Óbánya, the Hungarian Switzerland

Óbánya is located in the most southern county of Hungary, Baranya, at half an hour driving from Pécs. What makes Óbánya so special, is the fact that is lays in the valley of the Mecsek Mountains, a mountain range that might ring a bell in connection with our previous discovery at Lake Orfű. Óbánya is known as the Hungarian Switzerland, and after visiting, I totally understand why one would make that comparison. Just as Switzerland, Óbánya has beautiful green, sloping mountains, gentle valleys and rippling streams. And like Switzerland, Óbánya is the perfect destination for adventurous spirits who like to explore the wilderness of nature.

Speaking of wilderness, when we take a closer look at the Mecsek Mountains, we might notice the fact that the eastern part of this mountain range, and therefore Óbánya, is the most intact and authentic area. One of the things I love about Hungary is its diversity in landscapes, and this comes exactly to play at the valley of Óbánya. When we take a look at the map of Hungary, specifically the mountains, it almost seems as if the river Danube, which crosses almost straight through the country from North to South, cuts Hungary into two parts. The eastern side of the country is known as the ‘puszta’, in English; the plains. The western part is the “hilly” side, just as you can see this phenomenon in a miniature scale in Budapest; Buda, situated on the west side of the capital, is the hilly side, whereas Pest, situated on the eastern side, is part of the plains.

Jumping back to the area of Óbánya, now we can understand more clearly why this sort of micro climate is so unique in the landscape of Hungary. The countless of streams, natural springs and waterfalls are all part of the authentic scenery, which is exactly the reason why Óbánya is the perfect place for hikers, mountain bikers and nature lovers. To top this off, we can add a hint of genuine heritage in the mix, as the start of all these exciting trails is at the traditional village laying in the heart of the valley. The village Óbánya exists of adorable swabisch cottages, due to its German ancestry, and other typical Hungarian farm houses with colorful shutters and flowering gardens. In the one street that leads through the entire village, you will also be able to find a traditional pub and a restaurant, offering the perfect resting place after a challenging tour.

While on the subject of tours, there are countless of possibilities in this neck of the woods. Several smaller and bigger trails are indicated at the side of the walking paths, all you have to do is follow the correct colored sign, and they will lead you straight to the hidden gems of the area. This time, I walked the most well-known route, starting from Óbánya to Kisóbánya, which took approximately 3 hours back and forth. When I say well-known, I mean that this isn’t a particularly hidden pathway, nevertheless offering a stunningly beautiful view. The walking path follows the track of one of the streams, which makes it an adventuresome hike over stepping stones, bridges and alongside small waterfalls. This part of the forest, with its immensely tall trees is so intensely green it might seem photoshopped, but trust me, it isn’t!

All in all Óbánya is absolutely a recommendation for any hiker, either beginner or more advanced, to experience Hungary’s force of nature to its fullest. The slopes aren’t the steepest, which makes it an absolute enjoyable trip for young and old. When arriving back in the village, you can buy some homemade syrups, made of the Óbánya spring water, and marmalade of the fruit orchards, at the local cart. This is the sort of experience that makes Óbánya complete, as it shows the trust of the villagers; leaving their cash register outside, unmanned, trusting the customers to put the right amount of money into the cash register, and taking their share. In some sense, a trip to Óbánya is a journey back in time, as the valley doesn’t only offer beautiful nature, but also a taste of a real traditional village.

You can reach Óbánya by car, half an hour from Pécs, or by bus. My only advise would be not to visit during holidays, as it can be busier than usual. Weekdays or the autumn season is perfect for this kind of trip, so it is time to pack your backpack, and I’ll meet you in the forest!

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