Weekend in Prespa Lakes | Discovering the Hidden Treasure of the Balkans
Updated: Sep 26
George P. Papadellis | SG Head
It’s winter. A thick fog covers the landscape. I am freezing at -18 degrees centigrade but I am still calm. I know that under the fog there is the endless Greek beauty of the Prespa lakes, 148 square miles of National Park. If fairies, princes and elves show up, I won’t be surprised. This is a pure fairy-tale landscape. With a soft smell of smoke from fireplaces, mixed with the “fragrances” of fishnets and bukovo made by local women.
I started my trip from Athens. I chose a picturesque but shorter itinerary. Five hundred and eighty kilometers through the cities Veria, Kozani, Florina. Prespes are much closer to Thessaloniki, but I needed my own car’s 4x4 skills. I had read about one more picturesque itinerary through Kalampaka and Kastoria, but it was quite longer for me. I also knew all the area’s main villages, but my choice for accommodation and mainly for global view to the lakes was the traditional village Agios Germanos. I like sleeping in villages at some altitude. The cold even in the summer, the view, the people… “same recipe, but with some more goat butter and salt...”, I thought again.
I reached the shores of Mikri (Small) Prespa after driving through Varnountas mountains. I still had some time before dark. I ended up to Mikrolimni village. At the pier, I approached two fishermen who worked over their fishnets.
Boats of Prespa | Photo by: Panagiotis Papadellis | www.shinygreece.com
I had a short discussion with them about their work, the problems with the neighbors .... "Simple people like us hate borders”, one of them told me. These few words were heavy like steel. I asked where I should have my dinner and they both told me to go to Chasos Tavern to taste fish and local beans. It was a wonderful experience and soon I was driving north to Agios Germanos village. I had booked a room in Mimallones hotel, although they had told me very good words also for Agios Germanos guesthouse, and I went straight to sleep to be ready by the first morning light. In the early morning, after snoozing my alarm clock for quite sometimes to enjoy the most relaxing sleep you can imagine, I woke up and had a great breakfast of Prespes flavours. It was time to see the village and then head to Megali (Great) Prespa lake, Psarades village and Agios Achillios islet. My short walk in the village relaxed my chakra. Final station of the village the byzantine church of Agios Germanos with the wall-paintings of the 18th century, and on the car again.
I headed to Psarades village, the only Greek village on the shores of Megali (Great) Prespa lake. There is where you really feel the vibes of Prespa as environmental, historical and traditional place. People co-existing with rare bird and fish species, wolves, bears … Houses of mud and straw. Fishermen sharing the lakes’ products with the dalmatian pelicans. Water-buffaloes, beans, tsipouro, ascetics of the 13th and 15th centuries. Mixed music and dances from Greece, Albania and FYROM … I ask for a quality restaurant to eat grivadi, tsironi and beans (fasolia Prespon). Locals propose Syntrofia. After my meal, I ask for a short sail in Prespa and I get it at a very normal price.
Following my short boat excursion, I get into my car and drive to Koula, the short line of land that separates Mikri (Small) Prespa from Megali (Great) Prespa. I leave my car and head to the mysterious Agios Achillios islet, where the Agios Achillios 10th century A.D. church exists. The views are magical. Late, I drive back to Agios Germanos village and have a dinner with beans, fish and tsipouro in the “Tzaki” (means fireplace) tavern. After long discussions with the locals, I go back to my room for one more relaxing sleep with the sounds of nature. In the morning, I have my very nice breakfast and on my car again for my next destination.