THE MYTHICAL BEAUTY OF AGIOS ACHILLIOS ISLAND AND PRESPES NATIONAL PARK, GREECE
Agios Achillios is a tiny lake island located in Mikri (Small) Prespa and is a part of Prespes National Park a wetland of international importance. Efi from Life.Lovers.Greece, a travel website which focuses on Slow Travel in Greece, tells us about a remote island in northern Greece which is the perfect destination for the Slow Traveller.
In Agios Achilios, the balanced co-existence of humans and nature is a reality that every traveller experiences. In this amazing environment, it seems as if time has frozen. This historical island has 23 permanent inhabitants and is only reachable on foot via a 650m long floating bridge.
The cinematic scenery of Prespes lakes
The 11 traditional houses on the island are made with natural materials such as wood, clay, stone and reeds. They stand amongst water buffaloes, ‘’Nanas’’, the Greek Steppe cows, mallard ducks, purple herons, great white pelicans and Dalmatian pelicans, in specific, the largest breeding colony in the world!
The locals are employed in tourism, farming or agriculture. Agios Achilios is the second inhabited lake island in Greece, after Ioannina`s lake island.
Photo credits: Kristo Pantera photography
Local myths at 850 meters above sea level
The local myth says that if one more house will be built on the island, the rest of the houses will collapse. In this cinematic scenery, the life-rhythm is natural and pure, inspiring, and harmonic.
If you walk a circular track of about 2 hours, you can reach the highest point of the island, approximately 850 meters above sea level, and admire the mythical beauty of Agios Achillios island and Prespes lakes.
Travel through history
Agios Achillios has a wealth of Byzantine churches scattered across the island. The ruins of the three-aisled basilica of Saint Achillios is the most important archaeological site on the island and dates from the 10th century A.D.
Archaeological researchers have discovered fragments of ancient inscriptions, dated back to the 2nd and the first half of the 3rd century A.D, and revealed the existence of the ancient city, ‘’Lyki’’.
Photo credits: Kristo Pantera photography
The cultural value of Agios Achillios
As the local fishermen say, when the lake water is clear, the narrow streets of the ancient city can be seen underwater. They often pull the stony parts of ancient looms out of the water, the textile weaving machines, and shells they caught in their nets.
Other archaeological finds are significant amounts of unpainted Terra sigillata pottery and ceramics from daily items such as cooking utensils, which date back to the 1st century A.D.
The findings of written pottery in the area, made with coarse clay, prove the existence of a local pottery workshop and confirm once again the cultural value of Agios Achillios and Prespes National Park.
Every summer, at the end of August, ‘’Prespeia’’ takes place in Agios Achillios, a landmark cultural festival with free-of-charge entry, which is accessible to everyone. The festival programme includes music performances, theatre, folk and folklore arts. This festival highlights the cultural heritage and diversity of the Prespes area, and the northern edge of Greece where three countries meet: Albania, Fyrom (North Macedonia) and Greece.
The mythical beauty of Prespes valley
A narrow strip of land separates Mikri (Small) Prespa from Megali (Great Prespa, the second lake of the Prespes valley where humans have lived for over four thousand years. In particular, Mikri Prespa is shared between Greece and Albania, and Megali Prespa between Greece, Albania and North Macedonia (FYROM).
The numerous archaeological sites and ancient finds in Prespes, from the Neolithic Age to the Byzantine and Post-Byzantine period and the unusually high number of species recorded in the area, clarify Prespes National Park uniqueness, by international standards.
Birdwatching in Agios Achillios
Locals co-exist in the island with several diverse species. In specific, in the Prespa National Park have been recorded over 2,000 species of flora, 271 bird species, 60 mammal species, 23 fish species, 22 reptile species and 11 amphibian species!
Agios Achillios is a Slow Travel destination that offers a variety of activities such as birdwatching, cycling, canoeing and hiking. During the winter months, the lake is frozen and the best you can do is have a warm drink and a talk at the extraordinary café-restaurant of Agios Achillios, at the lakeside.
If you are looking for wellness and relaxation, a visit to Agios Achillios will pay off. Prespa`s clarity will clear your mind, and you will freely enjoy with all your senses the silence on this tiny lake island.
Read more from Life.Lovers.Greece and plan your next Slow Holiday in beautiful Greece.