The mighty river Tisza snakes through four eastern-European countries, but it has left its mark upon the wild beauty of eastern Hungary. In 1973, a damming project on the river Tisza caused it to spill across some of the wilderness of the Great Plain, creating the expansive waterways of Tisza Lake, or Tisza-tó as the Hungarians call it. They now provide a 127km² oasis for the myriad of flora, fauna and avifauna which live in and around the water, as well as a fresh perspective for those wishing to experience this striking landscape by paddle boarding the Hungarian plain.
The landscape lends itself to paddle boarding, indeed the autonomy and flexibility which a SUP offers makes it, in our view, the best way to explore this scenic reserve. You can follow the water as it gently winds between banks fringed with wild grasses where herons stalk, or around tiny forest-capped islands, or you can set your paddle down and drift along expanses of glassy water, watching the horizon mirrored at your feet. Paddle boarding the Hungarian plain gives you the freedom to explore this intriguing mosaic of wetlands unencumbered and the advantages of gliding quietly along mean you won’t need binoculars; the wildlife will come to you!
Good to know
Tisza Lake is very safe to paddle, with an average depth of just 1.3 metres and calm slow-moving water. There can be branches under the water in some areas, but these are easy to spot and avoid. We recommend checking the weather forecast before setting out but in the unlikely event of sudden high winds or stormy weather you can easily reach the shore.
Sections of the lake are now part of Hortobágy National Park, Hungary’s first and largest national park and an UNESCO World Heritage Site prized for biodiversity and pastoral history. Begin your trip with a visit to Tisza-tó Ecocentre to learn more about this unique ecosystem. Home to Europe’s largest freshwater aquarium and a park dedicated to local wildlife, the centre’s ethos combines education and conservation. Climb its tower for a bird’s eye view taking in the sheer size of the lake.
Blossoming waterlilies and shifting light patterns on the water’s surface will catch your eye and forest and marsh habitats teeming with life on the water’s edge demand attention, but don’t forget to hunt the skies for the menagerie of rare birds which call the lake home. Kingfishers, purple herons, osprey, swallows and black storks are just a few.
The sunsets over Tisza Lake are stunning and we recommend joining the locals and winding down the day on a lakeside terrace sipping cold beer and watching the sun sink through an apricot sky.
Make a night of your trip and experience the pristine dark sky which has guided shepherds for centuries. Hortobágy is Hungary’s largest designated dark-sky area and its flawless skies and huge horizons provide the optimal canvas for star-gazing. You can go on guided star-walks in the national park through the summer months or enjoy the view relaxing on the water-front.
- . Begin your paddle at Szabics Port, a yacht harbour in Tiszaörvény, Tiszafüred. Cheap parking is available next to the water, convenient if you’re pumping up a board.
- .From here you can set out in many different directions but, before you do, make the most of the port facilities. There is a coffee shop and bathroom on site. Buy a waterproof map here to help you navigate the waterways and make sure you find the best SUP spots!
- .The Port is right next to the river Tisza. After you have paddled a few hundred metres upstream you will reach a peaceful and wider section of the lake. Paddling further along the shore of the lake will lead you to Tiszafüred beach, a popular tourist spot with restaurants and bars. From here you can continue to paddle further, as far as the villages of Poroszló and Sarud if you feel like it.
- .After you have left Tiszafüred behind you will reach a picturesque bay. Here the water is very clear, inviting you to take a break and have a swim. This is also a good time to turn back if you want a shorter paddle, Szabics Port and the restaurants and bars of Tiszaörvény are just a couple of kilometres downstream.
Parking is available on the waterside at Szabics Port.
Launch on the river next to Szabics Port.
Eat, Sleep, SUP
Fehér Amúr Halászcsárda
Hop straight off of the water whenever you’re in need of SUP-stenance, this relaxed waterfront affair is open from 10.00-20.00 every day of the year, serving 130 dishes including local specialities.
This popular leisure centre and fish restaurant at the dam at Tiszafüred hosts live music and is a great place to relax after a day’s paddle. You can even hire a SUP or take a SUP Yoga class here.
Located on the opposite side of Szabics Port, next to the dam, this Hungarian powerhouse serves speciality fish fresh out of the lake.
There are also bars and coffee shops on the beaches of Tiszafüred, Poroszló, and Sarud. Be sure to try the local Palacsinta crêpes, which come with a choice of- often boozy- fillings, and are dusted and drizzled with icing sugar and chocolate sauce.
There are many accommodation options in the area. Check Airbnb to stay in local homes and rent out villas. Tisza Balneum Hotel has an outdoor pool, thermal spa and rooms overlooking the lake. For a more luxurious stay, Park 7 offers a pool, spa and sauna and cosy Scandi interiors at good value prices. There are also numerous campsites around the lake, Horgász – és Családi Camping has a restaurant and a large supermarket onsite.
- This region of Hungary has fewer tourists compared to Budapest or Lake Balaton and seasonal closures are commonplace. We recommend visiting during the summer months when everything is open and the atmosphere is alive with locals and holiday-makers enjoying time off. Whilst scenic and beautiful, the winters bring icy temperatures and non-locals would need to be very self-sufficient when staying here.
- Local life still takes precedence over the tourist trade at Tisza and as such English and other languages are not widely understood. German is the most common second language, but if you don’t speak Hungarian it is definitely worth learning some basics for ordering food and exchanging pleasantries with the friendly locals.