Lake Kerkini

Lake Kerkini is one of the most important hydro biotopes of Greece while distinguishes for its rich flora and fauna. The wetland is protected from the Ramsar Convention. Individuals organize tours in the Lake with boats or canoes, around the Lake with cars or bicycles as well as hiking in the Mountains Belles (Kerkini) and Krousia.
Read more

How to get here

Lake Kekrini
The wetland of Kerkini pertains to the geographical part of the Region of Serres and lies in a wonderful natural land with the Lake Kerkini at its center. The Lake lies along the river Strymonas, which starts from the slopes of the Bulgarian Mountain Vitosas. It receives water also from the river Kerkinitis, which flows out of the Mountain Mavrovouni or Krousia (with an altitude of more than 1,100 meters) westerly, while northerly ends at the Mountain Belles (with an altitude of more than 2,000 meters). Easterly and westerly, the almost flat land disposes of embankments, defining an unequal morphologically land that leads to a dam.
The wetland of Kerkini is declared as a National Nature Reserve. Is one of the 10 in Greece of international importance according to the Ramsar Convention. It is included to the list of sites of Nature 2000 according to the Directive 92/43/EEC and it constitutes an area of Special Protection according to the Directive 79/409/EEC and an Important Bird Area (IBA). Almost all the vertebrate species found on the Lake are included to the annexes I and II of the Convention of Bern (Convention of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats). Many among the migratory birds are protected also by the Convention of Bonn (Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals).
The Lake isn’t the same throughout the year. It reaches its maximum volume at the end of spring and at the beginning of the summer. By mid – summer its volume reduced and the concentrated water is used for irrigation, giving life to thousands of hectares of arable land in the plain of Serres. The three accessible sides of the Lake give to the visitor the possibility of bird watching, while the small ports at the north side of the Lake of Mandraki, in village Kerkini and at the south edge of Lithotopos, where is situated the dam, are very beautiful.
The wetland hosts an admirable flora. Within the diverse natural environment of Kerkini have been recorded more than 620 species of plants. Six of them are included at the Red Data Book of endangered plants. Furthermore, apart from the areas of aquatic vegetation, there are also many forest ecosystems and a sub - alpine zone along the crest of Mountain Kerkini. The plants, although maintain a constant presence, change distribution from year to year. The finest season in the Lake is at the end of summer and in autumn. However, the mountains have wild flowers all year, while one or two of them are in blossom even on Christmas.
In spring, which comes early, the fields are filled with poppies and chamomiles. The whole area is crammed with colors and the hills are covered with anemones, asphodels and other flowers, creating an exquisite scene. Till July, the mountains become more and more beautiful and the area is full of colors and sweet smells. The thymes and various other herbs complete each other in order to attract the butterflies, while orchids hold a special place in the hearts of nature – walkers. Moreover, in the mountains flourish mosses and lichens, which decorate permanently the trees and rocks, while the funguses wait until the beginning of winter to put on the best of their display.
Except from the birds, the Lake of Kerkini shelters many species of animals and fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals, but the vast majority of the fauna are invertebrates and in particular insects. A recent research in progress has recorded over 1.000 species of insects within the protected area, with three new species to science and over 50 for Greece. Their total number is probably more than 4.000. Moreover, there are sheltered many interesting species of centipedes, millipedes, spiders and one species of scorpion. What most catch the visitor’s eye is the 120 species of butterflies. In mid – winter, they only appear on the warmest days, but for the rest of the year these are present in abundance and charming. And if you like the night, then you may meet some of the 350 species of night butterflies.
The wetland of Kerkini also includes 47 species of locust and crickets, numerous species of dragonflies, beetles, flies, many bees and wasps. The area is offered for exploration by amateurs or experienced entomologists, since it is recorded only a small number of its species. The wetland comprises in total 31 species of fish. Their sizes ranges and constitute food for a great number of piscivorous birds. Also, the Lake of Kerkini shelters a great number of amphibians, 8 species of frogs and toads. There have been found many species of reptiles, 10 species of lizards and 12 species of snakes.
In the pine plantations high on the mountains there are cute squirrels. If you are lucky, you may meet roe deer, foxes, hares, wild cats, hedgehogs and ferrets. Also in the mountains live the wild boar and small groups of wolves and jackals. Although it is difficult to see them, otters live in water concentration and small mole live in the northeast side of the Lake. However, the majority of mammals are bats, mice, rats and shrews. The wetland of Kerkini shelters the greatest number of water buffalos in Greece, over 1.000. With their slow gait, their love of mud and water, but also their large size, constitute the trademark of the area.
Over 10.00 birds live in Kerkini, anytime of the year. At the end of the summer, with the newborn cormorants the number is increased to 20.000, while in winter is over 30.000 mainly ducks and you may easily observe 18 species. Apart from the ducks, you may also see 3 or 4 species of geese and probably the 3 species of swans of Europe. The Lake shelters a small number of white – headed ducks, red – crested ducks, ferruginous ducks, along with a great number of gadwall and pochard. Furthermore, at the beginning of spring hundreds of garganeys constitute new inhabitants of the Lake.
Other winter visitors are the spotted eagles, the flamingoes and the occasional cranes or even the black storks. In spring and summer there are come here to reproduce the lesser spotted eagles, the golden eagle, the short – toed eagle, the white – tailed eagle and the booted eagle. The wetland during spring or early summer offers a shelter also to smaller raptors, such as black kites, goshawks, levant sparrowhawks and peregrines, which reproduce here and are the most common raptors, while it is almost certain that you may see red – footed falcon and eleanora’s falcons as they pass through on migration, often in large numbers.
The wetland is famous for the pygmy cormorants and Dalmatian pelicans, which reproduce here and have a permanent presence in the area. Also, a great number of birds reproduce in mixed colonies in a riverside forest, such as the little egret, the grey heron, the purple heron, the night heron, the squacco heron, the spoonbill, the glossy ibis and in other places around the Lake the little bittern, the great – crested grebe and the little grebe.
The wetland shelters a wonderful variety of passerines. Bee- eaters, hoopoes and golden orioles fill the place with their color, while 4 species of shrikes reproduce here. In different places of the area, there are 7 or 8 species of tits. A variety of warblers may be observed in lower scrublands, while the great reed, the marsh and the cetti’s warblers with their voices constitute a real environment for the visitors.
Throughout the protected area, nearby the Lake, it is easy to see the cirl, black – headed and corn buntings, while the ortolan and rock buntings are met usually high in the mountains. Other species that it’s worth looking out are the black – eared wheatear, the black – winged stilt, the turtle dove, many species of green woodpeckers, the red – breasted fly – catcher, the rock nuthatch, the rock thrush, the blue rock thrush and the migratory rosy starlings, mainly in the second half of May.
Finally, it’s nice to remember that the nightjar and at least 6 species of owls keep you company after the sun sets in the west, when the other birds are asleep and the place quiets down. The scops owl reproduces here and is very common around the villages, while for the eagle owl you need to get out of the villages at dusk to see it. The bird’s beauty in the Lake is amazing, almost indescribable and the experience is really unique.
Source: Prefecture of Serres