Check out this list of best lakes to visit in the Balkans we have prepared for you. Get fresh ideas for your next Balkan trip. The list represents a great mixture of natural wonders, cultural delights and sports activities that can be incorporated into your perfect Balkan Tour. From the picturesque alpine lake of Bled to the biggest Balkan lake of Skadar, and from Europe’s oldest lake of Ohrid to the less known gems such are Lake Bovilla in Albania or Lake Mavrovo in North Macedonia.
Arguably the most famous of all tourist sites in Slovenia, the blue-green glacier Lake Bled has been drawing attention for decades. It is the pearl of Slovenian tourism and a must-see for everyone who visits this tiny European country.
It’s only 145 hectares big, but it is impossible not to fall in love with. The most distinct feature of Lake Bled is its cute and tiny island. You can reach the island by renting your own rowing boat or hitching a ride on a larger traditional vessel called pletna. Once there, you will first have to take a walk up the 99 steps that lead to the top of the island where you can enter the elegant baroque church and ring the wishing bell. Later you will probably want to get to the Bled Castle for unforgettable views of the lake and the Alps in the background.
If you are visiting Slovenia in the summer, you can also take a swim in the lake or rent a SUP. If you find Bled to busy, you can always chill by the nearby Lake Bohinj, which is much larger and also a bit cooler.
In the hinterland of the Adriatic Sea – halfway between Zadar and Zagreb – lie 16 gorgeous lakes that draw the attention of the whole world. Their beauty is so captivating that the government declared them a national park in 1949 and thirty years later UNESCO added them to list of natural heritage sites.
Without a doubt the most visited natural phenomena in Croatia, Plitvice Lakes have been formed as the running water shaped the limestone landscape and connected all 16 lakes with numerous waterfalls. The best time to visit is definitely in the spring when the water levels are high and the experience is optimal.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is – of course – featured in more or less in every tour of Croatia. If you are only visiting the country as a city break for a few days, you can do a daily excursion from Zagreb, Zadar or Split. Most people are satisfied with a 3- to 4-hour walking tour, but the park is so big that you can easily spend a few days exploring it.
Get impressed by the list of best lakes to visit in the Balkans
The dolphin-shaped Lake Skadar definitely should not be missed from the list of best lakes to visit in the Balkans. It is the largest lake in the region, covering the area between 370 and 540 square kilometres (depending on the time of the year). Shared between Albania and Montenegro, Lake Skader is one of the most important bird habitats in Europe and as such a favourite destination for ornithologists. There has been no less than 280 bird species recorded here.
You can drive along the panoramic (but narrow and winding!) road above the lake to enjoy the spectacular views of the blue water and fields of floating water lilies beneath you; or you can get even higher and climb one of the surrounding peaks.
Another way to explore Lake Skadar is by taking a boat trip from the town of Virpazar which is also featured in our week-long tour of Montenegro. Either way – it is going to be one of the most beautiful experiences of your entire Balkan trip.
LAKES OHRID & PRESPA
The large twin sister lakes of Ohrid and Prespa dominate the border between three Balkan countries: Albania, North Macedonia and Greece. They are separated by the ripping, rock-crested massif of Galičica which has been protected as a national park.
The larger of the two (lake Ohrid, 358 square kilometres) is also considered one of the deepest (up to 300 meters in depth) and oldest (3 million years) lakes in Europe. Lake Ohrid is often regarded for its high biodiversity, unmatched by any other lake of its size. The picturesque historic town of the same name on its shore has been recognised by UNESCO since 1979, but in 2019 the decision was made to extend the protected zone to also include the area around the town of Pogradec in Albania.
Meanwhile the nearby Lake Prespa (259 square kilometres) is the highest tectonic lake in the Balkans (853 meters). One of its most attracted sites is the lovely island of Golem grad, home to numerous wild tortoises.
Enjoy the amazing beauty of the Balkan lakes
The beautiful region of Biogradska Gora is one of the most visited sights in Montenegro alongside the famous Bay of Kotor and Budva. Today preserved as one of the five national parks in Montenegro, Biogradska Gora was first declared a protected area back in 1878 when king Nikola visited the gougers Lake Biograd. He was so overwhelmed by its beauty that the locals didn’t have any other choice but to give the lake to their king as a present. Nikola ordered the area to be protected and today the national park covers 54 square kilometres. There are five other glacial lakes within the park, but vising them require some hiking as they lie at an altitude of 1820 meters above sea level, while Lake Biograd is more easily accessible.
Those of you avoiding average tourist crowds and are more interested in hiking, should maybe consider visiting the not-to-far-away Durmitor National Park and its gorgeous Black Lake (Črno jezero). It is the largest of the 18 glacial lakes within the park also known as “the eyes of the mountains”. It’s simply an amazing area for all nature lovers.
The lovely Mavrovo National Park is often on a “must-see” list of those visiting North Macedonia. Its numerous waterfalls, gorges and deep pine forests make a pleasant stop for those travelling between Ohrid and Skopje.
One of these stops is also the not-too-shabby Lake Mavrovo. This neat artificial lake provides nice opportunities for walking and camping, but it would probably not be featured in our list of best lakes to visit in the Balkans if it wasn’t for the phantom church of St. Nicholas. Built in 1857, the church was submerged in 1957 in the process of building the hydro systems on the Mavrovo fields. Nowadays it is underwater for a bigger part of the time, but in rare occasions when the lake water withdraws you can see its remains protruding from the water like a ghost.
If you are visiting the region, you should also stop at the impressive Byzantine monastery of Jovan Bigorski (one of the best of its kind in these parts) or visit the atmospheric villages of Janče and Galičnik.
