Friday, 15 Dec 2017


17th February 2017: 14th February 2017: A historic day for transboundary Prespa

22 September 2016: The Juniper Forests captured the interest of the “students” of the two summer schools, implemented this summer in Prespa

13th September 2016: 100 wetlands and 7 countries in 1 afternoon – the 1st Pelican census covering all of SE Europe and Turkey

15 February 2016: Our life in a wetland! Primary school students from across the transboundary Prespa basin show us what the wetland looks like through their eyes

8 October 2015: Walk in the forests of Prespa with your phone aw a guide!

23 July 2015: United by pelicans

9 February 2015: "Karagiozis, the protector of Prespa!"

2 February 2015, World Wetlands Day: I'ts time for ratification of the Agreement on the transboundary Prespa Park

21 January 2015: Second Dalmatian pelican falls victim to illegal hunting in the Evros Delta

15 April 2014: The Society for the Protection of Prespa is the “Best of the Best” once again!

21 March 2014: The re-introduction of animal husbandry as a conservation measure for the Grecian juniper woods of Prespa

31 January 2014: Prespa Park: at the crossroads of sustainability

3 July 2013: The very first nationwide Pelican Census in Greece!

3 April 2013: Striving to enhance the natural values of the Prespa region, for biodiversity and people, through joint actions across borders

1 February 2013: Prespa Park 2000-2013: time to take new initiatives

10 December 2012: Manual for the protection of fish and fisheries in Prespa

9 October 2012: The thrilling journey of migration!

9 August 2012: Only Greece is now delaying implementation of the International Prespa Park Agreement

The cooperation of the countries of SE Europe is imperative for the protection of the pelicans

8 May 2012: Transboundary Prespa puts fish and fisheries centre stage

3 February 2012: The Society for the Protection of Prespa is celebrating World Wetlands Day with events in Thessaloniki and across the borders in Prespa

23 January 2012: Environmental organisations denounce out-of-control illegal hunting in the Prespa National Park

6 October 2011: With a seal of approval from the European Union, the International Agreement for the Prespa Park is now in the hands of the three states that share the Prespa basin

15 April 2011: Learn all you need to know about keeping the treasures of the lakes safe from harm

2 February 2011: Ratification of International Agreement for the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Prespa Park still pending one year after

21 May 2010: Prespes: An ecosystem that still resists

2 February 2010: The three countries and the European Commission commit to cooperate for the protection and the sustainable development of the Prespa Basin




Last Update

Thursday 14 December 2017, 15:49

Prespa Area Print E-mail

Geographical Position

The impression a first-time visitor gets from Prespa is of a remote, isolated place, lost in the mountains, a place at the end of the world. But Prespa is not at the end of the world, merely at the end of Greece, and actually in the heart of the Balkans.

mapThe area of Prespa is shared by three countries, Greece, Albania and FYROM, and the Greek part is located in Western Macedonia. When we talk about Prespa we are actually refering to the two lakes, Mikri and Megali Prespa, as well as their wider lake basin which extends to the tops of the mountains which surround them. The two lakes lie at an altitude of around 853m, though many of the surrounding peaks are more than 2000m above sea level. Lake Mikri Prespa belongs to Greece, except for its southernmost tip which lies in Albania. Lake Megali Prespa is shared by the three countries, with the largest extent belonging to FYROM. In 2000, with a joint Declaration by the Prime Ministers of the three countries, the Transboundary Prespa Park was created. The Park aims to protect the ecological values of the area through collaboration between the three states, and also to promote the economic prosperity of the local communities in the three countries. The Transboundary Prespa Park is the first transboundary protected area in the Balkans.


There are many reasons why Prespa has such special value; notable among them are the rich natural environment and evocative landscape, the birds, the traditional villages and the remarkable Byzantine monuments. Prespa’s most important characteristic, however, is that so many forms of life are concentrated in such a small geographical area. Many of the rare species that the area is home to are also endemic, appearing only in Prespa and nowhere else in the world. The extent of the diversity of the area is demonstrated by the fact that more than half the species of birds, amphibians and mammals found in Greece as a whole are encountered here in Prespa, and that 9 out of the 23 species of fish living in its lakes and rivers are endemic.

