Lake Skadar belongs to two countries, Montenegro (2/3) and Albania (1/3), and is considered the largest in the Balkans, with an area of 390 square kilometers, and 530 square kilometers when it is filled. In 1983 Montenegro made 40 thousand hectares of its territory of the lake a protected area.
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Skadar Lake National Park covers an area of 400 square kilometers, of which 391 kilometers is the lake itself – it is one of the largest in Europe, which is especially noticeable during the flooding season. It is home to 40 species of fish and is also one of the largest bird sanctuaries in Europe.
The size of the lake varies greatly at different times. During the rainy months, it is overflowing and blue, while in the summer it looks silvery and sparkles in the sun. There are about 270 species of birds, some of which (such as the Dalmatian pelican and the black ibis) are found almost nowhere else in Europe. The reason for this popularity of the lake among birds is clear, and although the most numerous inhabitants of the reservoir are carps, some fish species come here from the sea along the Bojane River. Nevertheless, this lake cannot be called brackish. The length of Lake Skadar is 43km, its width reaches 14km, and the average depth is 7m, fed not only by the numerous rivers, but also by the springs gushing from the karst floor (they are called “oke” – “eyes”), which provides a constant inflow of the clearest water. Sometimes it gives the impression that you are swimming in a clean pool. The most famous of these springs, Radus, is very deep (said to be 90 meters deep), and definitely below sea level. It springs not too far from the village of Seoka on the southern shore of the lake – such places attract anglers, who know that there is a big catch waiting for them.
There are small islets scattered along the western shores of Lake Skadar, and on some of them are built tiny secluded monasteries. Not far from Radus is a Turkish fortress with the sonorous name of Grmogur, built on an islet of rock – subsequently, King Nicholas I turned the fort into a prison like Alcatraz. According to one story, those who could swim could not be imprisoned here – and the same rule applied to the guards. If a prisoner managed to escape, his jailer was obliged to serve out his time. We are told that two prisoners managed to escape by cleverly using a large prison door as a raft.
At the northwest end of the lake is the nostalgic-looking village of Rijeka Crnojevica, once the glittering summer residence of the court of King Nikola. Even one century can change a lot.
History of the lake and local villages
Lake Skadar was known to many nations, the Greeks, the Turks, the Romans and the Illyrians had passed through it. There are no cities and towns along the shore of the lake, most of the settlements are located there. But on the shore itself are scattered many ancient architectural monuments. People have lived here since ancient times, so the traces of their culture have remained near Shkoder (the other name of the lake). Now these ruins are scattered and not always easy to reach.
Also in the middle of the lake are many small islands (about 50), which are also the ruins of settlements, forts
, churches. On the coast the most significant settlements are Virpazar and Rijeka Crnojevica. The latter was once the capital of Montenegro, but there is little reminiscent of the former significant place in the life of the country, except for the name, which comes from the first Montenegrin leader Ivan Crnojevic.
Of the local attractions are the pearl factory, where pearls were not mined but made from fish scales, and the restaurant “Konak Perjanik”, which used to supply dishes to the royal table. The restaurant is functioning now, and it is managed by none other than the ancestor of the king of Montenegro.
What is there to see?
If you want to go for a walk on the lake, it is more convenient to do it from Virpazar. There are many boats there, any of which will gladly take you on board, and its “captain” will give you a little tour and show you the best parts of the lake. But the rates for rides are not too cheap and start from 40 euros per hour, the more time, of course, the cheaper, but still expensive.
The boat, if you want, can moor to an island and you can look at its attractions. For example, not far from the settlement is the fortress Grmogur, which belonged to the Turks. It used to be a prison with a strict order. If a prisoner escaped, the jailer had to sit in his place. But there were no escapes, because most of the prisoners could not swim, and there was no way to leave the island except by swimming.
You can, however, not waste time on the prison sights, but look at the Skadar monasteries, the most secluded of which is considered “Kom”. It was built in the 15th century. Only one hermit monk lives there. And in the monastery church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin once hid the royal family of that very Ivan Crnojevic. To get to the monastery is not easy, it is surrounded by bogs, so you have to walk carefully along a narrow path.
However, people go to Skadar Lake not so much to see the local ruins, as to admire the scenic spots, which are enough here. But it should be noted that most of the area is marshy. The lake is covered with vegetation, clean clear water in this place can not be seen, so those who want to see a clean mountain lake will be very disappointed. Also, although the lake is in a hilly area, but above sea level is only 5 meters.
But here you can see more than 270 species of birds, which either live here permanently or are migratory and just stop at the lake, moving to their destination. Among the rare birds that cannot be seen elsewhere, the Dalmatian pelican can be found here. There are also more than 45 species of fish in the lake, and fishing is allowed here. In general, swimming on the lake is very exciting. You can take valuable pictures and admire the whole lilies, which are thickets here.
