Area: 11,488 ha
Biogeographic region: Sand Ridge
Located in the middle of the Danube-Tisza Interfluve, this area is the largest territory of the National Park and has the most diverse topography. Although the surface is mostly covered by pure sand, it is not a flat and tree-less waste but the exact opposite. There are two large dune ranges in Bugac, constituting nearly 70% of the entire area. With respect to geomorphology, it greatly resembles the Fülöpháza and Orgovány Sand Dunes. Wind-blown grooves, dunes and eroded ridges follow each other in densely packed order. The altitudinal difference between ridges and grooves can be as large as 20 m. Highest points have always had important roles in the life of local people, which is reflected in their names, e.g. Messzelátó hegy (’Hill of Farsight’), Lóállás (’Horse Point’), Betyár-állás (’Bandits’ Wathcpoint’) and Pipagyújtó-hegy (Pipe-lighter Hill’). The dune range descends into Bugacpuszta in the northeast, though the surface is not totally flat there either. Due to the aridification of the region, soda lakes have disappeared and the dune slack fens have also dried out.
Dune tops and steep dune slopes are covered by open sand steppe vegetation. Drought-tolerant Juniper-Poplar groves used to inhabit dune slacks but by now they have spread out to other localities as well. This vegetation type is frequently referred to as Ancient Juniper Grove. Wildfires destroyed these magnificent ecosystems near the villages of Bócsa (1,600 ha) and Bugac (1,100 ha) in the last two decades.
The sand quickly heats up at forest edges and in forest glades in early spring, waking up nature from its winter sleep. First flowers include Pulsatilla nigricans, Potentilla arenaria, the tiny-flowered Spring Sandwort and Viola kitaibeliana. The flower cover of the dunes reaches its full potential in May. Three orchid species bloom under the poplar trees of the Ancient Juniper Groves, namely Red Helleborine, an endemic subspecies of Dark-red Helleborine and Epipactis bugacensis, which was discovered only in 1994 and has been found only in the Danube-Tisza Interfluve.
Dyer’s Alkanet and Sprawling Needle Sunrose prefer open sand surfaces, which can also be told about the yellow flowered Sedum hillebrandtii, Onosma arenaria, Dwarf Everlast and Iris arenaria. Sandy habitats are also worth a visit in autumn, as this is the flowering time of the endemic Colchicum arenarium.
One can see hundreds of locusts jumping all around when walking the puszta. A couple of years ago, naturalists of the National Park found a population of Saga pedo in the area. This is a predatory grasshopper, reaching a body length of 10 cm, which qualifies it for the “longest insect of Hungary”. Balkan Wall Lizards and Green Lizards like to sunbathe in sun-lit sites. The loudest inhabitants of the meadows and forests are the birds. Common species include Eurasian Jay, European Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Turtle Dove and European Oriole. The Common Buzzard is getting more and more common; it is usually seen while circling high in the sky. Holes in the trees serve as nesting sites for Starlings, Jackdaws and European Rollers. European Rabbits have become rare but Wild Bore and Roe Deer have increased in number and the Golden Jackal has returned to the area.
According to old maps and the studies on peaty sediments, a stripe of fen habitats lied at the interface of the dune range and the puszta, but the tussock sedge stands have disappeared due to the regional water shortage. The vegetation of the puszta is strikingly different from the vegetation types discussed so far owing to the higher water availability, better soil quality and regular human land use. Ancient Hungarian livestock breeds, which used to be owned by the town of Kecskemét, have been part of the landscape for centuries. Typical animals include Hungarian Grey Cattle, Racka Sheep and the Stud of Bugac. An observant visitor may also notice that the surface cover of vegetation is higher in the puszta than in the dunes. The original vegetation type is assumed to be closed sand steppe. Unfortunately, the former soda lakes of the puszta, which used to provide moist wetland habitat for wildlife, are permanently dry now.
The area of Bugac has also been an important touristic destination for nearly a century. Great experience awaits tourists on the study trails, in the Shepherd Museum and in the local type of restaurants, called "csárda”.