Introducing Őrség National Park
Unspoilt nature and pure rural essence are the biggest drawcards of Őrség, Hungary’s westernmost region, where it converges with Austria and Slovenia in forest and farmland. Much of the region forms the boundaries of the 440-sq-km Őrség National Park, founded in 2002 and recently designated a European Destination of Excellence in recognition of the area’s commitment to environmental and cultural sustainability. Besides a rich birdlife, the park’s villages maintain a strong folk tradition, with local pottery enterprises going back some generations.
The park’s information centre is housed in the same building as Tourinform in Őriszentpéter at the turn-off to Szalafő. The park itself is a green belt of dense woods, peaceful meadows, rolling hills and slow streams, which makes it a grand place for hiking, cycling and horse riding. Tourinform can provide information on all of these activities, as well as places to stay in the villages. There are marked hiking trails that link many of Őrség’s villages, including Őriszentpéter, Szalafő, Velemér and Pankasz. Cartographia’s 1:60,000-scale map Őrség és a Göcsej is a good reference for hikers.
An excellent place to stay is Vadkörte an adorable country inn in the heart of the park at tiny Kondorfa, with five spacious, pleasant rooms, two fully equipped apartments next door and an excellent restaurant serving hearty seasonal cuisine with a strong emphasis on local ingredients. Guests can rent bicycles (1500Ft per day) and use either the Finnish (5000Ft per day) or infrared sauna (1000Ft per person) after a good day’s hiking or biking.