general information

Prespes

Prespes (or as collectively called Prespa Lakes) is nestled on the northwestern corner of Greek mainland, bordered by Albania and FYROM, and covered by a mountainous area of 300 sq kilometers. The whole area belongs to the Florina regional district (Western Macedonia) with the seat of the borough lying at the village of Laimos.

The whole area is known for the two freshwater ponds, Great Prespa Lake and Small Prespa Lake respectively, set at an altitude of 850 meter approximately, which are also separated by a swallow strip of sand soil land (about 4 km long and 200-1000 meter wide). Also, their background consists of limestones, granites and granodiorites (only in Small Prespa Lake).

 

Covering an area of 273 square kilometers, Big Prespa Lake is regarded as the third largest lake in the Balkans (with a maximum depth of 55 meters). At the same time, Big Prespa Lake is acting as the liquid border between three nations (22% belongs to Greece, 18% belongs to Albania, and 60% belongs to FYROM).


Small Prespa Lake (with maximum depth of 8,4 meters) covers an area of approximately 48,5 square kilometers, of which some belong to Greece (43,5 square kilometers) and to Albania (4,5 square kilometers). However, less and less snowmelt each year has reduced the depths of the water on the part of the lake that belongs to the neighboring country.

Being a rare natural wetland in the Balkans, Small Prespa Lake is protected by Ramsar Convention.

During winter, the waters of Small Prespa Lake freezes for a long period of time. Besides, the northern part of Small Prespa Lake, is nested by two islets; Agios Achilios' islet with just 11 dwellings and the uninhabited peninsula of Vidronisi, which mainly stands as an attraction for many migratory birds, albeit locals are also paying a visit once yearly to operate Saint George’s chapel.

With only two lakeside settelements; Psarades - the only Greek village on the banks of Great Prespa Lake, as well as Mikrolimni, settled on the shores of Small Prespa Lake, the two wetlands are surrounded by 13 communities, counting approximately 1500 habitants in total. 

Inspite of the tiny hamlet known as Vrontero, which is snuggled against the backdrop of the two lakes, Agios Achilios' islet is nestled on Small Prespa Lake and connected to the land via a 650 meter floating pedestrian bridge. Kalithea, Lefkonas, Platy, Miliona, Oxya, Karyes, Pyli, Laimos and Agios Germanos complete the puzzle of the human element in the impressive natural habitat of this lake basin.

A breath away from the lake valley there are also few more villages, such as Vatochori, Kottas, Antartiko, Prasino, Trigono, Pisoderi, Vigla and Krystallopigi, the latter serves as the Macedonian border office as well as the checkpoint to enter/exit Albania.

 
 
 

Prespes are harboring over 172 species of diurnal butterflies and 1,500 plant species.

 

40

species of mammals

 

20

fish species/reptiles

 

272

bird breeds

 
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Prespes is also a habitat for some of the rarest mammals in Europe, the Eurasian river otter, the brown bear, wolf, deer, wild boar, European wildcat and the lynx, as some of the locals say.

 

Prespa’s rich flora is full of beech forests, reeds, oak trees, 1,200 fern species, alpine meadows. The unique endemic flower Centaurea prespana and the deciduous tree Betula are among the most prominent flora species, together with the only European juniper forest (a species of old cedar trees), which is also encountered in the area.

The white pelican and the Dalmatian pelican are considered the rarest from the birdlife and also threaten with extinction. Additionally, the latter breed is considered to be the largest bird on Earth – and arrives here to creating the largest reproductive colony in the world, counting over 1,200 pairs. In fact, Prespes is the only place where the two European Pelican breeds nest together and breed side by side. And again, in Platy village, a flock of pelicans have built what is considered Europe's tallest nest (950 meters long). Along with the above bird families, herons, cormorants, graylags geese, goosanders, eagles, falcons, quails, woodpeckers and nightingales are just a few of the other species perching all over the two lakes.

Most of the fish are endemic, such as mullet (Squalius Prespensis), the trout (Salmo trutta peristericus), the roach (Rutilus Ohridanus Prespensis), the endemic Cobitis Meridionalis, bass (Barbus Prespensis), Chondrostoma Prespense, Pelasgus Prespensis, Alburnoides Prespensis, and Chalcalburnus Belvica (the most common of all which and is mainly harvested during winter). The species of bass and trout that are found in the district of Agios Germano’s are thought to be a very special freshwater fish breeds worldwide.

Grazing free in Prespa Lakes, the dwarf cattle, which heights less than one meter and is threatened with extinction, is only to be found at two Prespian villages, Psarades and Agios Achilios. Bats, rodents, squirrels, hedgehogs, badgers, wild rabbits and wild foxes are few more of the animals living around the dense forests in the area.

 
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In Platy village, a flock of pelicans have built what is considered Europe’s tallest nest (950 meters long).
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Until the 1970s, a special permit and a military companion were required to visit the area.

 
 
 
 
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Prespes National Park was established back in 1974. Being confined by Greek, European and International conventions, is nowadays considered to be one of the largest of the National Forests in Europe, covering a land of 256 square kilometers together with 50 square kilometers of protected wetland. Since 2009 Prespes National Park's borderland has been expanded even more.


In 1991, the Society for the Protection of Prespa was formed under the guidance of WWF aiming to promote and protect the natural wealth of the region.

Prespa Lakes basin is enclosed (on the southeast) by Varnounta Mount and the peak of Triklario (known as Sfika), Vrontero Mount (on the west) and north as well as northeast from a series of rugged mountains (on the neighboring countries of Albania and FYROM).

A significant part of Prespes National Park and Mountain Varnountas are assigned to the largest network of protected areas: "NATURA 2000".

Apart from Prespes National Park, there are also the National Park Galichica in Macedonia, and Pelister National Park on the borders with Greece, as well as Ezeréni Shelter, which altogether along with Big Prespa Lake are part of the Ramsar Concession.

Lastly, Prespa region is traversed by the international mountain trail (E6).

 
 

Before 2001, when the floating pedestrian bridge was build linking Agios Achilios with a strip of land, the only way travel to and from the islet was by boat, which made the lives of the residents tricky during winter. Especially when the lake was frozen and everyone had to go across sliding on ice.

 
 

 
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