of Northern GreeceThe natural allure of the Lakes of Northern Greece offers a multitude of reasons to escape into its breathtaking landscapes. A distinctive category within this realm is composed of the stunning lakes, both natural and man-made, each possessing exceptional beauty. Ranging from internationally significant wetlands to tranquil oases perfect for brief excursions, these lakes are scattered across urban settings and elevated mountainous terrains. Here, we introduce you to the most exquisite lakes that deserve a spot on your Northern Greece travel itinerary.
Lake Ioannina – Also known as Lake Pamvotida
Lake Pamvotida, referred to as Lake Ioannina, stands as an iconic landmark of the city in Northern Greece. It’s a lake renowned not only for its captivating beauty but also for the legends that intertwine with its waters. These include the tale of Kyra-Frosini, who is said to have met her fate drowning in the lake at the hands of Ali Pasha. The nearby Durahan Monastery is also part of the local lore, believed to have been constructed by an Ottoman soldier.
Central to the lake’s expanse lies the famed Island of Kyra-Frosini. Remarkably, this is one of the few inhabited lake islands across all of Europe. Accessible via boats departing from Molos to Ioannina, the island unveils a picturesque settlement, home to around a hundred families. Traditional houses adorned with charming gardens, narrow cobblestone alleys, and an array of shops showcasing Giannioti traditional folk art contribute to the island’s unique ambiance. Of particular note are the seven monasteries adorning the island, including the Ali Pasha Museum.
This museum holds historical significance as it was the location of Ali Pasha’s demise. Visitors can witness remnants like bullet holes in the floor, original attire, documents from the era, as well as personal belongings of both Ali Pasha and Kyra-Frosini. As an added treat, indulge in the distinctive local delicacies, such as frog legs and eels. Additionally, you’ll be captivated by the craftsmanship of Giannio’s artisans, showcasing their renowned silver jewelry and intricately carved objects.
Lake Kerkini – A Natural Wonderland
Lake Kerkini, a mere stone’s throw away from Serres city, invites exploration with its endless marvels. Situated in the northwestern region of Serres prefecture, it’s approximately 40 km from Serres and around 100 km from Thessaloniki. A product of human intervention, the lake’s inception dates back to 1932 when the first dam was constructed on the Strymon River, gradually leading to the formation of Lake Kerkini.
Strymon remains the primary water source for the lake, complemented by contributions from Kerkinitis and Krousia. The lake’s charm is enhanced by its riparian forests of wild willows, expanses of water lilies, diverse fish population, and the serene spectacle of buffalo swimming in its calm waters. Furthermore, the encompassing panorama of Mount Belles’ mountain ranges provides a splendid backdrop.
Recognized as a National Park and integrated within the European Union’s “Natura 2000” Protected Areas Network, Lake Kerkini is also celebrated on an international scale through the Ramsar Convention, designating it as one of Greece’s ten wetlands of global significance.
In the realm of Northern Greece, these lakes beckon adventurers and nature enthusiasts alike. From the legendary waters of Lake Ioannina to the expansive beauty of Lake Kerkini, each lake offers a unique tapestry of natural wonders waiting to be discovered.
Lake Orestiada (Kastoria) – Gem of Kastoria
Lake Orestiada, more commonly referred to as Lake Kastoria, graces the city with its splendor, captivating visitors during both icy winters and blossoming springs. Positioned in northwestern Greece, Kastoria seems almost like an “island within an island” due to its central placement within the lake. This lake is nourished from the west and drains into the Aliakmonas River.
In ancient times, the lake enveloped a rocky mountain, creating an islet within its embrace. Stretching over approximately 30 kilometers of shoreline and containing around 100,000,000 cubic meters of water, Lake Kastoria possesses a distinctive attribute: it freezes for roughly fifteen days each year. Historical accounts even tell of times when the ice was so thick that carts could traverse it. Housing a diverse avian population of over 200 species, Lake Kastoria provides ample bird-watching opportunities. Moreover, its fish population is abundant, contributing to its status as the second richest lake in Greece.
Lake Vegoritida – Nestled in Amyntaio, Florina
As the deepest lake in Greece, Lake Vegoritida ranks among the most resplendent ones. Offering an inviting backdrop of the Kaimaktsalan mountains and stunning sunsets, it creates an ideal haven for leisurely strolls.
This lake transcends local boundaries, lying administratively within the prefectures of Pella and Florina and under the governance of Amyntaio, Filota, and Vegoritida municipalities. It’s encircled by the Verno, Vora, and Vermio mountains and forms the lowest point within the cluster of Zazaris, Himaditissa, and Petra lakes. A network of canals and tunnels channels water from these surrounding lakes of Northern Greece into Lake Vegoritida. Throughout antiquity, these interconnected lakes fostered significant settlements.
Characterized by steep shores, the lake offers sanctuary to a diverse array of wild avian species, including whiteflies, geraniums, and the globally endangered kestrel. Designated as an Area of Community Interest within the European Ecological Network Natura 2000, Lake Vegoritida boasts remarkable biodiversity. Anglers will appreciate its offerings too, as the lake presents an ideal fishing spot for various species, providing an opportunity to combine fishing with immersion in a splendid natural environment.
Prespes Lakes – Twin Treasures of Florina
In the enchanting region of Florina, the Prespes Lakes stand as twin marvels that enthrall beholders. Embracing a superb wetland environment, these lakes, both Mikri Prespa (Little Prespa) and Megali Prespa (Great Prespa), beckon with their allure. Prespes is renowned for its exceptional natural beauty and its unique trinational status, bordering Greece, Albania, and North Macedonia(formerly known as Macedonia).
Mikri Prespa, situated at an elevation of 857 meters, and Megali Prespa, at around 852 meters, share their dominion over this landscape. Megali Prespa’s expanse extends across the boundaries of Greece, North Macedonia, and Albania, while the larger portion of Mikri Prespa (roughly 43.5 sq.km.) belongs to Greece. The remaining portion, covering less than 4 sq.km., lies within Albania. The decline in water levels of Mikri Prespa has led to the near disappearance of its Albanian section.
The biodiversity of this region is staggering, boasting over 40 mammal species, about 260 bird species, and a diverse flora of more than 1300 plant species, which includes ancient mountain cypresses. The avian population is particularly noteworthy, featuring two pelican species, the rose pelican and the silver pelican, with the latter being a rare global find. For those enchanted by unspoiled natural landscapes, Prespes offers a veritable paradise.