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A winter tour in the villages around Prespa Lakes

08 December 2013 / 15:12:06  GRReporter
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Although you have to cross half of Greece (at least from Athens) in order to reach them, the Prespa Lakes are worth it, because of their unique beauty, biodiversity and picturesque villages.

Great Prespa is divided among Greece, Albania and Macedonia, while Small Prespa is located almost entirely in Greece, with the exception of a small part on the west, which is Albanian. Both lakes are at an altitude of 850 metres and separated by a strip of sandy land about 4 km long and 200-1,000 m wide.

There are two islands in the northern part of Small Prespa, Vidronisi and Agios Ahilios (Saint Achilles). St. Achilles is connected to the mainland by a floating bridge, which makes it easy to access. On the island of St. Achilles, you will see archaeological, Byzantine and post-Byzantine monuments. The most important basilica is from the 10th century. The cultural festival "Prespia" is also organised there in the last ten days of August and gathers internationally-renowned artists, The programme includes concerts, poetry readings and outdoor celebrations.

The villages of the lakes

Psarades

In the early 20th century, about 10,000 inhabitants lived in the villages of Prespa, which were 18 at the time. Today, only 13 villages are inhabited and belong to the Municipality of Prespa. The population is just under 2,000 in total. Inhabitants work mainly in the agricultural sector, growing mostly beans, considered the best in Greece, while fewer are engaged in farming and fishing. In recent years there has been an upward trend in occupations related to tourism (inns, agricultural activities and products).

Arriving in the area of Florina and Kastoria you will see Small Prespa first. Turn left towards the village of Mikrolimni. The villages of Lefkonas, Kallithea and Plati are on the right, and the next junction leads to Lemos and Agios Germanos. If you turn left, you will reach Great Prespa, Agios Ahilios, Pili and Vrontero.

The most famous and developed villages of Prespa include Psarades and Agios Germanos, located northwest and northeast from Small Prespa, respectively. In the pedestrian zone of the picturesque village of Psarades you will find many taverns, offering specialties of the region. You can have coffee while enjoying the tranquillity of the village.

Agios Germanos

The ancient wealth of Agios Germanos can be seen in the special architecture of its stone houses that are decorated with details, wooden balconies and gables. The village of Lemos is very close, which is the centre of the municipality, with beautiful houses, hotels and cultural activity, as well as a small ethnographic collection. There are other smaller villages, too with a low population, but which are no less beautiful. You will enjoy peace and tranquillity as well as the hospitality of the locals.

Rowing in the magic

Do not forget to enjoy the scenery, while rowing on the lakes with typical boats (called “plaves” in Greek) and visit isolated hermitages. Be sure to also visit Trietnes – the place where the boundaries of the 3 countries using the lake meet.

Stories of local boatmen are unique, like the old wooden poles of the lake, where old fishermen used to tie their boats when the water level was higher.

The National Park

Prespa National Park was established in 1974 and is protected by Greek, European and international conventions, while Small Prespa Lake is protected by the Ramsar Convention as a unique reserve. This is the largest of the 10 Greek national parks with an area of 256 square kilometres and a core of 50 square kilometres, which is a zone of absolute protection.

In 1991, a company to protect Prespa was established, assisted by the WWF, which supports the efforts of local people to reveal and protect the natural resources of their region.

In Prespa, you will find more than 1,500 species of plants and a great number of century-old junipers. As for the protection of birds, the presence of two species of pelicans (pink and silver pelican) is the most important. Besides birds, there are also a lot of mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish.

Food that is ... simply delicious

Visit traditional taverns and try fish from the lake, such as carp, rudd and fresh trout, as well as selected local meats, pickles, cheese and of course the famous local beans and wonderful wine and brandy.

How to get there:

From Athens, on the highway towards Larissa and then towards Kozani. From there, drive along Via Egnatia to Kastoria. Also, there is an air connection to the Aristotle Airport in Kastoria.

Geographically, Prespa Lakes belong to the prefecture of Florina, but you can get there from Kastoria, too, since the lakes are almost equidistant from the two capitals of the prefectures.

More information about the area as well as various places for accommodation can be found on the website of the municipality.

Tags: Lake Prespa Great Prespa Small Prespa St. Achilles Psarades Agios Germanos
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