The large circle tour of South Zala is recommended for experienced cyclists for a 2-day-long period, counting with stops at the experience elements into consideration (accommodation in Gelse and Zalakaros). The route, with a few exceptions, is covered in asphalt; therefore, the tour can be completed with street bikes, too.
Note, the section between Kilimán-Zalaszabar includes strong ascents and descents.
The route offers a unique experience: you can visit ethnological and architectural monuments, stop at unique panorama points, learn about local products and taste the culinary specialties of the region.
The tour goes around the shoulders of the Zala hills. (Tour around the TV tower.)
The tour starts from the parking lot of the thermal bath in Gelse. The spacious and spectacular interior of the thermal bath provides a good atmosphere and pleasant pastime for both children and adults. Those who prefer engaging in sports can do so in the 25 m swimming pool. The water mushroom makes splashing around more fun for the children. If you had spent enough time in the water, and want to treat yourself, you can relax in the Finnish saunas, steam cabins, infrasaunas, salt cabins, and standing solariums of the bath. The thermal bath is temporarily closed due to technical reasons, it is planned to reopen at the end of 2014.
Moving on from the bath towards the village, you can visit the baroque church of the settlement. On the dome ceiling of the Visitation Church you can see the coronation of Mary. It is worth gazing closely at the altarpiece depicting Mary’s visiting Elizabeth. Left from the sanctuary, the fresco of Jesus’s baptism can be seen above the baptismal font.
You leave the settlement northwards. Along the road, not long after leaving the settlement, you can see the Jewish cemetery, then a little bit later between Gelse and Kilimán the apple trees appear. You can buy several kinds of locally grown apples in the cold store on weekdays. Continue your trip in Kilimán until you reach the church. On the right, there is an intersection. The road turns towards Kerecseny, Orosztony. Turn right and leave Kilimán eastwards.
The road leading to Kerecseny from Kilimán is like a real rollercoaster. After the section full of ascents and descents the road bends to the right, passes a meadow, then on the right hand side Kerecseny appears. As the signpost indicates, turn right at the instersection in the direction of the village. The dead-end village is surrounded by hills. Its main natural attractions are its geographical location, the Pannonian landscape between the hills with the grazing flocks of sheep.
Families enjoy visiting the animal park, where indigeneous domestic animals are found on several hectares of land. Racka sheep, goats, ponies and mangalica all got used to the friendly people petting them. You have the opportunity for horseback riding, donkeyback riding, milking goats and cows, or help the hosts collect eggs and feed the hens. The locally produced sour cream, cottage cheese, and cheese is frequently sold at the farmers market of the region.
To continue the tour, return to the road at the settlement boundary. Orosztony is approximately 2 km away from here. Cycling in the small streets of the settlement, you can visit the memorial park and the church. (Keep to the right at the first intersection, then turn left at the park of the village.) The memorial park in the middle of the village has a playground and provides hikers with an opportunity to relax. The park was built dedicated to the 2000th anniversary of Christianity and the millenial of the foundation of the state. In the middle, 3 wooden columns are erected to commemorate these anniversaries. The other sight of Orosztony is the Holy Trinity Church, by its entrance you can see the Holy Trinity Statue. (The church is in the street in front of the memorial park.)
From Orosztony continue the tour towards Zalaszabar. At the first intersection after the village, go straight ahead in the direction of Pogányvár.
The vineyard in Pogányvár is one of the most excellent wine-growing regions of Zala county. According to written documents, people began to engage in viticulture and vinification already in the 1700s in the area. From the 298 m high hilltop, the view of the Kis-Balaton and its surrounding settlements is spectacular. There is also a weather station at the highest point of the hill, however, it cannot be visited.
After the detour in Pogányvár, go straight ahead in the direction of Zalaszabar. It is another example of the hilly Zala landscape. The traffic is low on the road, but rely on the acceleration induced by the sharp turns carefully. One section of the road runs through the forest, if you remain silent, you may see foxes, roe deer or deer. Arriving at Zalaszabar, a signpost indicates the way towards Kápolna Street. Here you can ride your bike up the vineyards, where the Zobori Adventure Zoo offers a great active entertainment opportunity primarily for children. From the territory of the adventure park, the view over the Kis-Balaton is spectacular.
After visiting the Adventure park, return to the main road and go back to the village center. (Puskás Ferenc’s bust is on the Main Square of the village.) Turn right, and go along the Kis-Balaton in the direction of Zalakaros. The first settlement you arrive at is Nagyrada. There is a special rest area in the village center. Next to the community center, an open-air fitness park was built, where you can drink some fluids, or have the opportunity to methodically move your muscles. After the refection, continue the trip southwards. The next settlement is Garabonc.
First, you arrive at Kisrada, then after a sharp left turn, you reach the center of Garabonc. It is worth visiting the vineyard here, as well. The Kránicz wine house is in the vineyard, from the patio the view over the Kis-Balaton is spectacular. The Kránicz family – father and son –awaits the visitors with a friendly service, local wine and Hungarian dishes prepared according to traditional recipes. Gourmets can try a glass of Sauvignon, Welschriesling, and muscat during a pleasent friendly chat.
The other attraction of Garabonc is the Garabonciás Farm. This is not only a small agricultural business but an „adventure economy”, as well where you can go horseback riding, driving, as well as try and purchase local products. The services of the farm expanded in 2013, when the 7 Chieftains Historical Adventure Park opened. The complex depicts the history of Hungary from the era of the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin until the last Hungarian king in a light-hearted way.
You can reach Zalakaros from the north on the cycling path. During the tour, you can visit the old church of the settlement and the Szilágyi Confectionery.
The Szilágyi Confectionery is a family business founded in 1977. You can always find biscuits made from seasonal fruit there, and you can taste the „cake of the country”.
