Leave The Beaten Path To See The Breathtaking Landscapes At Greece's Most Unique Lake

When you imagine a trip to Greece, you may think of the city of Athens and all its history. Books about the area go back to the time of one of the first travel writers, Pausanias. Perhaps the vision in your head is that of a pristine beach on a Greek island like Mykonos or Elafonissos or wandering through the ruins at what was once the Delphi Temple of Apollo. You probably aren't picturing a beautiful lake in northwestern Serres in Macedonia, Greece.

Unlike the places mentioned above, this lake doesn't have thousands of years of history. Well, Macedonia certainly does. It's the birthplace of Alexander the Great, after all. However, we're talking about a vacation to a body of water that didn't exist a hundred years ago. Lake Kerkini in Serres didn't appear on the scene until the 1930s when a dam was constructed at Lithotopos village on the Strymona River delta. Lake Kerkini, which covers between 4,500 and 7,500 hectares (depending on the water level), was declared a national park in 2006. It's become a popular place for photographers, birders, and nature lovers alike.

An abundance of fish and birds fill the water and sky

Until the dam was built and the lake formed, this area consisted of the Strymona River delta and some forests. Lake Kerkini sits a bit under 40 miles from the town of Serres and 62 miles from the popular destination of Thessaloniki, and it stands as one of the Ramsar convention's 10 wetlands of International Importance to Greece. When you visit, depending on the time of year, you may see the blooms of waterlilies on the lake. Fish are plentiful here, with 31 different species, including the Kerkini carp, which is often in local dishes. However, this is a place of perfection if you're a birder. Aside from the fact that the species' beauty and diversity attract professional and amateur photographers from around the world, it's also a haven for these winged beauties. 

There are over 300 bird species there, including 70 protected varieties. One incredible bird you may see is the Dalmatian pelican (pictured above), which nest on the little island in the lake's center. You can check out the visitor center in Kerkini Village to learn more and get a trail map of the area. Some of the other species include pygmy cormorants, purple heron, peregrine falcon, great white egret, tundra swan, and several eagles, including the white-tailed eagle, the short-toed eagle, the lesser spotted eagle, and the booted eagle.

Take in the wonders of Lake Kerkini

Water buffalo also wander the park. (Don't approach them. That's what a zoom lens is for.) These animals are lovely to look at, and while you're in the area, visit one of the local restaurants for meat products, buffalo milk, and the cheese made from it, such as buffalo mozzarella. You may also run into wolves, golden jackals, red foxes, weasels, otters, beech martens, wild boars, and gray wolves. There are even 25 species of reptiles.

In addition to the wildlife, Lake Kerkini has plenty of hiking trails and lake options to explore. There are many outdoor activities, like fishing, but a tour of the area on horseback, such as the one offered by Gofreedly, is a must. You don't need riding experience for the two-hour excursion with a guide who can tell you about the area. You may also enjoy a photography workshop or a day trip to the lake if you're visiting Thessaloniki. There are even boat tours on the lake from the visitor's center in Kerkini village and one in Lithotopos village.