Lake Skadar, is the largest lake, not just in the Balkans, but Southern Europe. Covering an area of approximately 400 square kilometres; its western two thirds are part of Montenegro and its eastern third is Albanian. It’s approximately 44 kms long, 10 kms wide and has an average depth of 8 metres; 60 at its deepest point. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011.
It’s a karst freshwater lake, with springs that bubble and feed it from underneath. Millions of years ago, it adjoined the sea, as evidenced by fossilised remains, but shifting tectonic plate activity subsequently cut it off. The Montenegrin part has been a National Park since 1983; the Albanian part since 1996.The climate is hot summer mediterranean.
This is one of the world’s top wetlands, making it one of the best birding locations in Europe. Some 270 species of bird are resident, with upwards of 50,000 choosing to winter here. It has one of the last remaining populations of European pelicans and there are rare pygmy cormorants. Falcons and eagles soar high above the rugged mountainsides, catching thermals. Floating meadows of water lilies occupy vast areas of the lake’s coastline, attracting thousands of water birds, as well as being beautiful to look at.
The waters are clean and pure, fed by meltwater from the surrounding snow covered mountains, as well as from underground springs. The lake is populated by a significant number of endemic species and is especially rich in rare snails and molluscs. There are over 30 species of fish, including carp, bleak, eel, pike, perch, trout and saran, a local speciality, good for the table. The countryside’s rich in wildlife and home to a variety of lizards and other amphibians, including a range of snakes.
It’s is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, with excellent hiking in rugged terrain, offering spectacular views, and the chance to get real solitude away from the crowds that plague modern day living. Not surprisingly, it’s a mecca for birdwatchers from all over the world, as well as for kayakers and water sports enthusiasts.
Small islands, like Beška, with two Orthodox Christian churches on it, dot the lake, especially in the Montenegrin part.
To the west, rolling hills change colour with the ever changing light, with lovely hues of blue and green rippling to a distant horizon. To the north, the horizon is fringed with snow capped mountains. The countryside surrounding the lake is dotted with vineyards, producing world class reds from the Vranac grape, and excellent whites from the Krstač grape, as well as myriad small holdings growing many types of fruit and making renowned wild honey.
Lake Skadar and its surrounds are a wild, natural, unspoilt landscape. If you want to experience nature at its very best, somewhere off the beaten track, then this is the place for you.