In the middle of a large and fertile plain marking the boundary between the regions of Rodope and Xanthi lies Lake Vistonida, one of the most beautiful wetlands in Europe. It is the fourth largest lake in the country, covering an area of 45 km2, a dreamy location where the green hues of the forests meet the azure of the sea.
The wetland is a birds’ paradise for populations of the entire European continent, as 260 species of birds have been observed here. The list grows longer every year with observations of new species. These birds of passage visit the wetland and Greece as they traverse from other continents (America, Asia).
So, carry with you a pair of binoculars, a high definition zoom camera, follow your guide and you’re off for a unique bird watching experience!
The bird populations you will meet in the area are impressive in terms of their numbers as well as of the great variety of species. Out of 260 recorded species, 9 are rare or classified as endangered throughout the world. Among these are the red-breasted goose, the ferruginous duck, and eagles such as the White-tailed eagle, the greater spotted eagle, and the lesser kestrel. This place is the habitat for some of these birds. Other species come either from the north in order to spend the winter in milder climates and find food, or in the spring in order to nest and reproduce and return in the south in autumn.
Among the species that reproduce in the area are the great cormorant, the black-crowned night heron, the grey heron, the squacco heron, the little egret, the black-winged stilt, the pied avocet, and the European roller. Among the species that pass over the lake as part of their migration route, are the glossy ibis, the great white pelican, and the slender-billed curlew.
Many aquatic birds winter in the lake, such as the ruddy shelduck, the common shelduck, the mallard, the northern shoveler, the Eurasian wigeon, the Eurasian teal, the common pochard, the greater scaup, the pied avocet, the northern lapwing, the greater flamingo, and the tufted duck.
One of the main reasons for you to visit Lake Vistonida would be to spot the white headed duck, one of the world’s rarest bird species, as their population is limited to 13,000 individuals across the planet. The white headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala) comes from the lagoons of Kazakhstan to winter in Vistonida, in late October or early November and remains in the area until late February or early March.
Two other must-sees are the pink-feathered flamingoes flapping their wings and revealing the reddish hues of their feathers, and the mixed colony of Herons in the Porto Lagos small wooded area.
Apart from bird watching, you can also visit the Avdira archaeological site and the nearby Archaeological Museum, as well as the monasteries of Panagia I Archangeliotissa and of Panagia I Kalamou. You can drive on and off road, ride a bicycle along the lakeside area or canoe along the lake; this will no doubt turn out to be an experience to remember.
Make a point of visiting the enchanting old Xanthi town, the jewel of Thrace, and discover the area’s rich historical and cultural tradition which flourished mostly during the 19th century, as the area became famous for producing and processing tobacco.
After hours of bird watching you will eventually feel hungry! Try the local dishes; they will definitely live up to your expectations! The region’s gastronomy combines traditional old Thracian dishes with much affinity to recipes from Asia Minor (Anatolia) as well as to the local Pomak community. Try sausage, pastirma (or pastrami), kavourmas, tzigerosarmades, gioufkades, chylopites, pork or chicken with pickled cabbage, chicken with couscous, sweet or savoury pies, stuffed cabbage leaves and kebab. On the seaside areas, there’s lots of fresh seafood. The fish tavernas in Fanari village and Porto Lagos and the traditional tavernas in old Xanthi town will introduce you to the magic of the Thracian cuisine! Xanthi is also known for the top quality sweets and desserts. In pastry shops down town or in the Old Town alleys you can try the famous syrupy baked pastries or you can treat yourself to sweet delicacies rolled in chocolate and nuts.
Another fine idea would be to visit the Women Tourism Association of Stavroupoli and the Shop selling local traditional products of the Nestos Valley in Stavroupoli. Buy some home made spoon sweets and jams, local pasta, forest berries, fine embroidery and well-known wines produced in local wineries.
Lake Vistonida’s Info Office is located in the west entrance of Porto Lagos village. Type www.epamath.gr on the internet or dial 25410-96646 to contact them. Send your email at: firstname.lastname@example.org