Beyond Lake Ohrid > Macedonia’s Volcano Duvalo

In the nearby village of Kosel, just outside Ohrid, Duvalo is a geologic site that some have attributed to the last active Balkan volcano. After a long day enjoying Lake Ohrid, it’s definitely a unique place to explore. The site is reached by a scenic drive along the backroads, with views of family vineyards and homesteads. Moreover, the countryside here is so beautiful!

Exploring Beyond the Lake

Many travelers are surprised to learn that there is much to see beyond beautiful Lake Ohrid. The surrounding region is full of hiking trails, monasteries, and ancient history. However, one of the more cool and unusual sites is the Duvalo Dormant Volcanic Field. We accidentally discovered it during a scenic drive on a rental scooter.

Initially, we noticed a strong sulfur smell, realizing only later it was coming from the crater. The odor is so intense that the scent can be experienced from a 3-kilometer (2-mile) radius of the site.

Read: Macedonia and the Macedonians: A History (Studies of Nationalities)

Geothermal Tourism

Although considered “extinct,” the Duvalo Volcanic Field continues to experience geothermal activity as evidenced by the strong smell of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide gases released from the hole. When researching the site, researchers offer mixed interpretations of what the crater is geothermically.

At the site, you can see where the geothermal gases are located due to the absence of greenery or shrubs.

The confusion stems from the signs at the site depicting the crater as the last traces of historically significant volcanic activity in the Balkans. However, in 2021 a team of European researchers analyzed the area and said that the site has nothing to do with volcanic activity despite its name.

Their conclusion stemmed from no volcanic rocks or activity recorded in the basin. Additionally, the crater came from sulfur mining, not from an extinct volcano.

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What Is the Duvalo Volcanic Field?

Due to Ohrid’s seismic activity, researchers explain that the gases come from chemical reactions in limestone in the area’s faultlines. It’s confusing to some because gases emerge from the ground like a volcano, yet no volcano exists.

Duvalo releases about 66.9 tons of CO2 each day along the main cracks in the ground, similar to other geothermal sites in Greece and Italy. Think of it as an active tectonic structure, not an extinct volcano.

In 2014, locals observed increased smoke coming from the crater. The increase in geothermal activity started when Macedonia was experiencing a huge surge in seismic activity around the country. Naturally, this put emergency response teams on high alert.

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What to Expect at Duvalo

At the site, signage and wooden posts help keep visitors off the rocky hills. A small-covered picnic table offers a chance to enjoy a drink or a snack if the smell doesn’t bother you too much. While other geothermal sites are in the surrounding area, Duvalo is the most accessible for visitors.

Some may say there is not much to see, but when at the site, notice how the area is void of any plants or trees. Additionally, trees on the edge of this zone exhibit yellowed or dead leaves, particularly on their lower branches from the toxic gases. On that note, some locals suggest not staying too long to prevent inhaling large amounts of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide.

Is Duvalo Worth the Visit?

Some travelers may not appreciate the natural significance of the geological site, especially when compared to Ohrid’s scenic mountainsides. This is because, in contrast, Duvalo is stark, barren, and smells terribly like rotten eggs.

The drive to the Duvalo Volcanic Field is gorgeous, winding through family vineyards and country homesteads.

However, some of the landscape reminds us of some of the geothermal sites in Yellowstone National Park. Consider that travelers come from all over the world to experience Yellowstone’s unique scenery. Amazingly, Ohrid offers a similar experience, just on a much smaller scale. For us, it was worth the trip!

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