Located in an idyllic landscape between the slopes of the White Mountains and the plane of Georgioupolis, Lake Kournas is the largest natural lake in Crete. It is situated in the vicinity of Kournas village, 2.5 km south of Georgioupolis beach, 20 km west of Rethymnon and 43 km east of Chania. This region is of great importance to Greece, as the Apokoronas area is among the few spots in Crete where fresh water is collected all year round. Its name is believed to originate from the Arabic word for “lake” or “bath”, kurna. In ancient manuscripts, it is mentioned as Korissia, and is believed to have been a sanctuary dedicated to Korissia Athena.
Lake Kournas is a large pit filled with groundwater from the White Mountains. The water is fed from the southeastern side due to the porous ground, while the opposite side is waterproofed by the type of rocks. It is small and circular, covering an area of 57.9 hectares with a maximum depth of 22.5 m, a maximum length of 1080 m and a maximum width of 880 m. During summer, its volume is estimated to be 7.5 million cubic meters. The lake is connected to the Kavros beach through the Delfinas river.
The lake has been included in the Natura 2000 protection network, yet the surrounding region has been harmed by human intervention such as the construction of restaurants and other establishments. The lake is home to rare aquatic plants and trees, and its dark colour is due to the algae at the bottom. It is also a habitat to various species of aquatic birds like moorhens, ducks, herons and cormorants. Moreover, it is well known for its eel population. Water snakes and terraoins can also be found there, along with an invasive species of goldfish.
Lake Kournas is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. During summer, it is the ideal spot for relaxation and a nice stroll (3.5 km). One side of the lake is lined with restaurants and small sandy beaches, while activities such as kayaking and pedaling are offered in the afternoon when the lake is calm and the water has a beautiful colour. In winter and spring, the water level rises, making it harder to walk around the lake due to the dense vegetation on the bank.
Legends have been passed down from generations about the lake’s mysterious origins. Some say that it is bottomless, while others believe that it was created by a father who fell in love with his own daughter and was punished for it with a flood. Others speak of a fairy combing her hair on a rock in the middle of the lake. Lastly, some believe that paranormal phenomena in the area occur due to electromagnetic fields of the lake.