Montenegrin Lake Skadar – National Park and the Biggest Lake on the Balkan Peninsula

“National Park that has impeccable nature, clean water and rich wildlife”

milivanily (CC0), Pixabay

Lake Skadar is the biggest lake in the Balkan peninsula and it lies on the border between Montenegro and Albania, with around 60% of the lake belonging to Montenegro. Montenegrin part has been declared a national park back in 1983. The lake has been of immense importance for Montenegro throughout the history during the reigns of different dynasties. The capital of the old Montenegrin state called Zeta was Žabljak Crnojevića which is located on the shores of the lake.

There are also Lesendro fortress placed on a rock-island, Grmožur fortress and countless other sacral objects, many of which are today in ruins and are still waiting for the restoration. The lake also represents some sort of natural sanctuary, a quiet oasis with a very rich wildlife and intact nature. It is rich with fish, and that is the reason why the local population mainly relies on fishing as their main source of income.

Islands are not only important because of cultural and historic monuments located on them, but also because they represent safe shelter for the birds. The lake and its surrounding areas represent natural habitat for over two hundred bird species, with some of them being endangered, like for example, the pelican and Black Ibis. The terrain configuration makes Lake Skadar a perfect place for bird watchers, and the local authorities have built several special bird watching platforms. The number of tourists who want to explore this amazing place is increasing every year.

The old fortification Žabljak Crnojevića  was built in the XI century and it was Montenegrin capital during the reign of Crnojević dynasty. The fortress is located in the north-western shore and it is surrounded with breathtaking nature. The old capital only had one entrance and it was an iron gate. The fortress was built in Venetian style with strong walls capable of resisting severe enemy attacks.

Vranjina Monastery or St. Nichola’s Monastery is an Orthodox monastery situated on the Vranjina island. This is one of the oldest monasteries in the country. It was built in the XIII century and for a long time it played an important part in political and cultural life of Zeta (old name for Montenegro). It was razed by the Turks in the XIX century, but it was soon restored by the Montenegrin ruler Nikola Petrović.

Lesendro fortress is located on a peninsula near Vranjina island, and it was built by famous Montenegrin ruler Petar II Petrovic Njegoš in the XIX century. This fortress served as a defense for the Rijeka Crnojevića, and it was often referred as ‘’key to the lake’’. Soon after it was built, it was taken over by the Turks who expanded it and improved it by building high towers and walls. It was returned to Montenegro after Berlin Congress in 1878. Today Lesendro is no longer an island like it was in the past, but a peninsula since it is connected by a road to the mainland.

The Monastery of Donji Brčeli is located in the village Brčeli. It was founded  in the XV century by the princess Jelena Balšić.  Interesting fact is that the Montenegrin ruler Šćepan Mali, who falsely presented himself as the Russian Tsar Peter III was buried here. This monastery was reconstructed in 1861 by the ruler who later became king – Nikola Petrović.

Moračnik Monastery is located on the island Moračnik. The exact date of the foundation of the monastery is unknown, but it is first mentioned in the notes of Balša III.  It consists of the Church of the Holy Mother of God, residential part and a tall tower.

The Montenegrin Government has recently approved the building of an eco-friendly luxurious settlement called Porto Skadar Lake on the shore of the lake and once finished it will probably attract even more people to this astonishing place. Let us hope that more people does not necessarily mean something bad and that this amazing natural and historical site will remain intact for the future generations to admire it.

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