The only freshwater lake on the island, Kournas Lake, is located at the north edge of the White Mountains, barely 4 km from Georgioupolis, on the borders of Apokoronas.
The name – Kournas – probably comes from the Arab word for lake/tub – or perhaps the word for a tap. In the past it was called Korisia. Some believe there was temple here to Athena Korisias.
The lake creates an fascinating environment, which changes with the seasons. In winter the water level rises and the lake grows, in summer it falls, revealing sandy beaches and the spring that feeds it – the Amati.
The dark colours at the centre of the lake are the result of algae growth. For some reason in the past popular opinion had declared the lake to be artificial .. it is not.
The ecosystem of the lake and the River Delphina (which takes the lake water north to the Cretan Sea) are amongst the most vital on the island, and indeed in Greece too. Correctly the locale has been included in the Natura 2000 network. It is a stopping place for migratory birds, and a spot where one meets many species endemic to the island, or the east Mediterranean.
Eels and their young, amphibians and reptiles – like the Emydi (Malaclemys terrapin) with its spotted shell, and many birds – ducks, moorhens, cormorants, even herons: all live here.
And so do nymphs! .. or so the Story goes!! A girl appears on moonlight nights, combing her blond hair. Some say that wishing to escape the lustful attentions of her father, she magicked the lake into being and herself into it with the cry ‘Voula and Voulolimna .. let me be part of the Lake!’ Another version makes her the daughter of the priest of a village that once stood hereabouts – the only survivor of the flood sent by God to drown the wicked inhabitants.
The modern counterpoint of such legends, a supposedly more ‘scientific’ opinion, speaks of electromagnetic fields – some say positive, others negative.
Whether you are swimming in the summer, walking on its shores, sailing in a boat, or on a picnic, Kournas Lake is a destination that can combine many activities – including lunch or coffee in the tavernas on the banks that overlook the turquoise waters.
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