To see the numbers of flora and fauna found in Prespa, click here.

Here you can check the fauna species that are present in the Greek part of Prespa:

In Prespa the variety of habitats and life-forms make up a complex mosaic of nature: from the lakes and the wet meadows to the forests of oak and beech and the alpine meadows of the mountains. Remarkable among the variety of rare species of flora and fauna are the endemic Prespa trout (Salmo peristericus), the endemic Prespa centaury flower (Centaurea prespana) and the silver birch (Betula pendula), a tree more characteristic of the cooler regions of northern Europe.

Also noteworthy in this abundance of natural wealth are the rare aquatic bird species which nest here; the Dalmatian pelican and the great white pelican, the pygmy cormorant, the 7 species of herons, the greylag goose and glossy ibis. It’s worth mentioning that Prespa is home to the largest breeding colony of Dalmatian pelicans in the world, with around 1000-1200 pairs.

Cultural Values

askPrespa, an area rich in natural assets, lakes, rivers, forests, flora and fauna, has had a human presence from prehistoric times until the present, and, even after the end of the Greek Civil War, has never been completely abandoned. Human activities have played a crucial role in the formation of the natural landscape, and even today they are the basis for forming management measures for the protection of the area. Since prehistoric times man has lived and laboured side by side with nature. For this reason Prespa is an area steeped in history, archaeology and culture, aspects of which can be seen throughout the three countries which share the lakes.

The oldest remains date mostly from the Bronze and Iron Ages, such as at the cave near the village of Treni in Albania where finds also confirm that the area was inhabited as early as 6000BC in the Neolitihic period of the Stone Age.

During the Hellenistic and Roman periods the area continued to be inhabited as is evidenced by the remains found between the villages of Milionas and Laimos, and also the existence of Lyka, a Hellenistic town on the island of Agios Achilleios,

Most of the historical and archaeological remains in Prespa come from the Byzantine era. More than 100 Byzantine and post-Byzantine monuments still stand today throughout Prespa in all three countries. After the end of the 9th century the area came intermittently under the influence of the Bulgarian leader, Simeon, being occupied by the Byzantines and the Bulgarians in turn.

In 986AD the basilica of Agios Achilleios was built on the island of the same name in Lake Mikri Prespa. The basilica was constructed by the Bulgarian, Tsar Samuel, who wanted to make Prespa the capital of his new autonomous state; he used the area of Prespa and Ohrid as a base from which to campaign against the Byzantines. He wrested control of much of the territory held by the Byzantine Empire and got as far as the Isthmus of Corinth. In around 980-985AD he captured the town of Larissa from which he took the relics of the city’s local saint, Achilleios, and transferred them to Prespa together with a number of inhabitants that he moved into the area. Samuel was finally beaten by Basil II the Bulgar Slayer who recaptured the area of Prespa. The basilica of Agios Achilleios belongs to the architectural tradition of three-aisled, wooden-roofed churches. It is one of the most important monuments surviving today in Prespa.

In the 11th century, in 1006AD, the church of Agios Germanos was built. It is a cross-inscribed church with a dome, constructed from stone and clay bricks.

Another important Byzantine monument is the church of Agios Georgios in the village of Kurbinovo in FYROM built in the 12th century AD.

On Golem Grad, one of the two islands in Lake Megali Prespa in FYROM, the church of Agios Petros was built in the 14th century. Excavations that have taken place on the island have uncovered a large number of finds that date back as far as the Neolithic period.

During the Ottoman Empire the natural beauty and isolation of the area due to its geographical location attracted a great many monks who built their hermitages along the shore of Lake Megali Prespa. Thus today one can admire the remains of small monastic communities and rock paintings from the 14th-16th centuries dotted about the cliffs on the shore of Lake Megali Prespa in Greece and Albania - reminders of another era.

The local domestic architecture is also noteworthy, with houses mainly built since the beginning of the 20th century; from stone, wood, clay soil and reeds, materials which people could easily find in their natural surroundings.