Rest on the lake
Artists in watercolors should come here fully armed: picturesque peaks line the shores of the largest lake in the Balkans, in which they are reflected as in a mirror. About two-thirds of the lake belongs to Montenegro, and one-third to Albania. Thus, with a total area of 391 sq. km, Montenegrins own about 219 sq. km of the lake. In addition to carp and their cold-blooded brethren, saltwater fish, from eels to the occasional sea bass, may also appear on a short stretch of the Bojana River near the lake. Sedge-covered marshes are an important nesting ground for waterfowl. The traditional enemy of local fishermen is the pelican, and who knows, maybe that’s why it’s so rare nowadays. On the contrary, the little cormorant and the carabass ibis are everywhere. One of the many islets called Omerova Gorica is home to a colony of forty gray herons, which nest among the laurels. It is said that herons usually don’t like laurels, but recently a flock of their redheaded brethren have also joined the gray herons.
Halfway along the western shore of the lake is Murici Beach, an idyllic spot for swimming: faded pebbles and clear water near a village that has been spared by time. There’s also a new Visitor Centre (open from May to October, 081 879103, email@example.com), which opened in 2007 and has three exhibitions devoted to crafts, olive cultivation and local economic activity. To the east is Beška Island, where the tiny 15th-century Church of St George stands, where you can see house owls or flocks of turtledoves flying overhead.
On the tiny island of Starcevo Gorica there is a monastery of the 14th century. The monk who lives there is a former electrical engineer who has chosen the fate of a hermit. Be sure to visit the monastery, just don’t bother the monk (“If I wanted to, I wouldn’t have settled here”) .
It is strange to think that this quiet place has been the scene of so many bloody wars over the centuries. It is said that the gravest insult for a Montenegrin is to be told that his ancestors apparently died in their beds.
No one can say how long ago this lake was here. Chronicles from thousands of years ago mention only rivers. It’s a strange thing – karst.
Skadar Lake National Park Guest Center (Vranjna, halfway down the road from Virpazar, on the Sozina-Podgorica highway, 081 658071, firstname.lastname@example.org; www.mparkovi.cg.yu, www.skadarlake.org; opening hours: 09:00-18:00, adults €3, children under 7 years €1.50, groups, students €0.50 per person, fishing permit for 1 day €5) . Literature and information on national parks, videos on plasma screens, samples of flora and fauna, ethnographic exhibition, seminar room. Souvenir shop (working hours: 09:00-16:00) : local crafts, ceramics, a good selection of books, toys, dolls in national costumes.
Excursions on the lake
Let us organize all the excursions of Montenegro Express, which has a flotilla of boats with a capacity for up to 50 passengers. There’s also a wonderful feast of priganitas (balls of fried dough, very light compared to those so beloved by Italian Americans in Rhode Island) and wormwood honey from the boatman’s own apiary, soft goat’s cheese (homemade), all topped off with a good deal of strong brandy.
But you can also make arrangements with local fishermen – lots of them are moored at the pier near the July 13 Hotel in Virpazar – and hire a flat-bottomed gondola (they are called chun here). The fisherman’s wife will probably get up early to pick for you the kerosan, a strange fruit, a cross between a water nut and an artichoke, which grows in abundance all over the lake and, oddly enough, only bears fruit when it rains. Get ready for the fisherman to give you a few caveats about his competitors and tell you how it’s advantageous to hire his boat. In addition, the fishermen know where the border is, and this is very important, because the authorities may be hostile to foreigners who walk around here without warning anyone. Skadar Lake has long been a channel for smuggling (cigarettes, gasoline, refugees), so the police would be interested in any suspicious movement.
However, in 2006, with the opening of the Guest Center, there were several other tourist companies that offer a range of excursions and programs.
If you wish to fish, it is possible to address for the permission in management of national parks: JP Nacionalni Parkovi Crna Gora (the State enterprise “National parks of Montenegro” in Podgorica: Podgorica, Bojana, Vutinic Sq; 081 634621; 081 634810) . Or you can pay the fee directly to the park employee, who will come out when he sees that you are going to fish. The license costs about 5 euros a day. Skadar Lake is a national park, and the protection of the environment is monitored here. As part of the Fourth Biennial of Prince Nikola held a seminar on the measures of additional protection of nature – in particular, on this beautiful lake. Montenegro is mindful of its goals and responsibilities as an “ecological state”.
LAKES OF ALBANIA
I will tell you about the three most famous lakes in Albania. You will learn everything travelers need to know. And most importantly, decide whether to include them in your travel itinerary or you can pass by. The article will include tips, descriptions and ideas for your independent travel in Albania.
