The National Blue Trail of Hungary

Evelin Schmidt / September 28, 2020

On top of a hill along the Blue Trail
On top of a hill along the Blue Trail

"A journey through Hungary in one and a half million steps"

Living in the countryside as a child, I have always marvelled at a particular tourist trail sign that appeared here and there in our village. The marking with a horizontal bright blue stripe between two white stripes even appeared in the very street where I grew up.

It took me years to figure out that it indicates a section of the well-known National Blue Trail of Hungary, a trail that wanders across the entire country, touching on the most wonderful places. It was not until recently, however, that I realised that there is a small blue monument sign next to the familiar blue-and-white sign in my street. Following this monument sign, which led into the cemetery of my village, I arrived to the grave of Jozsef Horvath, who I discovered was the very first person who completed the whole of the National Blue Trail.

The fact that the first person completing the trail was from and is buried in my village and that the Trail passes through the very street I live in made me particularly interested in the Trail. It did not take me long to decide – I am also going to complete the Trail!

Blue Trail sign in front of our house
Blue Trail sign in front of our house

The history of the National Blue Trail

But what is this Trail and how did it come into its current form and importance?

The first version of the Blue Trail was established in 1938 – it took the organisers 10 years to paint all the signs! The initial version was created in honour of the first king of Hungary, St. Stephen, on the 900th anniversary of his death. This first route was 900 km long and crossed through the whole country.

The next improvement came in 1952, when a slightly different and shorter route of 852 km was first referred to as the “National Blue Trail”. According to the post-world war ideology, people were encouraged to do physical exercise and get to know their country, and this trail served as a tool in that movement. People who completed the whole trail received a unique badge for their achievement and their names were registered. The already mentioned Jozsef Horvath was the first one to complete the trail and receive the badge, and in the next 10 years, 44 other people followed.

Later on, the control of the Blue Trail movement was taken over by Hungarian Rambler's Association, and in 1975 it was extended towards the west to the Austrian border, reaching its present day form. However, the Trail itself only became well-known in 1980, when a small group filmed and broadcast their completion of the Trail. The name of the organiser and editor of this series, Pál Rockenbauer, is still closely connected to the Trail, even after his death. People became aware of the possibilities of the route, and mass completion began in the 1980s.

As of today, the Blue Trail constitutes part of the bigger Blue Circle, a circular route that goes around Hungary, and is also incorporated into the E4 European long distance path that stretches from Portugal all the way to Cyprus.

 

The Trail today

Map of the Blue Trail, source: kektura.hu
Map of the Blue Trail, source: kektura.hu

As of today, the National Blue Trail of Hungary has 27 sections, ranging from 14 km to 74 km in length, stretching over 1168 km through Hungary from border to border. The total elevation of the tour in 31.550 m, while the descend is 32.130 m total. Walking along the whole trail without stopping would take 343 hours or about two weeks. As of August 2020, more than 6800 people have completed the trail.

Following one’s progress on the routes is helped by the occasionally updated National Blue Trail completion book, a small notebook that contains maps and information about all the sections. The trail has a total of 152 “checkpoints”, places with distinct stamps, which can be used to indicate the already visited places in the brochure. The notebook is personalised and cannot be passed on to someone else. If all the stamps are collected, the brochure is checked and validated, and the completer receives the commemorative badge.

Blue Trail completion book
Blue Trail completion book
Stamps in the completion book
Stamps in the completion book

The wonders of Hungary

In the west, the route starts right on the border with Austria, on top of Írott-kő mountain and ends in the north-eastern part of the country, at the Hungarian-Slovakian border, at Hollóháza. Between these two endpoints, the Trail is twisting up and down, touching on the most beautiful sights of the country. The Trail passes by historic towns, castles, springs, caves, mountain tops and lookout towers, promising to the trekker much more than just walking in the nature. The route touches on Lake Balaton, goes close to the capital city, Budapest, climbs up to Kékes-tető, the highest point of Hungary, and even includes a ferry that takes you over River Danube.

The terrain, the sights and the natural and geological formations are so varied along the route that one cannot get bored of trekking. Each section, each completed kilometre offers the trekker something unique and unforgettable.

Blue Trail mountain view
Blue Trail mountain view

The Blue Trail Day

The Trail continues to be popular, even among people who do not wish to complete it all. One very interesting communal possibility is the so-called Blue Trail Day, organised for the first time in October 2020. The goal of the event is to complete all 1168 km of the Trail in one day, in 70 groups, on 70 sections of the route. The teams of maximum 50 people start at the same time in the morning, led by professionals. The tour leaders are carrying GPS trackers and thus by the end of the day the route walked by all groups will outline the whole Trail.

The sections range from 7 to 27 km in length, so even families with kids can join. There are also some sections that offer extra activities: one where people can come with baby carriers, one where you can bring your dogs, one where you can learn Nordic walking, or one that raises awareness to charity.

Trekking along the trail
Trekking along the trail

Key Facts

  • Total length: 1168 km
  • Number of sections: 27
  • Stamping places: 152
  • Total elevation: 31,550 m
  • Total descend: 32,130 m
  • The number of people who have already completed the Trail: 6739
    (from 1952 to 28.08.2020)

 

Official website of the Blue Trail (in Hungarian): https://www.kektura.hu/

 

If you would like the know more about the possibilities that the Blue Trail offers, or maybe try it yourself, just drop us an email!