Lake Balaton is a freshwater lake in the Transdanubian region of Hungary. It is the largest lake in Central Europe, and one of its foremost tourist destinations. As Hungary is landlocked (its coastline severed after World War I), Lake Balaton is often called the “Hungarian Sea”. The Zala River provides the largest inflow of water to the lake, and the canalized Sió is the only outflow. The mountainous region of the northern shore is known both for its historic character and as a major wine region, while the flat southern shore is known for its resort towns. Balatonfüred and Hévíz developed early as resorts for the wealthy, but it wasn’t until the late 19th century that landowners, their vines destroyed by lice, began building summer homes to rent out to the burgeoning middle classes.
In Hungarian, the lake is known as Balaton (nicknamed Balcsi). This name derives from the Slavicblato meaning ‘mud’ or ‘swamp’ (from earlier Pan-Slavic bolt?no), and has no meaning in Hungarian. Slavic prince Pribina began to build in January 846 a large fortress as his seat of power and several churches in the region of Lake Balaton, in a territory of modern Zalavár surrounded by forests and swamps along the river Zala. His extremely well fortified castle and capital of Balaton Principality that became known as Blatnohrad or Moosburg (“Swamp Fortress”) served as a bulwark both against the Bulgarians and the Moravians. Lake Balaton affects the local area precipitation per annum. The area receives approximately two to three inches (5–7 cm) more precipitation than most of Hungary, resulting in more cloudy days and less extreme temperatures. The lake’s surface freezes during colder winters. The climate around Lake Balaton has also made the region ideal for viniculture. The lake, acting as a mirror, greatly increases the amount of sunlight that the grapevines of the region receive.The Mediterranean climate, combined with the soil (containing volcanic rock), has made the region notable for its production of wines since the Roman period two thousand years ago
The major resorts around the lake are Siófok, Keszthely, and Balatonfüred. Siófok is known often as the “Party Capital of Hungary”, which attracts many young party-goers in summer due to its numerous large clubs. Keszthely is the site of the famous Festetics Palace and Balatonfüred is a historical bathing town home to the annual Anna Ball. The high tourist season extends from June until the end of August. The average water temperature during the summer is 25°C, which makes bathing and swimming pleasant. Most of the beaches consist of either grass, rocks, or the silty sand that also makes up most of the bottom of the lake. Many resorts have artificial sandy beaches and all beaches have step access to the water. Other tourist attractions include sailing, fishing, and other water sports, as well as visiting the countryside and hills, wineries on the north coast, and nightlife on the south shore. The Tihany Peninsula is a historical district. Badacsony is a famous volcanic mountain and wine-growing region as well as a lakeside resort. The lake is almost completely surrounded by separated bike lanes to facilitate bicycle tourism. Although the peak season at the lake is the summer, Balaton is also frequented during the winter, when visitors go ice-fishing or even skate, sledge, or ice-sail on the lake if it freezes over.