The Prespes lakes

Birdlife and lakeside beauty on a grand scale
Floating bridge during sunset in Mikri Prespa Lake
Scroll
Today
FRI
SAT
SUN
MON
Thrace region-id="pin-13";Macedonia Macedonia Epirus Thessaly Sporades Ionian Islands Western Greece Central Greece Attica Peloponnese Crete Cyclades North Aegean Islands Dodecanese Dodecanese Karpathos Astypalea Tilos Sitia Faistos - Matala Patmos Kastelorizo Kasos Kos Leros Halki Rhodes Symi Sfakia - Loutro Rethymno Elounda - Agios Nikolaos Agia Galini Plakias Hersonissos - Malia Ierapetra Heraklion Chania Nisyros Ikaria Lipsi Tzia - Kea Thasos Samos Lesvos Samothrace Limnos Chios Kalymnos Paros Naxos Zante - Zakynthos Lefkada Corfu Santorini Milos Kythnos Kimolos Serifos Syros Sifnos Koufonisia Ios Kefalonia Mykonos Paxi Ithaca Arta Ioannina Tinos Parga - Sivota Metsovo Anafi Sikinos Folegandros Donousa - Iraklia - Schinoussa Antiparos Zagori Mountainous Arkadia Porto Heli - Ermioni Preveza Amorgos Andros Delos Messolongi Ancient Olympia Aegina Kythira Archea Epidavros Patra Nafplio Kardamyli Kalamata Ilia Corinth Western Messinia Kalavryta Elafonissos Nafpaktos Spetses Poros Hydra Alexandroupolis Pylos Mycenae Monemvasia Loutraki Piraeus Athens Arahova Xanthi Galaxidi Mystra - Sparta Mani Edipsos Delphi Chalkida Karystos Evia Skyros Vergina Alonissos Volos Karditsa Skopelos Skiathos Kastoria Thessaloniki Prespes Agios Athanasios Edessa Serres Veria Larissa - Tempi Elati - Pertouli Trikala Pelion Meteora Drama Ammouliani Mount Athos - Ouranopolis Nymfeo Mount Olympos Katerini Halkidiki Grevena Lake Kerkini Naoussa Kozani Kilkis Kavala Pella Lake Plastira
In Macedonia, there is an exquisite watercolour of migratory birds, ancient settlements and stories from the depths of time

Two high-altitude lakes and three countries (Greece, Albania and Fyrom) that peacefully share their waters. Here in Northern Greece, there is an undefined borderline where no creature needs a passport, whether human, fish or fowl. The whole area around the lakes is called Prespa by residents of Greece, Albania and Fyrom. It’s a veritable ark of wildlife and culture. 

 

What to do in Prespes

The National Park: lakes, valleys and age-old cedars

The core of the National Park covers all of Mikri (Small) Prespa and a few lakeside areas, giving it a unique identity that was formalised in 1973 by the Ramsar Convention as an International Protected Wetland. The wetland of Mikri Prespa with its marshy valleys and reed beds constitutes the nucleus of the protected area. A second zone includes the ancient cedar forest near Mt Devas.

Hermitages and rock paintings of Prespes

From Psarades, the little village smack dab in the middle of Megali (Big) Prespa, you can set out in a small boat for a different kind of voyage. The natural beauty, along with its remote location, attracted many monks during the Ottoman occupation, who built their hermitages along the shores of the bigger lake. Today these small monastic structures, as well as the rock frescoes from the 14th to 16th century, are attractions that will give you an insight into another era. The boat is moored at a modest  jetty at the base of the rock. Leap out and start exploring.

The dance of the pelicans

The birds of Prespa play the leading roles in this adventure. And, yes, they even dance. They follow the thermal currents in the air and begin to form circles. As they rise, the radius of the circles they trace grows. One behind the other, until the whole flock is drawing circles in the air. When the leader perceives that it has flown higher than the 2000m high Mt Varnoundas, it suddenly breaks the circle and leaves. The rest copy him and off they go. But where? Like us, they’ll travel to other lakes, such as their beloved Kerkini to the east. And when they tire of that, they’ll be back.

Agios Achillios: the basilica in the heart of Prespa

The perfect photo op, this island setting has heard the click of millions of cameras and the whirr of countless videos. It isn’t just the Macedonian scenery. Thousand-year-old memories and monuments veiled in myths and legends form the ‘heart’ of Prespa. This is where Tsar Samuel of Bulgaria built a magnificent basilica especially for the mummified remains of Saint Achillios, an early bishop of Larissa in Thessaly, when he conquered that city in the 10th century. Today this romantic ruin is the most important site in Prespa. The island can be reached by a long wooden bridge.

Psarades on Megali Prespa

The road ends at Psarades, which means fishermen, and lots of them. Built at the end of a natural fjord on the big lake, it will remind you of an Aegean village. It has been declared a listed settlement.

Agios Germanos and its 11th-century church

The largest of the Prespa villages, Agios Germanos or Gherman snuggles under the rugged bulk of Mt Varnoundas and is the trademark of the area. Here you’ll find two churches joined together. The smaller one dates from the 11th century and is of inestimable value. The larger 19th-century church was added to it, drawing inspiration and perhaps a little ethereal energy from its elder partner.

 

Hidden gems of Prespes

You always know you’ve ‘bean’ to Prespes

You’ll discover that you had no idea  what beans are meant to taste like when you first try a bowl of heart-warming bean soup (fasolada) or a plateful of baked giant beans (gigantes) from Prespa. They owe their sweetness to the altitude, with the bean fields by the lake at 900m above sea level.

Rare dwarf cattle

If you’re lucky, you may catch sight of the herd of dwarf cattle, just one metre tall, grazing freely in the vicinity of Psarades and Agios Achillios island, the only place where they can be found. They are an endangered species.

Cape Roti, for a ‘supernatural’ view

Just 20 minutes’ walk from Psarades will get you to this headland at the end of the fjord, where you’ll have the whole of Megali Prespa at your feet. It’s a place of extraordinary beauty.

  • The dance of the pelicans
  • Agios Achillios: the basilica in the heart of Prespa
  • Psarades on Megali Prespa
  • Agios Germanos and its 11th-century church
  • Rare dwarf cattle
  • Cape Roti, for a ‘supernatural’ view
Highlights

Travel ideas

Shining the light on stories
Vikos Gorge, Epirus

The mountains of Greece

Forested mountains and cavernous canyons: wild, imposing and yet enchanting. Meet Greece’s most famous mountains.
Tavern Pefkospilia

Local cuisine in Greece

Explore the hidden parts of traditional Greek cuisine
Trees with golden leaves at autumn in Valia Κalda

Autumn holidays in Greece