- Table of Contents:
- Lake Skadar
- Lake Skadar
- Lake Ohrid
Lake Coman or Lake Comani
The coolest Lake Coman, read more
Lakes of Albania: general facts
- There won’t be much information here. But the most important thing to know:
- Albania is a mountainous country, not a lake country. 71% of the territory is occupied by the Alps and the Balkan Mountains. All about the mountains in Albania.
- As a consequence, there are almost no large lakes in the country. All the lakes in Albania are local, small water areas, which are not of great interest for tourists.
Also in the country there are two seas. And all about the sea in Albania, beaches and lots of tips you can read in the article: what sea in Albania.
It is useful to know:
For the above reasons, the lakes of Albania are not particularly interesting to tourists. But there are three lakes in the country, about which I will write below. I’m sure one of them will definitely interest you. Just look at the photo below.
Sailing on the ferry on Lake Koman or Lake Koman
Next, more details about each lake from the least interesting for travelers, to the coolest.
Lakes of Albania: Lake Skadar
Lake Skadar is not only the largest lake of Albania, but of all the Balkans. Its size is 42 km by 25 km. The lake is located in northern Albania on the border with Montenegro. If you look at the map, about 60% of the lake belongs to Montenegro, the remaining 40% belongs to Albania.
- The nearest large city near the lake is Shkoder. Here is an article about what to see in Shkoder. Let me say at once, Skadar Lake is not at all interesting for tourists for several reasons:
- If you look at the map, it seems that Shkoder is located on the shores of Lake Skadar. But it is not. There is no access to the lake, as well as no beaches and other infrastructure.
- You can see the lake from a few villages in the area. But honestly, it’s nothing special. It is better to drive 15 km from Shkoder to the sea to the beach Velipoya.
The best view of Lake Skadar is from the top of Shkoder Fortress, which is located on the outskirts of the city. You will find information about it at the link above. And the views of the lake from the walls of the fortress are like this.
The second largest in Albania, it is far from the sea, far from the main tourist routes. But at the same time is much more interesting and attractive for tourism.
- Here are a few facts about Ohrid:
- Located on the border with Macedonia in the mountainous part of Albania.
- The size of the lake is 30 by 15 km.
- The height above sea level is almost 700 m.
- If Skadar Lake is the largest in the Balkans, then Lake Ohrid:
- the oldest lake in the Balkans
and the deepest, almost 300 meters. And the average depth of the lake is 160 meters.
Lake Ohrid is very beautiful and it is surrounded by mountains from almost all sides. And from the embankment of Pogradec offers a view of neighboring Macedonia.
View from our apartments to Ohrid Lake, city beach and Macedonia
- (view at the link) is located right on the lake.
- There’s a great beach, a long promenade and plenty of first line accommodations with great views.
- In summer it is a full-fledged tourist center.
- Pogradec is very convenient for those traveling to or from Macedonia.
The lake has children’s slides, catamarans, boat rides, fishing.
- The disadvantages for tourists Ohrid only two:
- Very far from the coast, quite the opposite part of Albania. And far from the main attractions of the country.
Also in the country there are two seas. And all about the sea in Albania, beaches and lots of tips you can read in the article: what sea in Albania.
Useful to know:
Lake Coman or Comani
This lake will surprise you a lot and who knows, maybe you will change your plans for the sake of it.
- Lake Koman or Komani, in the original Komani is located in the north of Albania in the foothills of the Albanian Alps. There is no infrastructure, no roads. And the small settlements along the shore are so inaccessible that it is impossible to get here except by water. And yet, it is the most popular lake among tourists in Albania. And here’s why:
- Lake Coman is a rocky lake. Which was formed in a crevice of the Albanian Alps.
- Its width in its widest part is no more than 1 km. And most of it is only a few hundred meters.
- But the length of the lake is more than 50 km.
- And along the entire length of the lake there is a ferry with stops in the most remote villages:
- For the locals, it’s the road of life.
- And for tourists, it’s the coolest attraction, as the views from the ferry to the sheer cliffs are spectacular. read here.
And read about the Lake Coman ferry, schedules, prices and tips in this article: mega itinerary through the Damned Mountains.
- There are two basic Lake Coman trip itineraries: take the ferry all the way around the lake in 1 day and back again. Cool, but it could be cooler. And the second option that most people use: it’s a crazy circular route through the Cursed Mountains. It looks like this: Shkoder – Lake Coman – Valbona Valley – mountain hiking through the pass – Ses village with waterfall and Blue Eye – Shkoder. The link to the article about this route was above.
A great article with ready-made itineraries in Albania.
In conclusion: there are dozens of 4 bodies of water in Albania. But only two are of interest to travelers: Lake Ohrid in the east of the country and the insanely beautiful rocky lake Koman in the north.
Albania is not only sea and mountains!