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Experience natural beauty at Lake Skadar

The coastline of Montenegro is known for its fantastic beaches and charming medieval seaside towns – ideal for relaxed holidays. By contrast, inland Montenegro offers dramatic wild beauty and is the domain of mountains, lakes, forests and abundant wildlife.

Easily reached just a 10-minute drive from the Adriatic coast, Lake Skadar sits in the Skadar Valley surrounded by mountains. Two thirds of the lake is in Montenegro, with the remainder in Albania, and at 44 kilometres long and 14 kilometres wide in the summer months, it's the biggest lake on the Balkan Peninsula.

The area has been regarded as having a magical charm by Montenegrins for centuries and is the source of two traditional myths. The first is that is was created by the tears of a pixie, and the second that a newlywed wife forgot to turn off a fountain tap. There's so much incredible scenery in the region you may even come to believe both myths have more than a little truth in them.

The beauty and wildlife in Lake Skadar National Park

The Lake Skadar region became a protected national park in 1983.

It's on the List of Wetlands of International Importance and has been nominated for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Here are some of the reasons why.

Largest bird population in Europe

The area is hugely important as a haven for wildlife, particularly for migratory birds. The lake provides a temporary home to the largest number of bird species in Europe, including rare Dalmatian pelicans, storks, ibises, falcons and eagles. They use Lake Skadar as an essential stopover to rest and stock up on food along their epic journeys around the globe. In the winter months there can be an estimated 50,000 birds nesting here at any one time.

An abundance of lake-dwelling wildlife

Some areas around the lake are swampy, with tall reeds and small, ragged rock-islets that house a variety of plants and shrubs. These attract not just birds, but frogs, multi-coloured lizards, swamp turtles and snakes. The pure lake water is also filled with several species of fish such as pike, perch, trout and carp. Look closely and you may even be lucky enough to see the heads of otters bobbing in the water, as well as a flurry of tiny shrews.

Butterflies and tortoises in the countryside

The region is known for its delicious organic fruit, as well as its medicinal herbs and rare orchids. In the warmer months these plants attract bees and several beautiful species of colourful butterflies, with the bees resulting in an abundance of delicious honey that's used in the local cuisine.

The wooded areas around the lake are full of wildlife too, with animals including tortoises, squirrels and wild boar calling Lake Skadar their home.

Holiday activities in Lake Skadar

Bird-watching, hiking and horse-back riding are some of the best ways to take in the incredible scenery and get a close look at wildlife of all kinds. You can also take boat trips across the lake, including round trips from places such as Virpazar, which takes you past Vranjina bridge and around Lesendro. Simply sit back and relax as you gracefully sail past breathtaking views and numerous islets.

Some of the lake's islets have romantic-looking medieval monasteries and forts which you can visit. One very picturesque option you might consider is Zabljak Crnojevica – an abandoned 10th-century fortified town.

Sample the local organic cuisine

If you'd like to taste some of the local produce – especially the fresh fish and delicious wines – you could choose to have a meal at one of the local restaurants close to the lakeside. You might like to try somewhere such as the family-run Winery Masanovic, where you can enjoy authentic Montenegrin cuisine and perhaps finish off with a shot of tasty rakia, a local fruit brandy.

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