An Ornithologist’s Paradise

Posted On November 16, 2009 

Skadar Lake (also known as Lake Scutari and Lake Shkodër is located on the border between the two Balkan countries of Montenegro and Albania in eastern Europe. Lake Skadar is the largest lake in the Balkan Peninsula. It has been named after the city of Shkodra in northern Albania.

Geographical features of Skadar Lake

The lake has an area of 400 square kilometres, two-third of which falls in Montenegro. It is located in Zeta –Skadar plains. The length of the lake is 48 kilometres while the breadth is 14 kilometres. The coastline is 170 kilometres long. The maximum depth of the lake is 44 metres while its surface elevation is 6 metres above the sea level. In fact, the lake is relatively shallow with the deepest part of  its bed sinking below the sea level, leaving it in a state of crypto-depression. The drainage basin of the lake is near about 5,500 square kilometres. The lake is fed by Moraca River which originates in the Rzaca mountain in northern Montenegro while it is source to the Bojana River that forms border between Montenegro and Albania. The Moraca-Skadar Lake-Bojana river system is 183 kilometres long. The Bojana River links Lake Skadar with the Adriatic Sea in the southeast. The lake has nearly 50 islets that hosts to old age monasteries and fortresses. Also the mountains Lovcen, Sutorman, Tarabosh and Rumija lie to the south of the lake. To the eastern side of the lake lie the Shkoder lowlands while the northern coast is flat and  is covered with lush green vegetation.

skadar lake


Skadar lake experiences sub-Mediterranean climate with mild and rainy winters (average temperature of the lake water in January is 7.3 degrees Celcius. The summers are dry and hot with maximum temperature exceeding 40 degrees Celcius. At thsis time, the water temperatures is more than 27 degree Celcius. The average air temperature is 15 degree Celcius.

Settlements near Lake Skadar

The region of Krajina, which stretc hes between the southern coast of the lake and the Rumija mountains is home to 22 rural settlements in the villages of Ostros and Sestani. The total human population in these settlements is 5,444.

The lake in Montenegro

The part of Skadar Lake located in Montenegro features:

  • Lake Skadar National Park
  • Murici Beach (the largest beach on the lake in Montenegro)
  • Underground springs
  • Ornithological reserves like Manastirska Tapija, Grmozur, Crni Zar, Panceva Oka and Manastirski Vrbis
The lake in Albania features
  • Managed nature reserve since 2005
  • Three zones earmerked by the government in the form of core zone, traditional development zone and transition zone
Lake Skadar National Park

The parts of the lake and its surroundings located in Montenegro have been declared a national park in 1983. Lake Skadar National Park in fact is one of the largest bird reserves in Europe. It has IIBA (Internationally Important Bird skadar lake national parkArea) status since 1989. In 1996, the national park was added to the Ramsar list of wetlands of international importance. It has a rich content of flora species as well.

The national park has 270 kinds of bird species including European pelicans. Seagulls and herons are also found here. In the winter, several birds migrate to Skadar Lake from northern Europe. Ducks, Coots and Grebes make their way into this area in search of food. Other birds visible in Skadar Lake include: Crag Martins, Little Erget, White Spoonbill, waterbirds, Mediterranean species, Pochards, Tufted Duck, Woodcock, Dalmatian Pelican, Snipe, Greater Flamingo, Osprey and Cormorant. The Cormorants which are a rare species make their nest in the northern swamps of the lake. There are also found the rare curly Pelicans.

Fish species are another major attraction of Skadar Lake. Carp, bleak and eel are popular varieties among the 48 species found here out of which 15 are endemic. There are also smokehouses in the fishing village called Vranjina adjoining the lake where carps are smoked to make a delicious lake cuisine. Fishing boats can be rented from Virpazar.

Accommodation: Hotel Pelican, Hotel Jul, Hotel Happy Hippo, Hotel Panorama Gazivoda, Wild camping can also be done.

Places for bird watching: Ulcinj Saltpans, Ada Bojana, Buljarica, Tivatska Solila are some of the places from where a great variety of birds can be viewed.

Other attractions in Skadar Lake

There are other tourist attractions in Skadar Lake like swimming in the warm lake water, sunbathing on beaches and exploring the surroundings by foot. A hidden beach called Pjesacac which is located in the heart of the lake. It is accessible only by sea.

Visiting Skadar Lake

The beauty of Skadar lake can be experienced from on the water, from its coast, from air or from atop the mountains that flank it. The lake is easily accessible by both road and railway since major routes (Podgorica-Petrovac and Podgorica-Bar) pass through Virpazar, a town located close to the lake. Podgorica, located 30 km away from the lake, has an international airport while Petrovac (25 km away) is a little resort town on the Adriatic coast. Budva resort is a further 17 km upcoast.

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