Natural Beauties

Lake Prespa and Prespa region

Prespa is the name of two freshwater lakes in southeast Europe, shared by Greece, Albania, and the Republic of Macedonia. Of the total surface area, 190 km² belongs to the Republic of Macedonia, 84.8 km² to Greece and 38.8 km² to Albania. They are the highest tectonic lakes in the Balkans, standing at an altitude of 853 m (2,798 ft).

The Great Prespa Lake (Macedonian: Преспанско Езеро, Prespansko Ezero, Greek: Μεγάλη Πρέσπα, Limni Megáli Préspa, Albanian: Prespa e Madhe) is divided between Albania, Greece and the Republic of Macedonia.

The Small Prespa Lake (Greek: Μικρή Πρέσπα, Limni Mikrá Prespa; Albanian: Prespa e Vogël) is shared only between Greece (138 km² drainage area; 43.5 km² surface area) and Albania (51 km² drainage area; 3.9 km² surface area).

In the 10th century, the Car (Tsar) Samoil built the fortress and church of St. Achillius on an island called Agios Achillios in the Small Prespa Lake, on the Greek side of the border. The biggest island in the Great Prespa Lake, on the Republic of Macedonia’s side, is called Golem Grad (“Large Town”), or Snake Island (Zmiski Ostrov). The other island Mal Grad (Small Town, in Albania) is the site of a ruined 14th century monastery dedicated to St. Peter. Today, both islands are uninhabited.

Because Great Prespa Lake sits about 150m above Lake Ohrid, which lies only about 10 km (6 miles) to the west, its waters run through underground channels in the karst and emerge from springs which feed streams running into Lake Ohrid.

prespa mapFor many years, the Greek part of the Prespa Lakes region was an underpopulated, military sensitive area which required special permission for outsiders to visit.

It saw fierce fighting during the Greek Civil War and much of the local population subsequently emigrated to escape endemic poverty and political strife. The region remained little developed until the 1970s, when it began to be promoted as a tourist destination. With an abundance of rare fauna and flora, the area was declared a Transnational Park in 2000.

The largest town in the Prespa Lakes region is Resen in the Republic of Macedonia. Resen (Macedonian: Ресен) is a town in the southwestern part of the Republic of Macedonia. It has about 9,000 inhabitants. Resen is equidistant between Bitola and Ohrid.

The town rises 880 meters above sea level and is very close to Lake Prespa. Resen is also the only town in the Prespa Lake area and is the seat of Resen Municipality.

Resen’s history dates back to Roman times when the famous road Via Ignatia was built, passing through the city.

During the Middle Ages, the Prespa area was part of the Samoil’s empire. After the Battle of Klyuch, some of Samoil’s soldiers, who were each blinded in one eye, settled in a village on the shore of Lake Prespa. The Byzantines called the village Asamati. The Byzantine meaning of this word is “settlement of one-eyed people”. From then on, Resen came under Byzantine rule.

Later, Resen became part of the Ottoman Empire, and it was the birth place of Ahmed Nyazi Bey, a Turk noble who was one of the initiators and leaders of the Young Turk Revolution which began in 1908. Bey’s most famous monument in Resen is the Saraj, a “château” he built similarly to the “Château de Chenonceau” in the Loire Valley of France.

Resen has a mild continental climate with cold winters and warm summers, which makes it a tourist attraction, especially in summer. The climate and the quality of soil are key factors for Prespa’s region to have a long tradition of agriculture. One of most important landmarks of Resen’s today are the apple orchards, well known for the quality and specific taste of apples.