Conventions

Gemenc Forest – The largest contiguous floodplain forest in Europe

Gemenc Forest
Pécs region

The largest contiguous floodplain forest in Europe, it is located 130 km south of Budapest, along the Danube. This protected wilderness is 30 kilometres in length, with a unique ecosystem. It can be traversed by bicycle, canoe or forest railway.

 

 

The contiguous floodplain forest

The largest contiguous floodplain forest in Hungary and all of Europe is a protected site. Its unique ecosystem is under strict protection, but is open to visitors. Located 130 kilometres south of Budapest, between Szekszárd and Baja, the forest is accessible by car or railway, and you can spend several days in one of the forest houses. Exotic waterfowl, roe deer, wild boar, red deer with world-record sized antlers, shady shores and hidden backwaters await you. The romantic wilderness can also be traversed by bicycle, canoe, on foot, or even on a narrow-gauge forest railway. Individuals and organised tour groups are both welcome and any equipment you need can be rented from the Pörböly Ecotourism Centre at the southern entrance to the forest.

 

 

Unique ecosystem

With their richly diverse ecosystems, Hungary’s lakes and rivers are unique natural treasures in their own right. Dominant among them is the Danube, the largest river in Hungary. Its main branch spans the entire country, with a length of 417 kilometres. Its flow slows down considerably in the southern part of Central Hungary, forming numerous backwaters and islands. This in turn has created the largest floodplain forest in Hungary, extending 30 kilometres in length and 5-10 kilometres in width along the shores of the Danube. In fact, you won’t find a floodplain forest of this size – one that is occasionally entirely flooded – in all of Europe. What this means is that if you’re interested in learning more about the natural treasures of rural Hungary or in catching a glimpse of Hungary’s unique fowl and wildlife, there’s no better place to do it than the Gemenc Forest.

 

 

Canoe trip, Gemenc Forest

The protected national park

Hungary boasts ten environmentally protected national parks. The Gemenc Forest is part of the Duna-Dráva National Park and its ecological diversity is afforded an exceptional level of legal protection. This also means that visiting it requires a great deal of care and attention. Fortunately, the forest has its own full-scale tourism infrastructure, allowing hikers, cyclists, canoers and comfort-minded families alike to get a glimpse into the world of gigantic trees, shady waterfalls, backwaters, small islands and reefs. Exciting educational trails criss-cross the area, with signs helping visitors find their way around all the natural wonders, as well as the forestry and wildlife management areas.

 

Gemenc is located 130 kilometres from Budapest. This unique natural wonder is accessible from two larger rural settlements: Szekszárd and Baja. Bogyiszló is also nearby: it is primarily known for its paprika, but its orchid forests are also well worth a mention.

 

 

Protected species of the forest

The backwaters and tributaries branch and twist all across the area, feeding the exceptional diversity of flora and fauna like so many blood vessels. A mating pair of black storks also nests in the Gemenc Forest and, ever since 2013, all are welcome to observe their everyday lives through a webcam in their nest. They are a highly protected species, but the forest is also home to many others: white-tailed eagles, kingfishers, herons, saker falcons and lesser spotted eagles also call this forest their home. The dense undergrowth and shrubs in the groves provide excellent hiding places for roe deer, badgers, beavers and wild boar, but it is the red deer with their gigantic antlers that are the Gemenc Forest’s true claim to fame. The size and beauty of these antlers are world-renowned, and the sounds of their mating calls hold the interest of many a tourist near the end of summer. And if you’re having a truly fortunate day, you may even catch a glimpse of a swimming red dear while canoeing along the river.

 

 

The Pörböly Centre

The ‘southern gate’ of Gemenc is the Pörböly Ecotourism Centre, where you will find a snack bar, an interactive exhibition, the Gemenc Forestry Forest School and a variety of accommodation. From here, almost every type of nature hike is available for you to try at your leisure: you can rent bicycles, canoes and kayaks, while cruises and organised hiking tours are also on offer. Pörböly is located 8 kilometres from Baja, near Highway 55. You can drive there via the M6 motorway, but you can also get there directly by train.

Narrow Gague railways, Gemenc Forest

The floodplain narrow-gauge railway

Anyone doing regular hiking or nature rambles in Hungary will experience the narrow-gauge forest railways sooner or later. In Gemenc, you will find Hungary’s only floodplain narrow-gauge railway. It traverses the entire forest and, uniquely, will also allow you to transport canoes and kayaks to the various Danube backwaters. You can then take a train from the Pörböly Ecotourism Centre to the various educational trails and lookout points in the forest, as well as the wildlife observatory, from where you will be able to see red deer and wild boar. The other terminus of the narrow-gauge railway is at Keselyűs, located 10 kilometres from Szekszárd, and also accessible by car or scheduled public buses.

 

 

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