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Lake Ohrid is one of Europe's oldest and deepest lakes, with estimates placing its age between four and ten million years old. Lake Ohrid spans about 88,500 acres between Albania and Macedonia. The lake is tectonic in origin (shifting of the Earth's crust). It is incredibly deep, over 948 feet in some places. Lake Ohrid's depth is one factor that accounts for its existence -- most lakes of its kind fill up with sediment after about 100,000 years. The depth of the lake, combined with low sediment in the inflow to the lake, has saved Lake Ohrid from a similar fate.
UNESCO declared Lake Ohrid and the city of Ohrid in Macedonia a World Heritage Site in 1979. The Ohrid Region is considered the cradle of Slavonic culture. Human settlement dates back to the third century BC, with archeological remains that are 5,000 years old. Built between the 7th and 19th centuries, the city of Ohrid contains more than 800 Byzantine-style icons and the oldest Slav monastery, St. Pantelejmon. Pilgrims and tourists are drawn to the lake's clear waters and the city's ancient, inspiring architecture.
Lake Ohrid is fed primarily by springs, but there are also several rivers feeding the lake, including the Sateska, Koselska, and Corava Rivers. Lake Ohrid also receives water from nearby Lake Prespa through underground springs. The Black Drim River is the lake's outflow. Lake Ohrid's 88,513 acres stretch across the Albanian-Macedonian border with about two thirds of the lake in the Republic of Macedonia and the remaining third in the Republic of Albania. The lake is bordered by Mount Galicica to the east and by Mount Mokra and Mount Jablanica on the Albanian side.
Considered a "Museum of Living Fossils," Lake Ohrid is home to a wide variety of plants, animals, and fish, some of which only exist in the lake. The Ohrid trout is unique to the lake and widely sought by anglers. There are also belvica, European eels, and freshwater shells, crabs, and sponges. Almost half of the fish caught in Lake Ohrid are trout or eels, earning the lake the nickname "Trout Lake." The Plasica is also endemic to Lake Ohrid. Its scales are the key component in the creation of Ohrid pearls. Using a secret recipe passed down through generations of a family, layers of the fish scale emulsion create the world-famous pearls.
In addition to fishing, there is more than enough water on Lake Ohrid for paddling in canoes and kayaks, as well as boating. Every year the lake plays host to a swimming marathon. Established in 1958, the Galicica National Park includes 56,093 acres in Macedonia between Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespa. One of the main reasons it was made a national park is because of the spectacular views from the limestone ridge of the mountains over the lakes. Visitors can hike and climb to see the gorgeous view and, in places, paragliding is even allowed. Several villages are scattered across the park, and there are hotels and vacation rentals within its boundaries.
People have been living on the shores of Lake Ohrid for thousands of years. Tucked away in the mountains around the lake are several surviving cave churches. What started out as simple monk cells have been expanded and covered with frescoes. Religious pilgrims and history and art lovers are all drawn to Lake Ohrid for the icons, frescoes and magnificent architecture. The countryside is dotted with mountain villages, and there are restaurants serving local Macedonian food. Accommodations range from hotels, resorts and private rentals to campgrounds. For those that fall in love with the area, there is real estate available for sale.
Today, Lake Orhid's visitors are likely to be tourists and pilgrams, but the lake's lure is as strong as it was thousands of years ago when it called settlers to its shores. Considered one of Europe's great biological reserves and home to ancient churches, monasteries and art from the middle ages, Lake Ohrid promises an experience as rich as its history.
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