It is the only freshwater lake in Crete. From ancient times it is known as “Korissia”. Its present name derives from the Arabic dialect.
The lake covers an area of 579 acres and is relatively shallow with a maximum depth of 22.50 meters. It consists of two springs on the south-east bank, one of which is visible at the end of summer and the locals call it “Mati, (it means eye) or Amati”.
The lake is an important wetland and its surroundings are protected by Natura 2000. It hosts important species such as waterfowls, ducks, eels, water snakes and a rare species of two-tailed turtle.
During the summer months, the lake level lowers and leaves a thick layer of white sand. During these months, the visitor can walk around the lake, swim and ride a water bike.
Next to the lake, there are many taverns and cafes where you can enjoy traditional Cretan dishes. If you visit the lake in winter remember that its level is rising and the beaches are disappearing. Most taverns, however, remain open during the winter.
The village of Kournas is 10 minutes away from the lake. It is a beautiful traditional village, unaffected by tourism. The village has a population of 500 and is located at an altitude of 200 meters at the foot of Mount Dafnomadara.
It flourished in the 16th century and contributed significantly to the struggles for liberation from the Turks while it was the seat of the Revolutionary Government in 1866 and the seat of the Cretan General Assembly in 1897.
In the village is the Byzantine church of Agios Georgios with architectural elements, which were later added during the Venetian occupation. Between the village and the lake is the Kournas Cave, which offers incredible views of the lake. It is relatively small, at a depth of 35 meters, full of stalactites and stalagmites.