The main architectural types encountered in the area are: houses with large balconies or covered verandas on the first floor known as hagiatia, houses with enclosed balconies, and houses with large external yards. Some of the better preserved traditional settlements are Agios Germanos in Greece, Brajcino and Ljubojno in FYROM, and Gorice e Madhe and Zaroshka in Albania. The residents of the wider area of Prespa are people who have remained faithful to the traditions they inherited from their forebears.

Traditional practices, along with newer customs, legends and songs all go towards making up the singular, unique picture which can be seen when visiting Prespa.

Human Activities

barkaIn the Prespa basin, according to the most recent census, there a total of 24,100 inhabitants in the three countries spread over 68 villages and one small town, Resen, in FYROM. The total population on the Albanian side amounts to 5,300 inhabitants, in Greece 1,300 and 17,500 inhabitants in FYROM.

Over the passage of time the activities of the inhabitants have varied, influenced by factors such as the development of technology and the models of economic development in each country. In the past, with an economic model based on self-sufficiency, the land, the forest, agriculture and fishing provided people with what they needed to live. Later, mainly during and after the 1960s, things changed.

Specifically, in Greek Prespa, around 70% of individual professional effort is spent in the primary sector, particularly farming, mainly in intensive bean cultivation. The construction of an irrigation network during the 1980s played a catalytic role in this. However, recent moves in the direction of integrated farming and the implementation of more environmentally friendly methods of cultivation are promising. There are also small but significant numbers of farmers producing organic Prespa beans. Fishing, though it had special importance in the past, has today been abandoned to a large degree. The last individuals who once used the unique methods of fishing such as the pelaizia and the pezovola are vanishing fast. Finally, goat and sheep rearing, which used to be one of the main occupations of Prespa’s residents, is declining in inverse proportion to the rise of farming. Nevertheless, in the mountains of the region, the total number of cows being raised for beef production has increased, while the old practise of nomadic stock farming still survives. From the spring till the autumn some, though very few, stock farmers continue to graze their flocks in the mountain meadows.

In Albanian Prespa agriculture is the local population’s most important activity, and the products that are produced are intended as much to cover household needs as for the market. The main crops are mostly cereals such as wheat, corn, barley and rye, covering 70% of the cultivated land, while the irrigation system covers only around 7% of the farmed area and is in very poor condition. Fishing and stock farming are still carried on in the traditional way, mainly to provide for the family’s dietary needs. Nonetheless, in Albania, the local race of small-sized cattle still survives; they are thought to be the direct descendents and among the last representatives of the Neolithic-era cattle breed.

grFinally, in Prespa in FYROM, the dominant cultivars are the apple trees spread across the landscape, covering 70% of the total land under cultivation. Recently, as part of improvements in product marketing, there has been an attempt by some local producers to implement more integrated crop protection methods, aimed at using fewer pesticides. Fishing and logging are also primary activities, though the number of animals bred for meat or milk is in decline and stock farming has importance only for a relative few. Lastly, in the area of Resen, tourism is a significant source of income.

The Protection of the area

The special ecological value of the area and the fact that it is shared with Albania and FYROM led to the establishment of the Transboundary Prespa Park. The Park aims to achieve the total and effective protection of the area’s shared natural and cultural values with the participation of its inhabitants. The Transboundary Prespa Park, the first transboundary protected area in the Balkans, was founded on 2nd February 2000, World Wetlands Day, with a joint declaration by the Prime Ministers of the three countries that share the area of the park. The Park’s mission is the protection of Prespa’s unique environment and the improvement of the inhabitants’ standard of living, through the sustainable development and protection of the area, and the promotion of cooperation between the three countries which share Prespa. The vision and mission of the Transboundary Park was consolidated in February 2010, again on World Wetlands Day and the 10th anniversary of its establishment, with the formal signing of an agreement between the Environment Ministers of the three countries and the European Union. This agreement instituted more formally the trilateral collaboration necessary for decision making.

