Lake Kerkini: A Greek Wonderland
Beautiful Lake Kerkini lies in the north of Greece, near the Bulgarian border. Lake Kerkini is a fresh water lake, fed by the Strymon River. The lake is pear-shaped and is about nine miles long and five miles across, when full. During growing season, water from the lake is used to irrigate crops, and then it shrinks a little.
The lake and the surrounding wetlands are bordered by the Kerkini Mountains to the north and the Marvovouni Mountains to the south. The area is well known for it's biodiversity and is considered one of Greece's most important wetlands.
At one time the marshlands were considered uninhabitable, but in the early 1900's a large irrigation reservoir was created, which along with a network of ditches and canals, controlled the flow of water and allowed the land to be used by humans. A new dam built in the 1980's gave the lake its present shape.
The Lake Kerkini area is now a pleasant vacation spot and recreational area. Available activities include boating on the lake, bicycling around the lake, horseback riding, hiking in the surrounding forest and mountains, off road 4 X 4 tours, and bird watching. You can take a guided tour of the area, or you can explore on your own.
A Bird Watcher's Paradise
Lake Kerkini is a veritable paradise for bird watchers, and in fact guided bird watching tours of the region are available. More than 300 species of birds have been observed in the area, including 140 species that call the region home and 170 species that migrate through every year on their way to the Aegean Sea, the Black Sea, and the Balkan region. If you are interested in bird watching at Lake Kerkini, you might want to time your tip to coincide with their migration.
Wetland birds that call the area home include Purple Herons, Squacco Herons, Black Storks, Spoonbills, Little Bitterns, and a variety of Warblers. Two endangered species make the area home as well, the Dalmatian Pelican and the Pygmy Cormorant. You can find these rare birds roosting near the lake. In fact, bird watching tours often include boat rides to see the birds roosting in downed trees at the edges of the lake.
In the nearby mountains, one can find even more birds, including Golden Eagles, White-tailed Eagles, Lesser Spotted Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Nutcrackers, Black Woodpeckers, and Blue Rock Thrush. Bird watching tours often include treks into the hillside as well are boat rides and walking tours around the lakeside.
The Lake Kerkini region is home to an abundant variety of wildlife in addition to birds, of course. Water buffalo live near the lake and can be seen foraging in the shallows. There are wildcats in the surrounding forest, and a variety of small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. More than one hundred species of butterflies can be found in the area. The lake is full of fish, on which many of the wetland birds feed. There is an abundance of plant life, as well, including beautiful water lilies.
Traveling to the Area
Lake Kerkini is within driving distance of the Thessaloniki airport. There are several small but pleasant hotels in the area, with well-appointed rooms and suites, lounges, home-cooked meals and fresh baked goods, and all sorts of amenities. Hotels are located right near the water, with panoramic views of the mountains. Arrangements for tours of the area, canoeing trips, boat rides, and other activities can be made at the hotels.
You can contact a hotel and make arrangements to visit the area on your own, or of course you can contact a travel agent to make arrangements for you. There are also a number of tour packages available, including bird watching tours.