Spectacular cycling routes near Budapest; Szentendre and Szentendrei-sziget

35 kilometre cycling route just outside Budapest, along the Danube and Szentendre Island

The spontaneous creatures that we be, we set up the bike rack on my Subaru outback, and packed up for a cycling tour around and near Szentendre. Of course we know the town well; we bring students and family here whenever they visit. Alfonz and I decide, just the two of us today, and we dropped the kds at the train so they could meet up with friends for lunch.

The city of Szentendre is located right along the Danube River; although these days she seems more green/grey in colour; in Pest country, between Budapest and the Pilis-Visegrad mountains. The town itself has loads to see, winding streets that take you up to an 18th-century Greek Orthodox Blagovestenska Church with a views of the town below. Shops, restaurants and museums line these cobblestone walking streets, and tourists flock here to enjoy its charms.

Today we decided to explore the Szentendre Island (Szentendrei-sziget) a 56m2 island located on the Danube turn, and home to the towns of Kisoroszi, Tahitótfalu, Pócsmegyer, Surány, Szigetmonostor and Horán. There are farmlands, orchards and vineyards, but the main role of this beautiful island is water supply to Budapest. It is accessible by bridges and ferries, and gives visitors a lovely escape from the everyday, offering rural paths along the Danube River, and shores to enjoy the water and sun.

We started in Tathiótfalu on the Northern part of the Island where we parked in front of the town hall, and took our bikes North looking for lunch. We stumbled across a nicely paved elevated road, and an older man with his grandchildren walking along. I asked him, which way would be best to travel on? He said most cyclists start at Szentendre on the mainland side, and then do a large circle through the island and back by ferry. He said it would be about an hour to get to Szentendre for lunch. I told him my husband would not make it back if we had to wait that long!

We decided to try to find the pizza place about 30 minutes North against his advice, and we followed the paved road until it turned to a dirt road and the dirt road until is turned into an overgrown jungle. Laughing at our mistake, covered in leaves, stung my poison ivy and my chain came off, we turned around, retraced our steps back to where we had seen the man and took the man’s advice, over the bridge and headed off the island on the paved roads towards Leányfalu where the bike paths begin or end depending on which way you travel. Of course, by 13:30, without breakfast, I was starving and Alfonz turned into a stand-up restaurant on the side of the road, full of locals eating standard Hungarian food. We ate chicken, salad and classic fish soup. Refueled, smiling and ready to go, we continued our adventure.

We then continued towards the paths, which took us right next to the river, surrounded by thick forests, old oaks and giant spruce trees. In the 31° weather we felt a cool breeze off the water, and were in shade the entire way. A fairy kingdom, light trickled in from the branches above. We stopped to admire summer homes built on stilts to avoid any flooding the Danube is famous for, and to check out the beaches along the shores. Some place even shipped in sand to give the exact right feel of the sea, and the river lapped the shores as the boats went by. It reminded me somewhat of growing up on Vancouver Island, and the Cowichan River, the same end of summer feel, the breeze a little cooler than even a few days ago, the sun a little lower, a little weaker, but our spirits were up as we made our way exploring the water’s edge.

In Szentendre we went for coffee, took a water break, lapped the town three times looking for my favourite salted caramel ice cream, and when that failed, we headed back towards the ferry to cross over to the island and make our way back. By now we had already done 20 kilometres and after crossing we had about 15 left. In total 35 kilometres were cycled that day.

Once over, the path went on the dyke, created to stop the houses from flooding on the island side. These home were more for permanent residents than summer homes, with two family cars parked in the driveways outside, fully set up lives within. It felt like a lake house community, the kind you might find around Harrison lake or in the Okanagan, with shady trees and the smell of water everywhere. I loved it. Much like pedalling along the Canal du Midi but

By the end my neck and hands were hurting, it was nearing 17:00 and 5 hours of cycling had definitely made its mark on my body. I had slipped gears and badly hit my inner thigh, and stumped my toe. But the trooper I am, I trucked forward, held my breath and did not complain. My bottom was aching from Daniel’s tiny bike seat, and I looked to my left and saw two enormous horned cows. I had to smile, a random animal tied up to graze, a sudden surprise, just enough of a distraction to make it back to the car.

I love hanging out with my guy. The older we get the less time we have, but soon enough the kids will leave the nest and the dream is to take more cycling tours. But late starters as ourselves, we can only hope our bodies keep up with our ambitions.

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