At the feet of the Cserhát mountains, surrounded by the Pest plain, the sandhills between the Danube and the Tisza, and the alluvial cones of the Great Hungarian Plain lies a beautiful landscape: the Gödöllő hills. At a short 30-minute drive from Budapest, in the heart of the region is the Gödöllő Hills Landscape-protection Area, established in 1990 to protect its outstanding natural and cultural heritage. The area covers the surroundings of 8 settlements, from Veresegyház through Gödöllő and Isaszeg to Pécel, a total of 11,801 hectares.Flora: Due its location, the region is a geological and climatic transition zone between the Great Hungarian Plain and the North Central Mountains. Its special mesoclimate has boosted the evolvement of a unique vegetation. The landscape is dominated by colourful mixed woods, a vivid mosaic of various species such as the common oak, the hot climate oak, the wasteland oak and the sedge-like alder. Two rare forest associations are particularly significant: the common oak and the little leaf oak are the Hungarian representatives of the cool continental steppe woodland vegetation, and occur only in small patches in a handful of places in Hungary. Various meadow associations and rich grasslands - loess plain meadows, sand plain meadows, chalky soil marsh fields - make the landscape even more diverse. In contrast with the natural vegetation, patches of cultivated land, planted forests and regulated streams are scattered across the region, which - owing to its game stock - has been a favourite hunting destination for royal families and, later on, for government officials. Among the flowering plants of the landscape, the beech, the grey alder, the thlaspi [Thlaspi jankae], the yellow blind-nettle, the finger sedge and the Hungarian erysimum deserve attention as they are rare here and normally appear in large numbers in the Central Mountains. Also present is a colourful mixture of species characteristic of the Pannonian Plain, such as the dove’s foot, the crocus, the late pink, the stock and the alkanna [Alkanna tinctoria L.], which all grow on sand.
Fauna: The fauna of the area has not yet been fully explored. The most elaborate data are on the bird population. The number of hatching bird varieties is around one hundred, including species that are rare in this region, such as the honey buzzard, the raven, the black woodpecker, the water-rail, the duck-hawk and the kingfisher. Of the species enjoying priority protection, the bee-eater and the lanner, which is present in large numbers, hatch in this area from time to time. Several other rare species, including the barn owl, the fish-hawk, the spoonbill, the grey-headed woodpecker and the ferruginous duck, can be seen in the habitats of the Landscape-protection Area at the time of migration or searching for food. Of the protected mammals, certain bat varieties, shrews, dormouses, weasels, ermines, wild cats and badgers show up more frequently. Along water streams and artificial lakes, highly protected otters also appear, mostly as winter wanderers. Amphibians and reptile species, such as the common snake, green and sand lizards, green tree-frogs and agile frogs, as well as brown and green toads are frequent visitors to the area. The list of rare species that live in the hills includes the pond tortoise, the smooth and Aesculapian snake, the Pannonian snake [Ablepharus kitaibelii fitzingeri] and the slow worm.
Historic sights: Thousands of years of human activity have also left their mark on the region. The ruins of many old fortifications, earthworks, mounds, monasteries and churches, like the remains of "Csörsz trench", the Castle Hill of Pécel, the Szent Pál Hill in Valkó, the Templomtábla path in Babatpuszta, lie hidden in the forests and grasslands. The shrine of Máriabesnyő dates back to 1759, when a bone statue of Mother Mary was found here, and a church was built in the village. There are huge old trees - called ‘picture trees’ - along the routes leading to Máriabesnyő on which pictures and statues of the Blessed Virgin had been fitted, and which were used as resting places by visiting pilgrims. The so-called Istállókastély - Shed Castle- is situated in Babatpuszta. Legend has it that the building, constructed in neo-classic style around 1820, and the ammonia-rich air of the cow-sheds located in its two wings contributed to the recovery of a member of the noble Grassalkovich family suffering of pulmonary disease. The Hungarian soldiers who died in the victorious battle over the Austrian army on 6 April 1849 were buried in the Isaszeg woods. This is from where the name Katona-pallag is derived, ‘katona’ meaning soldier in Hungarian. The historical war games which reconstruct the battle attract more and more visitors to the memorial every year. The Landscape-protection Area can be visited without restriction along the tourist paths. Please remember that preserving the values of the region is possible only with your contribution. By making sure that you keep the environment clean and undamaged, you will help many others discover this beautiful landscape.
Recommended route: From Szada, walking along the path marked with a red triangle and then with a red tourist sign, you will arrive at the highest point of the hills, the Margita-peak at an altitude of 344.2 meters, where a beautiful view opens up from the tower located at the geodetic datum mark. From here you will be able to see the Babati valley, which is part of the route. Then, following the red sign to the north and then to the east, you will reach the lands around two villages, Szada and Veresegyház. When you arrive at the red cross sign, turn south-west, and then follow the red sign in the valley in a south-eastern direction. This route will take you through an acacia forest, which is a rare sight in this area, and then through natural oak woods. When reaching Babatpuszta you will see a manor surrounded by cultivated lands and artificial lakes, which are under the management of Szent István University. This is where the Shed Castle is. Continuing your way along the path marked with the red sign, parallel to the M3 motorway, you will arrive at a spring named after Miska Pap, a one-time outlaw, which is a designated resting and BBQ place under the hundred-year-old trees. Further on, you can visit the cemetery of Máriabesnyõ, where the grave of the Hungarian Prime Minister Count Pál Teleki can be found. The tour ends at the shrine of Máriabesnyõ, where several members of the Grassalkovich family were laid to rest in the crypt. For further information please contact us at the office of the Landscape-protection Area of Gödöllő Hills: