Water buffalos swim blissfully against a majestic, fairytale backdrop as huge squadrons of wild birds of all kinds animate the dramatically colored sky.
Welcome to Kerkini lake!
A breath-taking place in the shadow of Belles Mountain – just 40 Km from the town of Serres and about 100 Km from Thessaloniki – which was formed when, in 1932, a water dam was built and the area was flooded.
Today this man-made wetland has been declared as a National Park according to the Ramsar Convention and it is one out of the ten wetlands of International Importance in Greece. It is also part of the European Natura 2000 network and one of the most important, in terms of its biodiversity, wetlands in Europe.
Minimal human intervention has allowed nature to thrive in these waters. The riparian vegetation, forests of wild willows and the suspended water-lilies expand on a surface of thousands hectares, blanketing one of the top European bird-watching destinations. About 300 bird species have been observed here: some of them nest here, some spend the winter, others stop over for rest or food; among them, you can spot the Pelican and the Pygmy Cormorant which are threatened with extinction. The area also hosts the most important cormorant and heron colonies of the Balkan Peninsula. The waters are teeming with diverse fish and water buffalos that contribute to the ecosystem’s equilibrium and – with their milk and cheese – to the delicious offerings of the local cuisine.
Scientists, bird watchers and people who want to experience nature off the beaten – stereotypically sea & sun – path, are the usual visitors. Ecotourism lovers, environmental scholars and field researchers alike, all find the biodiversity of this place impressively unique. Apart from the wonderful and rare bird species, there are 32 fish species in the waters. On the shores you can meet otters, red foxes, wildcats, weasels, European polecats, beech martens and, occasionally, grey wolfs, wild boars and golden jackals coming down from the mountains to the water’s edge.
There are 25 species of reptiles and at least 4,700 species of invertebrates, more than 1,396 of which represent new species for Greece and at least 46 are new species to science, which means that until now they have been recorded only in the Lake Kerkini National Park and nowhere else in the world.
This amazing ecosystem is paired with unforgettable scenery of rare beauty. As a photographer friend once noted, this place turns amateurs into professionals for as long as they roam here; or even to naturalist painters, as the scenery around this mesmerizing place and the serene aura can easily inspire the painter in you. Imagine a sea of brightly colored flowers and lilies, moving around like waves as the wind changes direction over them in spring – the bird-watching high-season.
Activities at Kerkini Lake
At the same time the wider region is a paradise for outdoor activities. Whether you fancy unwinding with long walks and romantic boat rides around the waters, or engaging in more adrenaline-pumping activities, such as riding on horseback, bird watching, archery courses, mountain biking or off-road driving, the place is ideal.
Needless to say, the calorie loss due to all these activities can be the perfect alibi for indulging into the dishes of the, mainly fish-based, local cuisine. Oh, and don’t forget to try the local cheeses made with water buffalo milk – especially buffalo mozzarella – before you leave. It is surely worth all the calories!