Like stunning mirrors of outstanding natural beauty, lakes in Greece reflect the splendor of the Greek landscape in their waters. It is not by chance that the Lakes of Greece, with their unique natural charm, have since time immemorial determined the destinies of mortal beings and the immortal gods of Greek mythology. Closely interconnected with human existence and the places around them, Greek lakes cast a powerful spell over their visitors.
The lake of Kastoria
Surface area: 28 km2.
Deepest point: 9 m.
With its uniquely glorious natural beauty, Lake Orestiada in Kastoria (Kastoria in Greek means beaver – the area used to have a large population of the animal) enchants visitors with its indescribable beauty. It has been calculated that the lake came into existence 10,000,000 years ago and that, in its present form, it is a remnant of an older expanse of water that covered 164 square kilometers.
Lake Orestiada makes a stunning mirror in which the fur trading city of the same name is reflected. It is home to a significant population of birds with more than 200 species, many of them rare or endangered. Swans, wild pelicans, herons, cormorants and wild duck shelter in the dense forests on the shores of the lake and the moisture-loving trees around it, which lovingly protect their feathered guests beneath the canopy of their leaves. At the first light of day, the lake erupts into life. Fishermen in traditional local boats skilfully compete with the waterfowl to catch the varied rewards the lake has to offer, such as crucian carp, carp, perch and roach. When the sun begins to dip down to the horizon, cyclists and romantically minded walkers seek tranquility and inner calm by walking amongst the gigantic copper-green plane trees that surround the oval lake.
Activities: The lake at Kastoria is ideal for water-based activities such as rowing, sailing, water skiing, fishing and boating.
Surface area: 96 km2
Deepest point: 57 m
Lake Trihonida is an unexplored wonderland of beauty and remarkable biological diversity. The lake, in the Aetolia region of Western Greece, was created by vast geological changes. This is the largest lake in Greece and, as well as being beautiful, it is a major natural habitat of enormous ecological value with significant stocks of fish.
More than 140 species of bird can be found at the lake – thirty of them endangered. The birds nestle in the reed thickets or in the area surrounding the lake. On the shores, impressive calcareous fens create habitats of special scientific interest. Centuries-old plane trees, willows, oleanders, osiers, eucalyptus trees, olive groves and citrus trees create a forest landscape of outstanding natural beauty. In spring, wild orchids, cyclamens and gladiolas give off an intoxicating scent that rejuvenates the senses, and the water itself is dotted with beautiful white water lilies.
The lake is home to a wide variety of species of freshwater fish – some of these are rare and some delicious! Taste the superb lake sand smelt, a gastronomic “must” to savor at local tavernas!
In the evening, when the sun withdraws discreetly back into its kingdom, the lights in the small villages of Arakynthos are reflected in the calm waters of the lake.
Activities: Explore the area by renting a sea bicycle or try paragliding to enjoy a birds’ eye view of the lake!
The Prespa Lakes
Surface area: 47. 35 km2
Deepest point: 8 m
Surface area: 272 km2
Deepest point: 55 m
In the Florina region, surrounded by mountains, there is a magical world of incomparable natural beauty created by retreating glaciers and a series of seismic phenomena. Two important lakes here, Great and Small Prespa, provide a stunning sight, reflecting the wooded slopes of the surrounding mountains in their waters.
One of the most important wetlands in Europe, the Prespa lakes are considered to be a paradise for migratory birds; hundreds of bird species, many of them endangered, nest and breed here, among them the Dalmatian pelican, the cormorant and the heron. Kit yourself out with the right bird watching equipment and visit the special Bird Observatory, where members of the Hellenic Ornithological Society will tell you all about the birds or even lend you a telescope to observe them.
Don’t forget to cross the floating bridge leading to the island of Saint Achilios in Small Prespa and admire the ruins of the 10th-century church of the same name. Visit the caves where hermits used to live and admire the rock paintings which can be seen at Fishermen Bay or along the shores of Great Prespa. At the end of your tour of the lakes, wander around the traditional settlements of Psarades (meaning Fishermen) and Aghios Germanos, where you can also try a meal of carp, one of the delicious fish found in the lake, Florina peppers and Gigantes beans accompanied with a little local tsipouro (a clear schnapps-like spirit).
Activities: Don’t miss out on the opportunity to go on a romantic boat ride across the Great Prespa Lake on traditional boats called “plaves”.
Surface area: 25. 2 km2
Deepest point: 60 m
Also known as “Little Switzerland”, Lake Plastira is surrounded by an idyllic landscape of unspoiled natural beauty that steals visitors’ hearts as soon as they set eyes on it. One of the biggest artificial lakes in Greece, the lake was created on the site where the Tavropos River used to flow in antiquity towards the Acheloos River further south. This marvelous stretch of water was created thanks to the vision of Nikolas Plastiras (after whom it was named), who wished to create an impressive dam that would bring great benefits to the whole area. Green mountain peaks bestow even greater beauty on the region and fast-flowing streams embellish the breathtaking scenery. Every season here has its own beauty and adds to the charms of the Agrafon region for thousands of visitors all year round.
Activities: A host of activities are available for visitors to explore nature in the area, including canoe-kayaking, sea biking or a trip in a traditional pirogue (a small flat-bottomed boat).
Surface area: 23 km2.
Deepest point: 5 meters
This well-known lake was in ancient times known as “Pamvotis” (the great provider). Situated right next to the city of Ioannina, this uncommonly beautiful Lake is a true gem of the Ioannina Basin region. With a fascinating history full of legends and traditions that go back centuries, the lake of Kyra Frosini * has become famous beyond the borders of Greece.
The lake is supplied by the springs of Mount Mitsikeli, of Drabatova, Sendeniko and Krya. Its waters are usually calm, though it freezes on occasions. It exerts a mysterious charm over the locals, who spend sunny summer days on its shores, revels in the morning mist around its banks or walks next to it on melancholic winter’s evenings.
There are thick reed beds around the lakeside as well as dense thickets of willows, poplar trees and huge plane trees which offer shelter from the wind to a host of local and migratory birds. Herons, grebe, snipe, swans and cormorants all “earn their daily bread” by snacking on the local fish population.
The lake has two main features: a dream-like peninsula with its historic castle and towering minarets and the small island – the only island in Greece to be inhabited and yet not have a name – which basks in its green waters.
Little boats will ferry you through the local nature, past historic monasteries and into the picturesque fishing community, where the real heart of the island beats. Sample some of the desserts that Ioannina is famous for, enjoy the warm welcome the locals offer guests or try some of the popular local snacks, such as carp, eel and frog’s legs.
The secrets of the lake are well hidden in the shroud of the morning mist. They await you when you take a trip through legend and history.
Activities: The Lake offers perfect conditions for water skiing, rowing and canoeing, as the wind in the area is usually very favorable.
*Interested in the story of Kyra Frosini? She was a beautiful young girl that asked her parents to allow her to marry a Greek merchant from Venice so as to avoid being forced to join the harem of Ali Pasha, the local ruler (she was only 12 years old). One day, when her husband was away, Muhtar (Ali’s son) fell in love with her (although he too was already married). Unfortunately, Ali Pasha also liked her, so he sent his son abroad on a military mission to be able to get close to her himself. She refused his advances, so he accused her of prostitution and ordered her to be executed (along with 16 other girls) by being drowned in the lake! The year was 1801. The story of Kyra Frosini is so popular that many taverns, cafes and boats on the lake are named after her.