North Macedonia might not be the first place to spring to your mind when you are looking for a holiday destination by the water, but it should be! Although North Macedonia is land locked, Lake Ohrid is a crystal clear lake that provides you with everything you would get from the best European beaches.
Lake Ohrid shares a border with Eastern Albania, along with it’s sister lake ‘Lake Prespa’ (that also goes into Northern Greece). Lake Ohrid is Europes oldest lake while also being the deepest in the Balkans. It’s not shy is size either covering a whopping 358 km²!
Being the oldest and one of the deepest lakes obviously isn’t the only reason for you to visit Lake Ohrid. Coming from Skopje we made our way two and a half hours across the country to the town of Ohrid. Our intention was to only stay in Ohrid for two nights, but we fell in love with it and all it had to offer so much we extended that to three nights.
There is quite a bit to see and do within the town of Ohrid. I recommend staying at least two nights in Ohrid to enjoy all of these activities, but with the relaxed vibe and ‘beachy’ scene you could easily spend a week relaxing here in the height of summer.
The best way to experience Ohrid is to get up early and view all the sights on foot. Firstly, make your way to the waterfront in the town and turn right when you get there, using the water as your guide on your left hand side until you reach St. Sophias Church. From St.Sophias Church you turn left to get onto the most amazing wooden walkway perched above the lake. This was probably my favourite part of Ohrid to be honest because the views are just astounding!
At the end of the walkway there are one or two swimming areas that you can park at for the day. Here, you can choose to just enjoy the gorgeous lake views or if you are feeling a bit more brave you can take a dip! I swam while I was there and the water was lovely and so calm, but there were spottings of a few sea snakes where are native to the lake. From what I read up on these snakes they are completely harmless so there is no need to really worry (but I can see why it’s not everyones cup of tea to do the back stroke with them in tow!). If you continue along the path you will eventually come to the most iconic part of Lake Ohrid, St.John the Theologian’s church perched at the waters edge.
The view from this church is beyond stunning, but do try get here early to avoid the mass crowds of people visiting. From here, you can take the path behind the church from where this image was taken and follow the path and signs which will bring you to Samuels Fortress. Here, you can climb the walls of the Fortress to get views of all of Lake Ohrid, and the town of Ohrid itself.
From the fortress, I recommend getting lost along the narrow streets of Ohrid on your way back to the town centre. All of the little houses along the cobbled streets have unique fronts that are mostly blooming with greenery. There are little street vendors all along the streets and stores selling real pearls mined from Lake Ohrid, the perfect memorable souvenir. That whole route will take up majority of your day in Ohrid, especially if you stop along the way to grab lunch and dinner.
There are also several different activities that you can do on the lake itself. At the pier you will find numerous companies selling boat tours across to St. Naum Monastery, just before the border of Albania. On the lake you can do several activities like renting Kayaks! We tried to rent kayaks but unfortunately the lake was too rough that day and the company advised against it.
Trpejca is 30 minutes of a drive along the lake from Ohrid and is a must visit when you are in the area! The scenery at Trpejca is completely different from that of Ohrid, even though it is on the same lake. We chose to visit here and soak up the sun. With crystal clear water as far as the eye can see you would honestly forget that this is a lake in Macedonia and not a beach on the Mediterranean.
If you have a car you can explore a little further a field from Trpejca to Galičica National Park. This National Park is situated between Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespa. There is more or less just the one road that you drive through the mountains and you have to pay a small fee when you enter from the Ohrid side. You can do a few hikes here but as we had just done a hike at Matka Canyon the day before we opted to park up and hop out in a few areas to enjoy the views from there. As the national park is on the border between Macedonia and Albania while also being in close proximity to Northern Greece, you can actually see all three from here on a clear day! Once you drive through the national park you will only be a short distance from a few towns on the edge of Lake Prespa (which shares a border with all three countries mentioned above). You can make a full day in itself out of visiting Lake Prespa if you are in Ohrid for an extended period of time.
Our accommodation was probably one of the nicest places that we stayed during our time in the Balkans. The only downside to here is that it is only suitable if you have a car as it is a little outside of the town. For us, it was just the perfect place to stay as it had everything we needed. A lovely room (with a view!), a great breakfast and a nice pool to relax at in the evening between sight seeing and dinner.
Out of our whole trip through Albania, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia and Greece, Ohrid was my favourite destination. It gave me that similar magical feeling that I felt when I visited Lake Bled! It had the perfect mix of out-of-this-world scenery, an array of activities to choose from, great food, friendly people while also being extremely cheap. Even dinner at a lakeside restaurant in Ohrid will not set you back more than €30 for two people which I personally think is a great price for a tourist destination.
Lake Ohrid was not somewhere I ever had on a ‘list’ of mine to visit but having experienced here I would highly recommend anyone to add it to theirs! No matter if you are an adventure lover or just someone who wants somewhere nice to relax, Ohrid is an all rounder. As far as I know there are even direct flights from Skopje from England and many other countries.
After reading the above, do you think Lake Ohrid is somewhere you would like to visit? Let me know in the comments below!