If someone told you that you could go on a Greek island and you had to visit a fresh water lake, would you believe it? Believe it or not, Lake Kournas near Chania is a must-see, and one of the most beautiful offbeat destinations in Crete. After you get enough of the Chania beaches, you may want to explore the beautiful mountains on the biggest of all Greek islands. Mountains and mountain lakes come to mind. West Crete is the best place to go for a different kind of vacation adventure.
Surrounded by hills and mountains, this natural lake is a Natura 2000 protected area. It hosts a wide variety of flora and fauna. Ducks, geese, cormorants, herons, water snakes, eels,turtles and other animals live here.Its fresh water supply comes from the White Mountains, also known as Lefka Ori, the largest mountain range in Crete.
The bottom of the lake is covered in weeds, hence the dark color of the water. This dark color made locals believe that Kourna lake is bottomless. Scientists measured it, however, and they found out that the maximum depth is somewhere around 22m. Bottomless or not, this lake is a great place to relax and enjoy the beauty of this Greek island.
Where Is Lake Kournas?
Lake Kournas, or Kourna Lake (as you’ll find it on some road signs), is located in west Crete, in the Chania Prefecture, about 3-4km away from Giorgioupolis, less than 40km from Chania Town, and almost 30km away from the town of Rethymno. In Greek language, the name of this lake is Limni Kourna.
As you can reach it within one hour of driving, it’s easy to understand why Lake Kournas is one of the most popular attractions among locals. People come to spend their weekends on the lake shore, to have a nice meal at one of the tavernas, to take a stroll around the lake or to enjoy a pedalo adventure. The road from Chania Town to Lake Kournas is good. Some of its sections are rather narrow, but nobody speeds like crazy, so you won’t have any problems with that.
Here’s the taverna on the deck where you can eat a tasty Dakos, cheese Saganaki and many other Greek specialties.
Dakos is a traditional food specialty from Crete. Based on fresh tomatoes, feta cheese, double baked bread and extra virgin olive oil, Dakos is one of the best food choices on the island. Out of all Dakos variants I’ve tried during my stay in Crete, I loved the one at Lake Kournas the most.
During summer, the water level decreases, exposing a white sand beach. This makes it perfect for sunbathing. That’s actually the time of year when I visited Lake Kournas in a day trip from Chania. That was in August, on a very dry summer, so the sandy part was quite large. I didn’t expect the lake to be so beautiful.
How To Get to Lake Kournas?
The best way to get to the lake is by driving. From Chania Town, you don’t need more than one hour to get to the lake. Rethymnon is even closer. If you come from Heraklion, though, you’ll need 1.5 hours to cover the 100km distance.
If you don’t want to hire a car, you can take a bus to Giorgioupolis and then walk along the road for about 3km. Be very careful with those buses in Crete, because they don’t run all day long to all directions. Always check the bus schedules to make sure you’ll make it back to your hotel. In terms of comfort, buses in Crete are comfortable and clean. If you wave at them, they will stop and take you even outside the official stops. You can buy tickets from the driver.
What To Do on Lake Kournas?
There are so many things to do in Crete that you can fill one month with activities and trips and still have some left. I spent two months in Crete and I’m yet to visit the eastern part of the island.
Lake Kournas is a good spot for enjoying some sunbathing, swimming or canoeing. You can also rent a pedalo boat and have a gym session on the lake.
If you enjoy walking, you can take a hike around the lake. Although I’ve read in many places that you can take a full tour of the lake by foot, I’m not sure if this is indeed possible.
If you’re lucky, you may see some turtles. I’ve only seen fish, but here’s another article with photos of the turtles in Lake Kournas.
I think this is one of the offbeat places in Greece that are yet to be discovered by tourists. Since there aren’t any tourist buses dumping their human load on the lake shore, you can enjoy the beauty of this place without having to put up with the crowds. My photos of Kournas lake are all from August, which corresponds to the high season in Crete. Yet, there weren’t any crowds here. This was a pleasant surprise after Elafonissi (which was overpacked with sunbathers).
What To Bring with You to Lake Kournas?
As there’s not much natural shadow, make sure you bring a sun hat and wear sunscreen. Some of the pedalo boats have a canopy, but your hat will keep you safe at all times.
Bring some drinking water for the road (and perhaps some snacks). The tavernas and the restaurants by the lake are very good, so you don’t have to worry about the selection of foods. You’ll find enough options to satisfy even the most fussy eaters.
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