Aggtelek

Picture of cliffs We rented a car in Kosice, Slovakia in order to get to some of the more remote parts of the region. The first area we explored with the car was Northern Hungary which has a lot of natural areas and national parks. Aggteleki National Park is literally on the border with Slovakia. It is home to a series of impressive caves and there are separate entrances throughout the region. Different caves are administered by different authorities but Aggtelek covers the biggest of them.
Picture of josvafo There are two relevant villages on the Hungarian side. Aggtelek village sits right on the border on top of a low plateau under which are the main caves. Down in a valley on the Hungarian side is the small town of Josvafő. There's not a whole lot to do here but upon arriving we found we had about 90 minutes to kill before the tour we wanted to take so we sampled both of the restaurant/cafes in town.
Picture of visitor_center There are three main visitor centers in Aggtelek. They are connected by trails over the hills and also by cave walkways underground. Of course, you can't follow the underground path without a guide. While there are all sorts of tours possible here most of them require advance reservations. Just showing up at the park the longest option is a 2 hour trip from this visitor center back down to the vicinity of Josvafő.
Picture of cave_path There was almost no one in the park when we visited in October. We had a tour to ourselves with a guide who spoke only Hungarian. This can be a bit challenging - we had hoped for English, French, maybe even German. Since we can barely count to 10 in Hungarian we relied on a lot of mime and the minimal three page pamphlet they print in English.
Picture of observatory The cave would be impressive with no guide at all. The most striking thing compared to other caverns we've visited is that the density of stalactites, stalagmites and columns never seems to lessen. There are formations with goofy names (of course) but they don't have to try very hard to find them. Any point along the lighted path is interesting. This picture is of the largest stalagmite in the cave in a room called the observatory. There's nothing here for scale but trust us, it's very large.
Picture of stalactites There are a couple obligatory cave-tour experiences - like the room where they play a light show to a bit of classical music and the spot where all the lights are turned out for a moment or two. Apart from them it's a pleasant underground hike through chamber after chamber of dripstone architecture.
Picture of detail Above ground, the park is pleasant forested hills with some hiking trails that are generally more difficult than advertised. We didn't see any hotels in Josvafő but Aggtelek has two plus a campground and it's clear that at certain times of the year the caves host a whole lot of visitors.

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