Lake Skadar National park - Wild beauty
If you’ve ever visited or are planning to, there are important things to know about the stunning Montenegrin gem, Lake Skadar. The surrounding landscape of this karst lake is breathtaking, home to ancient monasteries, churches, and charming fishing villages, rich in centuries-old history and culture. The shores of the lake are lined with reeds, creating an authentic look for the National Park.
The lake was once called Veliko Blato, or “Big Mud,” until 1858 when the Drim River brought so much sand and mud from the Albanian mountains into the mouth of the Bojana River, shifting the riverbed and creating the largest lake in the Balkans. It was then renamed Lake Skadar after the Albanian town on its shore.
Montenegrin part of the lake was declared a National Park in 1983, covering 40,000 hectares, of which 25,400 is water surface, and since 1996 it has been on the World List of Aquatic Habitats of International Importance. The lake is also a nominee for UNESCO status and is an Internationally Important Plant Area.
Lake Skadar - Unique ecosystem
Lake Skadar has a unique ecosystem that supports rich flora and fauna, with 281 species of birds, including the iconic Dalmatian pelican, and 49 species of fish living in the lake. The lush vegetation includes many medicinal, aromatic, melliferous, and endemic floral species, while the northern part of the land has endangered species like Skadar oak.
The lake is also home to different animal species, such as lizards, snakes, otters, weasels, foxes, wild boars, and even wolves, along with numerous species of amphibians. It’s a birdwatcher’s paradise, with two recognized International Birding Areas, attracting mixed colonies of pelicans, cormorants, tumbler pigeons, herons, kingfishers, and ferruginous ducks.
The lake is often covered with water lilies and reeds, surrounded by the rocky Montenegrin coast, creating a breathtaking visual experience. Lake Skadar is a small oasis that attracts a range of wildlife, making it one of the most significant European areas on the ancient migration routes of birds. The lake is a unique gem worth visiting and preserving for generations to come.
Lake Skadar boasts a remarkable and diverse array of plant life, including a plethora of medicinal, aromatic, melliferous, and endemic floral species. These include notable species such as Dalmatian greenweed, rosemary, saffron, gentle snake’s head, wild yellow tulip, moon carrot, laurel, fritillary, pea-tree, and many more. The floodable areas of the lake are home to various species of willows, while the northern part of the region is graced with rare and endangered trees such as the Skadar oak.
Adding to its allure, the lake is often adorned with water lilies and surrounded by reeds and the rocky Montenegrin coast, creating a truly captivating sight. The various habitats found around National Park Lake Skadar, ranging from overgrown swamp vegetation to old chestnut forests and rocky islets, are highly sought after by a wide range of wildlife, making this region one of the most unique and biodiverse areas in the world.
Bird Watching Destination
Lake Skadar is a true bird sanctuary, boasting a stunning 280 bird species and serving as a vital stopping point for migratory waterfowl during the winter months. It is home to more than half of Europe’s bird species, with two bird reserves on the lake designated as International Birding Areas, making it a paradise for birdwatchers.
Wild swampy areas of the lake are home to mixed colonies of pelicans, cormorants, tumbler pigeons, herons, kingfishers, ferruginous ducks, and other bird species. Among these, the elegant Dalmatian pelican stands out as the most impressive bird on the lake. These majestic creatures can be found nesting on floating moss called arbunos in the ornithological reservoir known as Pančevo oko.
The Dalmatian pelican is a sight to behold, with a length of 170-190 cm, a wingspan of over 3 meters, and a weight of 11-15 kg. They have long, curly feathers on their heads, and their wings end in a few black feathers. They make their presence known by hissing and rattling and can consume fish up to 50 cm long. Their flight is elegant, thanks to their heron-like posture.
Dalmatian pelicans typically migrate short distances, nesting once a year in large colonies and laying 2-3 white eggs. Additionally, Lake Skadar is one of the few remaining large oases of small cormorants, making it a true haven for birds of all types.
Lake Skadar - Unique environment
Lake Skadar National Park is a haven for authentic animal species that have adapted to the lake’s unique environment. The lake boasts over 48 species of fish, including mullet and eel, which have been a staple of the local cuisine for generations. What’s more, an astonishing 38% of the total freshwater fauna found in Lake Skadar is endemic, surpassing even renowned lakes such as Lake Malawi and Lake Titicaca.
Beyond the aquatic life, Lake Skadar is also home to an array of land animals, from lizards and snakes to otters, weasels, foxes, wild boars, and even wolves. A variety of amphibians also thrive in the lake’s surrounding areas, such as green, big and tree-toads, as well as Skadar green toads and smooth newts.
However, the fragile ecosystem is threatened by human activities such as water pollution, sand and gravel mining, and excessive algae growth. It is crucial to protect Lake Skadar and its inhabitants for future generations to enjoy.
Lake Skadar offers a unique opportunity to explore its diverse flora and fauna up close. One of the best ways to do so is by taking a boat tour. You can visit hidden coves, explore remote islands and discover enchanting underwater worlds that are inaccessible from the shore. The calm waters of the lake create a perfect environment for a leisurely boat ride, allowing you to fully appreciate the beauty of this natural wonder. Whether you are an avid birdwatcher or a nature lover, there is no better way to experience the authentic animal species and outstanding flora of Lake Skadar than by taking a guided boat tour.
Explore the Charm of Virpazar
Virpazar, a small fishing village located on the beautiful shores of Lake Skadar, is a place that you simply cannot miss when visiting Montenegro. This village is the gateway to the Lake Skadar National Park, and its picturesque setting is simply breathtaking.
Surrounded by the rivers Oraovštica and Virštica, Virpazar is often referred to as the “town on three bridges”. The first written records of this charming town date back to the 13th century when it was a bustling market town where locals traded their wares from small riverboats.
The town’s name, Virpazar, derives from the words “vir” meaning spring and “pazar” meaning market, which indicates the town’s rich history as a trading hub.
Despite its small size, Virpazar played a significant role in Montenegro’s history. During the Ottoman occupation, the Turks built a large fortress on the hill above the town. After their defeat, Virpazar became an important trading center with a lively port. In the early 1900s, the town was connected to Bar by the first Montenegrin narrow-gauge railway.
Today, Virpazar is the administrative, economic, and cultural center of the Crmnica region. The town offers a range of amenities, including a primary school, a health center, a post office, a police station, and a railway station.
Virpazar is a charming place with a rich cultural heritage and a unique blend of history and natural beauty. You can stroll around the village square and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of this charming place. For a unique perspective, take a boat tour and explore the rivers and lake surrounding Virpazar.
History and tradition in Lake Skadar National Park
Fortress Besac is a historical monument located in Virpazar, a small town in Montenegro. The fortress, also known as Stari Bar or Old Bar Fortress, is situated on a hill overlooking the Skadar Lake and the town of Virpazar. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region and a symbol of Montenegro’s rich cultural heritage.
The fortress was built during the 15th century by the Venetians to defend against Ottoman invasions. It was strategically located at the crossroads between the Adriatic coast and the Balkan hinterland, making it a crucial stronghold for the Venetians. The fortress was named after the nearby village of Besac, which no longer exists today.