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Albanian Lakes

Albanian Lakes: Top 10 Lakes to Visit in Albania

Albanian lakes are among the largest in the Balkans, although some are split between the neighboring states. These beautiful water bodies offer some stunning views, tourist activities, and attractive ecosystems; Albania’s top ten lakes to visit are as follows. 

1. Lake Shkodra (368 sq. km/ 142 sq. mi)

Lake of Shkodra is the largest lake of southern Europe, with a total surface of 368 sq. km/ 142 sq. mi. The lake is shared between Montenegro and the Albanian Republic. The surface of the Albanian part is 149 sq. km/ 57.5 sq.mi. Lake of Shkodra forms large plains surrounded by mountains, villages, and cultural attractions; a colorful blend that easily inspires visitors and artists. The area is the perfect escape from the cities and urban centers. The road between lakeside towns of Shiroka and Zogaj, dedicated mostly to pedestrians and cyclists, offers the opportunity to be very close to a rare nature. 

Lake of Shkodra hosts an impressive fauna and flora too. There are some 50 distinct fish species including eel, bass, European sea sturgeon, European perch, and carp, among which 18 specimens are found nowhere else in the world. The lake is also one of the largest bird reserves in Europe with 270 species including the Dalmatian pelican, cormorant, spoonbill, white egret, yellow heron, and whiskered tern. The range of flora species is also abundant. Forests of white willows and oaks surround the landscape while white and yellow lilies, protected orchids, and Dalmatian crocus pop out of the marches.

The Montenegrin part of lake of Shkodra was declared a National Park in 1983 while the Albanian part was declared so in 2005. The epic lake is the source of energy for the surrounding areas such as Shkodra and towns of Malësi e Madhe, affecting on the Albanian side a population of 150,000 people. 

Rent a bike or become part of an excursion to lake Shkoder and enjoy swimming in secluded beaches, pedaling, bird-watching, and fish dishes.

Lake Shkodra is the largest lake in the Balkans.

2. Lake Ohrid (358 sq. km/ 138 sq. mi)

Lake Ohrid is one the the oldest lakes in the world and the deepest in the Balkans (reaching a maximum depth of 285 metres. 935 feet). It took the lake some 4 million years to get into its current state since the soil began its shift on the western side of the Dinaric Alps. Lake Ohrid is split between North Macedonia and Albania. The lake forms a unique ecosystem of worldwide importance, hosting some 200 distinct endemic species. One of the most famous of such species is Koran also known as the Ohrid trout, widely used in traditional and delicious dishes prepared in the taverns and restaurants along the lake. 

The varying blue colors of the water merging with the skies and mountains in the horizon are a perfect inspiration for artists and people who seek motivation. In 1980, UNESCO proclaimed the North Macedonian part of the lake as a Natural Heritage Site. In 2019, the international organization included the Albanian part in this list. 

Lake Ohrid is the most voluminous lake in the Balkans.

3. The Great Prespa (272 sq. km/ 105 sq. mi)

The Great Prespa Lake, near the southeastern Albanian city of Korçë, represents an incomparable natural beauty. This freshwater trans-border lake is shared between Albania, North Macedonia, and Greece with a total water surface of 272 sq. km/ 105 sq. mi. Created by retreating glaciers and a series of seismic activities over millions of years, the lake provides a stunning view, unharmed by human activity. The Great Prespa lake is one of the most important wetlands in Europe, hosting hundreds of bird species among which many are endangered, such as the Dalmatian pelican, cormorant, and heron. 

The Great Prespa stands in between the borders of three countries: Albania, North Macedonia, and Greece.

4. Lura Lakes (combined 12.8 sq. km/ 5 sq. mi)

In Lura highlands there are some 14 small glacial lakes with a combined surface of some 2.8 sq. km/ 5 sq. mi. These round shaped lakes stand at an altitude of 1,350-1,720 meters/ 4,429-5,643 feet). At such high altitude the lakes freeze during winter while some of them evaporate during summer. The ideal period to visit these lakes is during spring when colorful flowers vest the mysterious lakes with an intoxicating beauty. The largest of the lakes in Lura is “Liqeni i Madh” (“The Great Lake”) with a surface of 32 ha. Each lake stands as a separate souvenir in the impressions, memories, photographs, and inspired artworks of the visitors. The Lura Lakes are part of the Lura National Park. Many other mountain creeks flow through this park giving energy and rhythm to a marvelous nature.

Lura Lakes are numerous, small, and unique.

5. Dumrea Lakes/Lakes of Belsh (combined 6.40 sq. km/ 2.5 sq. mi)

Dumrea is a very fertile and pleasant region near Tirana and Elbasan, famous for its numerous karstic lakes. It has a total of 84 lakes of different sizes with a combined total surface of 6.40 sq. km/ 2.5 sq. mi and water carrying capacity of 26 million cubic meters. 26 of Dumrea’s lakes are available for controlled fishing while all can be used as irrigation sources. Located at a low altitude of about 160 meters/ 525 feet above the sea level, the unique ecosystem of Dumrea offers amazing opportunities for agricultural businesses, Eco-tourism, application of water sports, and exploration of small but meaningful natural treasures. 

