The UNESCO World Heritage Committee included this sprawling area of thousands of hectares on its list in 1999. Hungary’s first national park was created on these 51,000 hectares in 1973. Today, its area spans 82,000 hectares, making the National Park the country’s largest contiguous conservation area. In addition to the saline grasslands, pastures, loess steppes, floodplain forests and groves, it is made up of swamps and lakes, which are perfect hiding places for endangered ancient Hungarian animal species, while the flora of the landscape is also extremely diverse. If you’d like to learn about the life of Hungarian shepherds, head to the Hortobágy National Park, just over 30 kilometres from Debrecen.
Discover the romanticism of steppe and bandit life on a wagon or bike, on horseback or by train around the fish pond
Choose from a colourful selection of programmes when you arrive in Hortobágy. The sight of the infinite plain unfolds before you, broken only here or there by tumuli built a long time ago by the nomads arriving from the east as guard mounds of sorts, or burial places. The excursion starts at the Hortobágy National Park Visitor Centre, where you can decide which programmes you would like to participate in. You might like to take a peek at water buffalos, a grey cattle wagon or see how one of the characteristic structures of the Hortobágy, the shadoof, works. Believe it or not, in the absence of telephones, these were also used by the people living here to send messages. Watch the impressive horseman show, observe a bluethroat on the Hortobágy fish pond as part of an exclusive tour, go on a crane watch by Jeep or gain insight into the everyday life of local shepherds. In fact, with one of the programmes on offer at the Hortobágy Wildlife Park, you could even take a star walk to observe the night sky. Be sure to inquire before you go, because the stargazing programme is only available at the national park at pre-announced times.