Chania Lake Kournas

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Location: Kournas

Lake Kournas is the only one with fresh water in Crete. Situated in a magnificent location between the westernmost slopes of the White Mountains and the fertile plain of Georgioupolis, it is rather small, with a maximum length of 1,087 meters and a width of 880. In ancient times, it was known under the name of Koresia, and a temple dedicated to Athena is believed to have stood in the area. Its current name probably derives from an Arab word for lake, though it may also be a paraphrase of the Greek word krounos (spring). Lake Kournas is a remarkable destination for an afternoon walk or a day trip, and the relaxing, beautiful landscape is ideal for nature lovers.

It is fed by two fountains, only one of which, Mati, is visible during the summer months when the waters recede. It has been created by the holdback of the groundwater coming from the White Mountains thanks to the porous rocks on the southeastern side and the existence of a natural bowl.

What to see and do

Lake Kournas is an important part of the Greek ecosystem, as it is home to numerous rare flora and fauna species. This is one of the reasons why it has been declared a protected area of the Natura 2000 Network. Surrounded by lush vegetation with rare plants and trees, it provides shelter to such animals as eels, silversides, freshwater blennies and even goldfish. At the same time, there are many reptiles and a rare species of two-colored turtle with spots on its shell. Being an important stopover site for migratory birds, it is, along with the mouth of Almyros River, the natural habitat of over 130 bird species. Visitors will encounter coots, ducks, herons and cormorants. The dark color of the lake is caused by the seaweed at its bottom.

Lake Kournas is a favorite destination for both locals and tourists. It is the ideal location for a relaxing walk, as, during the summer, the azure waters recede, forming small beaches covered with white sand. On one side, cafeterias and taverns are serving traditional Cretan dishes, while offering remarkable views. Besides swimming, visitors can rent a pedal boat. The perfect time for this is in the afternoon when the waters take on magical hues.

Myths and legends

There are many legends associated with the formation of this lake. The most popular one speaks of a young woman who had accompanied her father here while he was working in the fields. Suddenly filled with lust at the sight of her ravishing beauty, her father tried to seduce her, and the desperate girl wished for the earth to sink and a lake to appear so that she could escape. Her wish was granted, and she became a fairy. Reputedly, the locals can still see her sometimes, sitting on a rock in the middle of the lake. According to another story, the area’s inhabitants led a sinful life. In his anger, God decided to punish them with a pouring rain that lasted for several days. After this deluge, the village was destroyed and a lake appeared in its stead. The only survivor was the priest’s daughter, who can still be seen combing her hair on a rock in the moonlight. Another old story said that the lake had no bottom; however, this was only a myth since its depth is 22.5 meters. There is even a theory that there are strange electromagnetic fields in the lake, which can be felt as you come close to the shores.



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