The main town of Dumrea is Belshi while some of the most important lakes are “Qendër” or “Belsh” lake, “Seferani”, “Dega”, “Merhoja”, and “Gjoli i Gjatë”. From these we can single out the lake of Belsh that dominates the east and southern side of Belshi town. The green scenery, modest rural households, and the waterfront with a small pier surrounding the lake create a warm and relaxing atmosphere. 

Dumrea Lakes of karstic origin spread across a beautiful fertile plain in Central Albania.

6. Lake Butrint (16 sq. km/  6 sq. mi)

Lake Butrint is technically a salt lagoon in southwest Albania, linked with the Ionian Sea through the Vivari channel. Yet, since these waters cover a large surface of about 16 sq. km/  6 sq. mi, the area is classified by many as a lake. Lake Butrint is a very unique ecosystem, surrounded by dense vegetation, rocky coast, and ancient archaeological sites. Salt waters from the sea mix with fresh waters present in its sediments through rainfall or inland creeks. This unusual combination provides a very dynamic hub for plants and animals.

The lake is famously known for the cultivation of delicious mussels with a potential capacity of producing 10,000 tons of mussels per year. In the southwest corner of the lake stand the ancient ruins and fortresses of Butrint, a World Heritage Site protected by UNESCO. Visitors can enjoy both the splendor of Butrint’s popular heritage sites as well as the natural treasures and brilliant views of the lake.

Technically a lagoon, lake Butrint stands where splendid ancient civilizations thrived.

7. Lake Koman (13 sq. km/ 5 sq. mi)

Lake Koman is formed by the River Drin’s cascade, in the northern part of Albania. It cuts through dense, forested mountains thus forming narrow gorges similar to the famous Scandinavian fjords. The lake has a surface of 13 sq. km/ 5 sq. mi and at its narrowest point is only 50 meters/ 164 feet wide. Ferry lines and other smaller boats operate regularly along the lake, taking tourists from Koman village to Fierza and back. Along this journey the passengers will be amazed with a habitat full of stunning gorges, river mouths, hidden beaches, authentic guesthouses, and diverse wildlife; and feel like they are witnessing a scene from a Jurassic world.

Lake Koman and the villages surrounding it host many activities and offer different recreational activities such as kayaking, camping, sunbathing, and festivals. The best time to visit the area is during summer when most excursions, tours, and organizations take place. The most famous destinations of the lake route from Koman to Fierza are the Valbona Valley National Park and the peaks of the Albanian Alps.  

Formed as a result of hydro power plant constructions, Lake Koman washes the high peaks of the surrounding mountains.
Formed as a result of hydro power plant constructions, Lake Koman washes the high peaks of the surrounding mountains.

8. Lake Bovilla (4.6 sq. km/ 1.8 sq. mi)

Lake Bovilla is an amazing hidden gem of Albania. The artificial lake is just 15 kilometers/ 9.3 miles from the Albanian capital of Tirana making it very easy to reach and a convenient alternative for outdoor enthusiasts. You can picnic, hike, or enjoy the lake view from the megalithic and rocky peaks bordering the lake shore. Those who reach peaks such as that of the Gamtiti mount (1,268 m/ 4,160 feet) will discover a beauty hidden in plane sight. 

Lake Bovilla is a hidden gem near the capital where creative outdoor activities take place.

9. Lake Ulza (13.5 sq. km/ 5.2 sq. mi)

Ulza lake was formed in 1957 after dams were constructed along the Mati River. It stands at an altitude of 128.5 meters/ 422 feet, and has a water surface of 13.5 sq.km/ 5.2 sq.mi. The artificial lake is part of the Ulza Regional Park which covers an area of 4,206 ha and includes within it the lake and town of Shkopet and the town of Ulëz. The charming small town of Ulëz offers ideal spots from where to enjoy a full view of the lake. Although small, the pristine Ulza lake offers many activities for all demographics such as fishing, cruising, kayaking, bird watching, and enjoying the simple fish-based local cuisine.  

Ulza, formed by dam construction, is a convenient spot for travellers and outdoor enthusiasts. 

10. The Small Prespa Lake (47.35 sq. km/ 18 sq. mi)

The Small Prespa Lake is separated from the Great Prespa Lake by a narrow strip of land only one kilometer/ 0.6 miles wide. Both lakes form a unique wetland ecosystem 5 million years old. Most of Small Prespa’s Lake, with a total surface of 47.35 sq. km/ 18 sq. mi, falls into the territory of Greece with only its tail belonging to the Albanian Republic. The lake cuts deep into Albania’s Galicica mountain. This elongated shaped lake is the highest tectonic lake in the Balkans, at an altitude of 853 meters/ 2,798 feet above sea level.  

The Small Prespa is the highest tectonic lake in the Balkans. 

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