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Vlasina Lake – Old or new tourist destination on Serbian South?

Vlasina Lake
Vlasina Lake

Vlasina Lake (Serbian: Власинско језеро, Vlasinsko jezero) is very beautiful a semi-artificial lake in Southeast Serbia. Lying at the altitude of 1211 m, with the area of 16 km², it is the highest and largest artificial lake in Serbia. It was created in 1947–51, when the peat bog called Vlasinsko blato (Vlasina mud) was closed by a dam and submerged by waters of incoming rivers, chiefly Vlasina.

Vlasina lake lies at 42°42′ 22”, on plateau called Vlasina, on the altitude of 1211 m. Its area is shared among municipalities of Surdulica and Crna Trava.

The plateau is surrounded by mountains of Čemernik, Vardenik and Gramada. The lake stretches in the North-South direction, with the length of about 9.5 km and the maximal width of approximately 3.5 km. Its average depth is 10.5 m, while the maximum depth is 34 m, near the dam. The central part of the lake is wide, 10-15 m deep.

Its eastern coastline is jagged, with two bays: larger Biljanina bara and smaller Murin zaliv separated by Taraija peninsula. The southern part of the island, between Bratanov del peninsula and the mouth of Božićki kanal is shallower (2–6 m), with swampy coasts and peat.

Vlasina lake is most easily accessible from the southwestern side, by a 19 km long section of magistral road M1.13 from Surdulica, which itself lies 10 km east of Niš-Skopje motorway on the E75 European Route.

The road extends west, towards the Bulgarian border crossing at Strezimirovci, some 20 km away. Along the west shore, the regional road R122 leads across the dam towards Crna Trava in the north.

Vlasina is a mountaineous region of southeastern Serbia. It is a border area to Bulgaria, a region of the Rhodopian Serbia, with old rocks and mountains. Its most prominent landforms are eponymous Vlasina River and Vlasina Lake. It corresponds to the territories of municipalities of Crna Trava, Vlasotince and Surdulica.

The region consists of fours smaller, micro-regions: Crna Trava, Znepolje, Lužnica and Vlasotince. Near Vlasotince, remains of the ancient volcanic eruptions are quite visible.

Islands on Vlasina Lake

A floating island is a mass of floating aquatic plants, mud, and peat ranging in thickness from a few inches to several feet.

Floating islands are a common natural phenomenon that are found in many parts of the world.

They exist less commonly as a man-made phenomenon. Floating islands are generally found on marshlands, lakes, and similar wetland locations, and can be many hectares in size.

There are two permanent islands on the lake, along its eastern coast: Dugi del (7.84 ha) and Stratorija (1.82 ha).

Along with those islands, one of the lake’s most famous features are the floating islands, occurring when the water during high levels breaks off the loose chunks of peat off the shores, 0.5–2 m thick.

Driven by the wind, they float from one shore of the lake to another, carrying the flora and fauna, and serving as the shelter and food source for the fish underneath. For that reason, they are an attractive location for fishermen. The largest such island has the area of 8 ha, and is referred to as “Moby-Dick” by the local population. It is overgrown with dense vegetation, including birch trees. However, most of the time it is anchored along the shores.

Current tourist capacities on Vlasina lake include around 300 beds in hotels “Vlasina” and “Narcis“, offering a modest range of services. Along with regular tourists, they often host sporting teams from Serbia and abroad, as the lake is a popular destination for summer training due to its high altitude. Sporting grounds include a large football field, small sports field and weightlifting room.

An ambitious project for development of tourism is planned for the Vlasina area by the country’s Development plan and the Ministry of Tourism, and it is included in the “21 projects for the 21st century” plan. The planned facilities include a new tourist center Novi Rid, with 1000 beds and shopping center, tourist center Krstinci with 350 beds, center “Džukelice” for summer sports, a marina for sailboats (motorboats are forbidden on the lake), a number of ski lifts and facilities for Nordic skiing.

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