Lake Ohrid is the largest and most beautiful of Macedonia’s three tectonic lakes. Its clear waters together with the serene stillness of its mountain setting have captivated visitors since prehistoric times. The lake is 30 kilometers long and up to 288 meters deep. While the lake is fed by water from three rivers, most of Ohrid’s water comes from another lake- Prespa, on the other side of the Galicica Mountain. Being at a higher elevation, Prespa spills its water down to Ohrid through mountain springs, the most important being Ostrovo near the monastery of St Naum, and Biljana near Ohrid town. With its unique flora and fauna characteristic of the tertiary period (2-4 million years ago), Ohrid is one of Europe’s great biological reserves. Most of the lake’s plant and animal species are endemic and unique to Ohrid. The most famous among these are two types of Ohrid Trout (letnica and belvica, in Macedonian). Other unique Ohrid creatures include two types of eel as well as the bleak, whose scales are used for making the well-known Ohrid pearl. This treasured jewel is produced according to a secret method passed down from generation to generation. Sport fishing attracts many passionate fishermen from Macedonia, Europe and the world. In 1980 Lake Ohrid was proclaimed a place of world cultural and natural inheritance by UNESCO.
According to an old legend, a Macedonian girl named Dojrana was accustomed to fetching water from special springs that had to be sealed following use. Yet at the very moment Dojrana was filling her jugs, she heard that her beloved had come back from the army, and forgot to seal the springs. Lake Dojran was, the legend says, the result of her unthinking euphoria. Due to the Mediterranean climate of southern Macedonia and the proximity of the balmy Aegean not far to the south, vegetation starts blooming in the Dojran area in early spring and continues to do so until late autumn. And so though Lake Dojran is only 10 meters (30 feet) deep at its deepest point, it is brimming with life. Owing to the large quantity of weeds that grow in the lake and the large number of plankton on its surface, Dojran’s waters are considered to be very beneficial for treating rheumatism, skin diseases and respiratory diseases, and many tourists come for precisely this reason. Characteristic of the lake are the fishing boats and the fishermen’s huts standing on stilts above the surface of the water. The method of fishing here is very original and very old, performed with the help of the cormorants, gulls and other birds that fly above the lake, directing the fish into the baskets where they are gathered in huge quantities. The father of history himself, Herodotus, noted Dojran’s great richness in fish way back in the 5th century B.C.E. According to him, the lake was so teeming with fish that if you put an empty basket in the water at night, by morning it would be full. These days, the best known types of fish are red-finned carp, trout, perch, sheatfish, eel and claw-fish.
The two Prespa Lakes – Golema (Great) and Mala (Small) are the only ones on the Balkan Peninsula to have islands. The five- Golum Grad, Mala Grad, Pirg, Agios Achillaeos and Vidrinec- are located in the three countries that share the lakes today, Macedonia, Albania and Greece. With its irregular coastline, plethora of bays, extraordinary cleanliness of water, pristine nature, and setting between three national parks, Prespa is truly a place one must visit. With a surface area of 273 sq. km, Great Prespa Lake is the second largest in Macedonia after Ohrid. Between the two lies the Galicica Mountain, through which flows an underground stream named Zavir. Through it, Lake Prespa supplies Lake Ohrid with water that comes out on the other side near the monastery of St. Naum and in the Biljana spring near Ohrid town. The Prespa region is ecologically speaking the cleanest part of Macedonia, its nature seemingly untouched by human hands. The white pelican, black raven, heron and gull all congregate near the lake so abundant with fish, which include varieties such as trout, carp, red finned carp, chub, barbell, and others. While the unpopulated island of Golem Grad is a protected nature reserve, it is also accessible to tourists. The island is characterized by its century-old juniper trees, as well as the abundance of endemic animal life. When the level of the water falls, old settlements from the 11th and 12th centuries become visible.