In addition, in each country the area is protected by a variety of national, European and international conventions and laws. In more detail the legislation protecting Prespa in each country is as follows:


Prespa National Park – NATURA 2000
In 1974 the Greek state declared almost all of Greek Prespa to be a National Park. The Greek parts of Lakes Mikri and Megali Prespa and the slopes of the mountains Triklario and Varnoundas overlooking them define the extent of the Park. It occupies an area of 256.9km² while the core of the park, a zone of absolute protection including all of Lake Mikri Prespa, has an area of 49km². In 1975 the area was also declared a ‘Landscape of Outstanding Natural Beauty.’

Moreover, a large part of the Prespa National Park and a large section of Varnoundas Mountain were included in the NATURA 2000 network of protected areas. They include the areas SCI/SPA ‘Prespa National Park’ GR 1340001 with an area of 266.217 km² and SCI/SPA ‘Varnoundas Mountain’ GR 1340003 with an area of 60.712 km². The Natura 2000 Network is a European Ecological Network of areas which are home to natural habitats of types which are important at a European level.

In July 2003 the Prespa National Park Management Body (PNPMB) was established by the Greek state. The PNPMB is a Legal Entity of Private Law and aims to contribute to the management of the protected area and to safeguard the valuable natural features of the National Park. The PNPMB is based in the village of Agios Germanos, Prespa.

On 23rd July 2009 an area that almost coincides with the two Natura 2000 SCI/SPA areas combined was declared the Prespa National Park and its protected zones were defined by KYA 28651/FEK 302(4) as a replacement for the old Prespa National Park designation. This new park has an area of 327 km².

Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar Convention)
In 1974 Lake Mikri Prespa was also included in the 10 Greek wetlands which were characterised as being of International Importance, coming thus under the aegis of the international Ramsar Convention which the country ratified that year. The convention for Wetlands of International Importance was signed on 2nd February 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar and came into force in Greece and the other signatory countries on 21st December 1975. Until 1988, Mikri Prespa was included in the so-called ‘Montreux Record’, the Ramsar Convention’s ‘blacklist’ due to inadequate protection or acknowledged threats. During the last decade the Ramsar area of Prespa has become one of three wetland areas in Greece that have been removed from the ‘blacklist’ since they are no longer directly threatened with degradation or destruction.


Galicica National Park
The Galicica National Park covers an area of around 250km² and is situated on the mountain of the same name which lies between Lake Megali Prespa and Lake Ohrid. It was established in 1958 for the restoration and protection of the area’s unique ecosystem. The limestone geological structure of Galicica Mountain and its geographical position contribute to the remarkable natural beauty of the landscape and the outstanding variety of endemic flora and fauna that can be found there.

Pelister National Park
Pelister National Park is situated to the east of Lake Megali Prespa, at the border with Greece and the Greek National Park, and covers an area of 125 km², with peaks of over 2000m, deep valleys and two glacial lakes known as ‘the eyes of Pelister.’ It was established in 1948 for the protection of the area’s valuable montane forest ecosystem and it was the first National Park in the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The rare Balkan Pine, which grows on very few mountains in the Balkan Pennisula, can be found in Pelister.

Ezerani Strictly Protected Reserve
The Ezerani Protected Reserve is situated on the northern shore of Lake Megali Prespa and covers an area of 20.8 km². The reserve is home to the most important remaining riparian forest and wet meadows on this side of Prespa. It was established in 1996 for the protection of migratory and other aquatic bird species. It is a refuge and feeding ground for almost all of Prespa’s aquatic bird species.

Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar Convention)
The Ezerani Reserve and the 189.2 km² of Lake Megali Prespa which belongs to FYROM has been a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention since 1995. Additionally, Lake Megali Prespa was declared a ‘Natural Monument’ in 1977.


Prespa National Park
The Prespa National Park in Albania includes the entire Prespa basin in Albania, an area of 277.5 km². It was established in 1999 for the restoration and protection of the important land and water ecosystems in the Megali and Mikri Prespa region. As on the Greek side, the local communities of the Prespa National Park in Albania try to find a model of development that fully integrates the fundamental advantages bestowed by Prespa’s rich natural values and the monuments of its long cultural history.


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