Prespa

Travel Guide Europe Greece Prespa

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Introduction

Located in the north-western corner of Greece at 850 metres above sea level and surrounded by mountains, the Prespa Lakes region is a natural park of great significance due to its biodiversity and endemic species. Prespa is a transboundary park/region shared between Greece, Albania and Macedonia.

The main features of the region are the two lakes, that also gives the name to the area: Macro Prespa (259.4 km2 and Micro Prespa (47.4 km2), which lap the shores of the three countries and connect them in this way symbolically.
Prespa is well known for its natural beauty and its high biodiversity with unique characteristics. It hosts more than 1,500 species of plants, 40 species of mammals, 260 of birds, 32 reptiles and amphibians, and 17 species of fish including a number of species found only here.

The mountains are one of the last European homes of brown bears, wolves, chamois and wild boar whilst the lake host breeding colonies of Dalmatian and White Pelicans as well as pygmy cormorants. In addition, is a place where a unique natural environment coexists with notable Byzantine monuments like churches, monasteries, hermitages and rock paintings dating from the 10th century onwards.

The life of the local people is concentrated in villages around the lakes. The houses are built in a traditional style, out of stone and clay bricks with roofs of straw or stone tiles. The three main traditional occupations in the region are fishing, animal husbandry and a small agricultural community which over the centuries has shaped and preserved a wealth of natural and cultural values that account for the area’s international importance.

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Sights and Activities

Prespa is a place where nature, art and history come together in and around the lakes; there are also villages with hospitable inhabitants, always worth a stop on the way to listen to their stories and the histories of the place.
There are a lot of paths, guiding you into the heart of nature; perhaps up into the high mountains, or to old abandoned villages, which little by little are being returned once more to nature’s embrace. The mountains surrounding the lakes are often over 2000 meters high, and offer marvellous views to the lake blueness and the settlements on the shores. The smell of herbs on the mountain meadows calm the senses, already cleared by the fresh air and the spring waters

The lucky visitor might arrive to a peaceful natural setting with impressive sunsets, that gives the impression of having remained unchanged since time immemorial, unique within Greece in traditions, methods of fishing and producing and preserving food, and a rich cultural heritage.

Ruins of abandoned villages

The ruins of abandoned villages are a good opportunity for visitors to walk and discover the lesser-known and more peaceful places in Prespa, hidden in the mountains:

  • The easiest to reach is Daseri, near Pili. The only remains are the wall of the school and the stone bases of the houses.

In Agathoto you can find the remains of a small church, hidden behind rocks and trees.

  • Almost nothing remains of the Latsista settlement, situated amongst the small hills behind Mikrolimni. It is an ideal place for bird watching, due to the wetlands found there. Krania, where only a few houses remain, is situated a few kilometres further on. On the way there you can enjoy a unique view of the lake.
  • Sfika, in the mountains above Oxia was once quite a large village as can be seen from the size of the church, where only one fresco

Churches

Most of the churches, basilicas and monasteries found in Prespa correspond to Byzantine and post-Byzantine styles. Even though some churches are not open to the public, you can still admire their external architecture.

  • Church of Agios Germanos (11th c.)
  • Church of Agios Athanasios (end of the 18th c.)

Both of the above are located in the village of Agios Germanos. They are known especially for their well-preserved frescoes.

  • Basilica of Agios Achilleios (976-1014 AD) is located on the island of Agios Achilleios in the Small Prespa lake. It is an example of the survival of Early Christian architectural style in the Byzantine period.
  • Ruins of the Church of the 12 Apostles (11th c.- 12th c), Church of Agios Georgios (End of the 15th c), Church of Agios Dimitrios, ruined Monastery of Panagia Porphyra (mid 16th c.). These are all located on the island of Agios Achilleios.

Frescoes can be found in Prespa either inside churches and hermitages or on the cliffs near the hermitages. These last ones can easily be seen during a boat trip on Great Prespa Lake, which can be arranged in the village of Psarades.

  • Hermitage of Panagia Eleousa (Beginning of the 15th c.). It is the largest hermitage, which housed the largest number of monks. Frescoes in its interior are a particular example of the painting produced in this corner of the Great Prespa Lake.
  • Hermitage of the Metamorphosis (13th c.). Leaving Psarades in a boat for the hermitage of Panagia Eleousa, we pass a small stretch of shore with a bay where the hermitage of the Metamorphosis stands, protected by the rocks.
  • Hermitage of the Mikri Analipsis (15th c.). The second hermitage we meet along the lakeshore after the frescoes on the rocks is that of the Mikri Analipsis. It is high up in a small cavity in the rock and it is difficult to approach.

Museum of fossils and coins in Vrondero

Ask in the restaurant-bar of the village to visit the museum. Ioannis Nonas founded this museum in April 2005. There is a large collection of fossils that were found in the surrounding area, as well as a collection of old coins and stamps.

Exhibition of old Prespa artefacts and tools in Plati

Located in the hotel Platithea in the village of Plati, where the owner of the hotel has gathered many old artefacts from the region. There are artefacts from the two world wars as well as various objects used in everyday life.

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Getting There

Thessaloniki airport is the nearest international airport and is approximately 4 hours drive east to Prespa. Athens is approximately 7 hours. The closest city to access to Prespa is Florina. You have public transport everyday from both main cities.

By Train

There is train service from Thessaloniki, and Athens to Florina, the closest city one hour driving to Prespa.
For schedules and prices have a look at the ose website.

By Car

From Florina, take de road signposted to Prespa from the main roundabout as you arrive. The right turn into Prespa is a further 35 kilometres after crossing over the pass at Vigla and passing through the villages of Pisoderi and Andartiko (indicated)

By Bus

There are daily sevice from Athens and Thessaloniki to Florina.
The local bus service from Florina runs Monday, Wednesday and Friday:

  • From Florina to Prespa at 7.00am and 3.00pm.
  • From Prespa to Florina at 8.00am and 4.00pm.

The travel lasts approximately 1 hour.

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Sleep

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This is version 9. Last edited at 17:43 on Aug 30, 09 by Utrecht. No articles link to this page.

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