’ll walk through the “cultural corner” with the annually organised Handicraft Christmas Market. You can taste local foods, including kürtőskalács and various traditional stews. An alternative could be staying at the guesthouse and cooking around the campfire.


Day 4-5
We say goodbye to the guesthouse after our second night, and following a hearty breakfast, we head towards the Great Hungarian Plain: Alföld. Alföld is the largest part of the Pannonian Plain covering 52,000 km2; it was the heartland of the Eurasian nomads and is famous for its diverse cultural heritage.


Day 5
We’ll visit Bugacpuszta, part of the Kiskunság National Park, where we’ll see an ancient breed of Hungarian cattle called the “Magyar szürke”. These animals are kept in the freezing plains even during wintertime, and their herds are called “gulya” from which the name “goulash” (gulyás) derives. We may even get a horsecart ride.


Day 5
Our main destination this day is the home of Ani néni (Aunt Ani), who’s been living in the plains her whole life. She’ll take us around her fruit garden, show us her family vine cellar, and invite us for lunch. Every autumn, the local community gathers together to harvest grapes from the nearby field. Ani’s home is the center of the vine-making process. Tasting some of her beverages is an optional extra! She has pálinka and wine too. Either Ani accommodates us for the night or we make it up to the Budapest region by the evening (100 km up north).


Day 5-7
We'll spend two nights at Dobogó-kő, a peak in the Pilis mountains, roughly 50 minutes from Budapest. Hopefully, we arrive when the hills are covered in snow. There is a yurt camp there, but we may stay in a guesthouse - I will communicate this to the group before the trip. Yurts played a crucial role in the daily life of ancient Hungarians, serving as their primary dwelling for centuries. It provided a comfortable and functional living space that could be adapted to various environmental conditions, perfectly suited to their nomadic way of life as they traversed the vast Eurasian plains before reaching the Carpathian Basin. The yurt camp has heated showering rooms outside and wooden stoves inside the yurts. Dobogókő has great restaurants and hiking trails. In the right conditions, skiing is also a usual winter activity here.


Day 7
Today we’ll visit the vivid street market and explore the culinary spectrum of the historic city Szentendre, just 20 km outside of Budapest. With the old town’s harmony of architecture, cobbled streets, and promenades right next to the Danube, the city’s Christmas atmosphere is always special. I cycled to this city with my dad every summer as a child to buy a puppet from the local puppet master. Artists often come here to escape the noise of Budapest and get surrounded by folk energy. Bars on the Danube's natural shore often organise bonfire events in festive periods.


Day 7
In the late afternoon and evening, you may want to go on a last adventure to the pine forests of Pilis, one of my favourite camping places around the capital. The group will spend the night in the yurts at Dobogókő, but we can enjoy a bit more time around the campfire if all agree. I am happy to cook dinner. Alternative option: Night walk/Boat ride in the city centre of Budapest or spending more time at the yurt camp/Szentendre.


Day 7-8
This day is a buffer/relaxed day. Anything that may have been left out due to something unexpected along the way, we’ll try to replace it with something similar if wanted. Otherwise, you’re free to explore the city, relax at the accommodation, or rest in one of the baths of Budapest. I highly recommend Széchenyi- (the biggest) and Gellért (part of the historic Hotel Gellért) thermal baths. I will be at your transportation service. Alternative ideas: - Check out the Museum of Ethnography for an even deeper dive into Hungarian culture. - I can show you the hidden underground collection of the Hungarian Natural History Museum and take you around the building. The last night is spent at a hostel near the center.


Day 8
This is the day of your flight back home. Depending on the exact times, we can come up with different activities in Budapest, or a big meal together to say goodbye and reflect on the memories. I’ll transport you to the airport and wish you a safe flight home, hopefully, full of warm memories.
Trip Summary
Hostel & Other & Apartments & Bed & Breakfast
8 days trip
Budapest, Budaörs & 13 more
Car, Trekking
What's excluded?
Meals (where not indicated)
Last day's extras in Budapest
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