Island of Golem Grad (Остров Голем Град, Big Town)
Golem Grad, the only natural island in the Republic of Macedonia, is located on Lake Prespa in southwestern Macedonia a few kilometers from both borders with Greece and Albania. Part of the Galičica National Park, Golem Grad has a surface area of 20 hectares (49 acres), is 700 meters (2,296 feet) long at its longest stretch and is 350 meters (1,148 feet) wide. In 2008 the island was opened up for tourism and signs were placed around the island’s attractions.
To get to this island, we drove down the eastern shoreline of Lake Prespa to a beach south of the village of Dolni Dupeni, where we had arranged for a guide with a boat to take us to the island. This beach, the Dolni Dupeni Plaze is only 50 meters away from the crossing point into Greece. The guide had a small boat with a decent engine, thought it wasn’t fast, but due to leaving early in the morning (when the lake is calm) we had an enjoyable and peaceful ride. An hour and fifteen minutes later of wonderful views and gazing at pelicans and cormorants, we arrived at the island and docked on the southwestern side of the island.
Golem Grad translates to “Big City” or “Big Town”and considering the amount of development throughout the island between 400 B.C. and 600 A.D., the title is not so strange. Golem Grad also commonly referred to as “Snake Island”, for the seasonal time when you approach the island, snakes are churning in the water. Today however, we saw no snakes in the water and only the dried remains of a couple on the island.
The galleries below (with the exception of the last one) have been arranged in the order as we discovered the island.
There are other islands, though much smaller, in the Republic of Macedonia as the result of the creation of artificial lakes. These islands, formerly hills before the lake was created, depending on the water level can be found in Lake Tikveš (Тиквешко Езеро), Lake Debar (Дебарско Езеро) and Lake Kalimanci (Калиманско Езеро).
The sign posted very near to the area where we docked informs us that evidence of settlements since the 4th century B.C. exists on the island. The sign also states that during the middle ages, there existed three a monastery complex on the island with three churches, one dedicated to Sts. Peter and Paul, one to St. Demetrius and another to St. Nicholas. We docked on the part of the island called Port Vlaija (Пристан Влаија). The western side of the island has two other ports: Port Gojdarica (Пристан Гојдарица) and Port St. Peter (Пристан Св П.етар) which is the northern most port. As you can see in the gallery below, the trails are well marked.
The Cave (пештера)
A very short walk from the boats are moored is this natural cave overlooking Lake Prespa. There are smaller caves on the perimeter of the island but this is the only one that is noteworthy.
Prespa Views & Lookout Ruins
Shortly after we embarked on the well-marked trail, we came to this strategic location overlong Port Vlaija and Lake Prespa. No sign here to indicate what was here previously, but this Cliffside location is definitely beautiful as well as strategic.
Church of Saint Demetrius (Св Димитрија)
Continuing along the trail, we encountered the remnants of this 14th century church dedicated to St. Demetrius that apparently was built upon the foundation of house built in the 2nd century BS (Hellenistic period).
Church of Saints Peter and Paul
Continuing along the trail from St. Demetrius, we were very pleasantly rewarded with this still functioning church from the 14th Century dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul. Click here for more pictures, particularly of the interior of the church and the façade fresco.
Further along the trail are the ruins of an ancient Roman house, Римска Куќа, from the 4th Century.
Birds & Fauna
The island is also home to fascinating flora and fauna. When approaching the shore, you are treated to the fishing activities of pelicans, and cormorants. Yes, I Know, you can’t believe it but there are actually pelicans in Macedonia. On the island you can also view other birds such as crag martins and sparrows. As the boat moves along the coast and nears the birds, you are treated to a spectacle of pelicans and other birds displaying their grace in flight.
Other Island fauna include snakes, lizards, rabbits and turtles. Though we tried, we weren’t fortunate to catch a photo of one of those fast moving rabbits and tried not to step in what they left behind. We heard bats in the cave but were only able to shoot a picture of one that couldn’t get away from us.
Flora & Funghi
Throughout the juniper forest that covers the island, you will find a diverse array of funghi, ferns, wild figs, wild berries, wild plums and šipka (шипка, rosehip).
Early Christian Basilica 5th Century
Early Christian Basilica 5th Century
The Boat Ride There