Today, let’s visit Lake Kournas in Crete, which happens to be the only freshwater lake in the country. This uniqueness is worth a detour! The lake is situated 2.5 miles away from Georgioupoli and is surrounded by hills. The lake is small, about 0.6 miles wide, and you can spot turtles, pedal boat, swim or sit at one of the many taverns located along the shore.
How to get to Lake Kournas?
To reach the lake, the easiest way is to take the small country road between Georgioupoli and Kournas. You might come across conflicting signs (“go straight” or “turn right”), but as the saying goes, all roads lead to Rome!
The lake’s color changes from one spot to another, and it can reach a depth of up to 72 feet. You can see a deep blue water, as in the picture above, or a turquoise color, as shown here:
I suggest you arrive early because it’s a popular place for both locals and tourists to picnic and relax. Some tour operators offer a short visit to Lake Kournas (one or two hours on the spot), so if you want to avoid the crowds, go there early in the day!
If you don’t have your own vehicle, here are some excursions that allow you to discover Lake Kournas:
- Excursion from Rethymnon that includes exploring the Imbros Gorge, the village of Argyroupolis, and Lake Kournas (English-speaking guide available).
- Excursion from Rethymnon that includes a visit to a local oil mill, the village of Georgioupoli, a stop at the waterfalls of Argyroúpoli before reaching Lake Kournas for two hours of swimming and relaxation.
- Excursion from Heraklion that allows you to discover the beautiful city of Chania and Lake Kournas before stopping in Rethymnon. The guide is English-speaking.
What to do at Lake Kournas?
You can swim, splash around, and enjoy the beautiful scenery at Lake Kournas. The freshwater lake is gentle on the skin.
Renting a pedal boat is also a great option, and prices range from 8 to 14 euros per hour, depending on the type of pedal boat. Some pedal boats have slides that allow you to cool off in the lake, which is a lot of fun when you’re with friends or children! You can also rent canoes. The Korissia rental company has an excellent reputation.
You can book a simple pedal boat online in advance for a duration of 4 hours, with an optional transfer from your accommodation.
Pedal boats are a great way to approach the farthest shores of the lake, where you are sure to spot turtles and many species of fish that live here. Many visitors throw bread into the water to attract the animals, but I’m not sure this is the best way to feed them. Regardless, it is a sight to behold.
Apart from the turtles and fishes, you will likely come across ducks and geese as they are found all around the lake.
The lake is fed by mountain streams and therefore its level changes according to the seasons. In summer, the level goes down and on a part of the banks, the white sand solidifies, forming improvised and ephemeral beaches that disappear little by little when the cool season returns.
In summer, sunbeds and umbrellas are available on the beaches. However, don’t expect a typical beach experience as it is still the edge of a lake, and the bottom of the water is quite muddy. Nonetheless, it’s a great spot to refresh yourself in such a magnificent setting when the sun is shining!
Around the lake, you will find small shops selling local handicrafts, including pottery and olive oil or olive oil-based products. With its 35 million olive trees, Crete has nothing to envy to Provence! You can also have lunch in a tavern overlooking the lake and try local specialties.
Lake Kournas also has its own set of legends… Contrary to Loch Ness, it is not a monster that is said to inhabit its depths, but a nymph who has been seen several times brushing her hair by the light of the moon.
It is sometimes said that the lake was born from the anger of the Gods: furious to see the inhabitants of the village which was here adopt an incorrect behavior, the Gods unleashed a real flood, drowning the village under torrents of water which formed Lake Kournas and transformed the only survivor of the flood into a nymph who, since then, has lived in the depths of the lake and takes care of the animals which live there.
Legend or not, you’ll have to go to Lake Kournas to discover it for yourself!
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