Explore ideas for the best lakes to visit in the Balkans
Did you know that Bosnia & Herzegovina is one of the richest countries in Europe when it comes to fresh water supplies? There are more than 100 lakes dotted all over this small country in the heart of the Balkans and many deserve to be featured in the list of best lakes to visit. One of them is the lovely and not too crowded Rama Lake (Ramsko jezero) which offers numerous opportunities for rowing or stand-up-paddling. However, swimming is less pleasant in the lake, since the average temperature is only 7,5°C, but you might enjoy riding a bike along its shores. Like most places in Bosnia & Herzegovina is not – in any way – overcrowded and provides a peaceful ambient for a relaxing weekend away from the crazy everyday life.
The beautiful Rama Lake, situated in the upper basin of northern Herzegovina, is an artificial lake created with a construction of the Rama dam in 1968, on the namesake river, and it serves as a reservoir to store waters used by the hydroelectric power station. Its unusual shape with numerous bays and islands makes the scenery almost surreal.
This amazing lake isn’t actually a lake. As you might guess, Koman Lake was formed when the Drin – the longest river in Albania – has been dammed back in 1978. The narrow valley has been completely taken up by the river, creating a beautiful scenery of dense forested hills, vertical slopes and deep gorges. The best part is that you can take a ferry ride along the lake from one part to the other. It takes about three hours to get from town Koman on the western side to town Fierzë on the eastern one. Everyone who has done it is simply amazed by the breathtaking experience.
This ferry trip is very popular with hikers who do the famous trek between two mountain villages of Theth and Valbona. It is not just the most beautiful option to do the full circle, it is also the most convenient one, as driving around the mountainous terrain would take much more time.
You might notice that the waters of otherwise gorgeous Koman Lake are very polluted with floating plastic which can be rather disturbing.
Visit these beautiful Balkan lakes with us
SEVEN RILA LAKES
These gorgeous glacial lakes in the Rila mountains in Bulgaria should definitely be on the list of best lakes to visit in the Bakans. They are the most visited group of lakes in the country, despite being only reachable on foot. They all lie on the altitude between 2100 and 2500 metres elevation above sea level and are connected by small streams.
The seven Rila lakes are often regarded as one of the most beautiful natural attractions in Bulgaria and one of the most popular hiking excursions in the whole region. Each lake has its own name: the highest one is called The Tear due to its crystal-clear waters; the next one is The Eye, because of its almost perfectly oval form; the third lake is called The Kidney, due to its shape. The Twin lake that follows is also the largest one; The Trefoil has an irregular shape and low shores. The most shallow one is The Fish Lake; the last and lowest by altitude is the so-called The Lower Lake.
Because of the relatively high altitude, you should visit the Seven Rila Lakes in the summer months.
The phenomenal Lake Cerknica in central Slovenia is one of the largest intermittent lakes in Europe. As such, it only appears in the rainy season – usually in the eight months between autumn and spring – when the karstic field can’t absorb all the water. In a normal year the lake spreads on a surface of 20 square kilometers, making it the largest lake in Slovenia.
Even if you are visiting in the summer months when the water levels are low (or non-existing), you still have a lot to see. Check out the numerous holes where water disappears into the underground or you can hike the numerous paths in the Notranjska Reginal Park, to which Lake Cerkinca belongs to.
If you are in the area, also visit the wonderful Rakov Škocjan Gorge or go on a brown bear safari to see these wild creatures in their national environment. There is a lot of them in the forests surrounding Lake Cerkinica. Don’t be scared, they are well fed and therefore don’t attack humans.
Nature lovers will love the list of best lakes to visit in the Balkans
The turquoise Bovilla Lake is actually a reservoir located approximately 14 kilometres northeast of Tirana, capital of Albania and provides most of its drinking water. Needles to say that swimming is strictly forbidden. However, the lake is even lovelier if you admire it from a distance. One of the best viewpoint is on the rather steep Mt. Gamti (1268 meters). The hike takes about two hours and is considered a moderate level of difficulty. Besides the breathtaking views, you might also be accompanied by curious local goats.
Situated within the Mount Dajt National Park established in 1966, Bovilla Lake makes a great daily excursion from the buzzing Tirana and can be combined with a visit of one of the remote villages on its shores.
Close by is also the popular cable car which takes you to the top of Mt. Dajti (1613 metres). From the rotating restaurant you can enjoy fantastic views over Tirana while enjoying one of Albania’s gastronomy delights.
To escape the nosiness and pollution of the Bosnian capital, here’s an idea of a daily trip from Sarajevo: hike up the gorgeous Prokoško Lake, situated among the high peaks of the Dinaric Mountains at an altitude of 1636 meters above the sea level. This beautiful glacial lake on the Vranica Pasture is one of the most popular lakes in the whole of Bosnia & Herzegovina with over 20 thousand visitors per year. What makes it even more unique are the numerous traditional shepherds’ huts dotted around it. They are called katuni are now available to tourist to spend the night. Others are still inhabited by shepherds who sell local cheese.
The area which offers various options for hiking and mounting biking – has been recognized as a natural reserve by the state since 1954 to protect some of the endemic species who live here.
To get the best views of the whole setting, try climbing to the cliff named Hrid or continue even further to the highest peak of the whole mountain range – Nadkrstač (2112 m).
Do you like what you see? Why not explore the list of best lakes to visit in the Balkans in real life? As local experts we are specialised in personalised tours in these parts of Europe. We cover a huge range of countries: from Slovenia and Croatia all the way to Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia. Let us know your preferences and we will prepare the best tailor-made trip to the Balkans just for you. Lakes, rivers, mountains, cultural sights, … we know them all! Trust the local knowledge.
for a tailor-made trip to the Balkans