The last program of the day is visiting the thermal bath in Zalakaros.
Go southwards from the bicycle center in Zalakaros in the direction of Galambok. The Roman Catholic church can be found in the village center. Walking around the building, you can see the baroque construction features implemented into a rural setting. It is worth entering the church that was consecrated in 1809 to see Jr. Dorfmeister István’s, an Austrian artist’s, frescos. The artist’s late baroque works, altar and wallpieces can be found in other churches of the county, as well. Next to the baroque church is the parish house, also built in baroque style, where during the summer, junior camps are organized.
The country house is in Somogyi Béla Street in Galambok, hardly 500 m from the church. The walls of the building are made of mud and a stolen porch similarly to the traditional peasant houses has a tripartite arrangement: it consists of one room, a kitchen and a chamber. From the porch you can enter the beam and boards covered rooms. The agricultural building next to the country house also has three parts: the stables, barn and hutches. The buildings of the village represent the typical construction habits of the past.
From the country house, continue the tour in the direction of Nagykanizsa. After a right turn, you can decide which way to go: If you're still going left on the main road, you can reach the main road nr. 7, but you may also turn right at the intersection.
In Galambok, leave the main road towards the old road nr. 7 in the direction of Zalasárszeg, Nagyrécse.
You leave the settlement on a less busy, narrow paved road. Soon on the right side of the road, the contiguous rows of pear trees appear in Zalasárszeg .
This pear tree plantation has the largest area in the country.
As you get further away from the pear trees, the landscape also changes. Gentle slopes replace the relatively flat terrain. At the bottom of one of the slopes an access road opens to the right, towards the Kendlimajor.
Several tourists and artists visit the farm annually. Visitors come to one of the most beautiful holiday destinations of Transdanubia, the Czinka Nostalgia Farmhouse. Even the name suggests that the touristic service it offers is presenting the old rural lifestyle. The different objects, household items, and agricultural machines give a detailed overview of the life of our ancestors.
The facility consists of five old farmhouses and two apartments with antique furniture, bathroom and kitchen facilities. Visitors can choose from a diverse range of programs, be it education or horseback riding, archery, gardening, petting animals, walking or cycling tours. Those who do not mind working can have their share of farming life and may even drive tractors.
The artist residency in Kendlimajor enjoys great popularity, each year 30-40 artists visit it. The annual international art camp attracts a lot of art lovers. During the two-week-camp, you can meet several outstanding Hungarian artists, but many other nations such as German, Russian, Bulgarian, Latvian and Italian are representated, as well. At the end of the camp an exhibition presenting the finished works is held, which can be visited by anybody free of charge. After looking around, return to the intersection and continue the trip westward.
The paved road meets the center of Kisrécse from the right, then after a few km it reaches Nagyrécse.
To get to the center, turn left after having passed the cemetery.
There are two buildings in the center, which visitors should check out.
The Neo-Romanesque form of church was initatied by Baron Inkey during the 19th century reconstruction. In the sanctuary, the romantic style altarpiece created by Orlai Petrich Soma draws the attention. The painting shows St. Ladislaus bringing water to the ground from the rocks. According to tradition, the local painter based the portrait of St. Ladislaus on Inkey László, a feudal lord. The altarpiece was owned by the Diocesan Museum of Veszprém for several years, only recently has it been returned to its original position.
Opposite of the church is the Inkey family residence, the Inkey castle or mansion, which is now operates as the community center. It is worth going for a short walk in the castle park, where a Himalayan cedar tree with a circumference of 5.2 meters and a 6.7 meter-trunk of a Sequoioideae can be seen.
After the detour, return to the northern end of the village and continue the tour further west.
Leaving Nagyrécse, the road on the right hand side leads to the Bacónaki mountain on the right.
The path here soon becomes covered with crushed stone and then it turns into a dirt road. The Bacónaki mountain is one of the most popular attractions of rural tourism in South Zala.
On the Kisbacónaki hill, a small chapel awaits its visitors. The church was built around 1740 for that part of the settlement that once stood on the mountain.
It is sworth visiting the vineyard during the summer, at the time of the chapel’s saint’s feast day, the traditional Magdalene farewell day. After the Mass, a fair and numerous cultural activities are organized in front of the chapel.
Return to the old road No. 7 and move on towards Nagykanizsa. Passing the asphalt plant and having crossed the overpass of the M7 highway, turn right at the first intersection and go along the road of the industrial park service of Kanizsa. At the end of the road, after turning left then right, on the right hand there is the Inkey chapel. Here cross the intersection and go along the bike path continuing the trip rightwards. Having crossed Palin, continue the tour on the side road leading to Pacsa.
Leave the road nr. 74 towards Pacsa at Újudvar Kámáncspuszta. After about 3 km, you can already see the settlement of Újudvar.
Arriving at the settlement turn right at the Blue Shark Lounge so that you can take a look at the spectacular view by the TV tower after cycling nearly 5 km (alternative route), but you can continue your journey towards Gelse as well.
Let's move on to the main road to the north. Leaving the settlement, you can catch a glimpse of the typical building of Morgánypuszta, the mansion after the branching of Magyarszerdahely.
Go straight north.
Shortly after Morgánypuszta the houses of Gelsesziget start to appear. It is worth visiting Zoltán Szijártó’s, a cooper, (Fő u. 27.) where you can admire the products of a special profession.
After visiting the chapel, there is a rest area right under the shady trees waiting for the weary traveler.
You arrive on flat terrain to Gelse from Gelsesziget.
In the center of the settlement, you can find the already familiar buildings.
After a busy day, you should take a rest in the youth hostel or have dinner at the 7 Devils Inn.