A few years ago visiting Macedonia had never crossed my mind as I hadn’t heard much about the country, but when some friends invited me to a destination wedding at Ohrid in North Macedonia, I jumped at the chance and am so glad I did! Despite its breathtaking beauty and rich history, Lake Ohrid remains a relatively hidden gem in the Balkans. This means that you can experience its charm without being overwhelmed by crowds. It’s a perfect destination for those seeking a peaceful and authentic travel experience. In this post, I tell you why Ohrid is an absolute must-visit European destination!

Things To Do

Ohrid Lake

Image of Ohrid lake at sunset

For me, the obvious star of the show is Ohrid Lake. The crystal clear waters span over 30 kilometers and are surrounded by a picturesque mountainous backdrop. The lake is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest lakes in the world, dating back over two million years.

One of the best ways to experience the lake’s natural beauty is by taking a boat tour. Or if you are interested in watersports, you can enjoy activities such as swimming, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. The lake’s clear waters and gentle waves make it an ideal spot for a peaceful water adventure. If you are more interested in relaxation there are several beachfronts and even beach bars where you can hire loungers and soak up the sun!

St. Naum Monastery

Nestled on the southern shores of Lake Ohrid, amid lush greenery and serene surroundings, St. Naum Monastery stands as a testament to Macedonia’s rich religious heritage and natural beauty. This tranquil retreat, named after the revered Macedonian saint Naum of Ohrid, offers visitors a glimpse into the country’s past and a place for spiritual reflection. St. Naum Monastery was founded in the 10th century by the medieval Bulgarian-Slavic monk St. Naum of Ohrid. Over the centuries, the monastery has been rebuilt and expanded, but it has retained its spiritual significance and remains an important pilgrimage site for Orthodox Christians. One of the highlights of a visit to St. Naum Monastery is the nearby springs, believed to possess healing properties. According to local legend, St. Naum himself blessed the springs, vand to this day, visitors still drink from the springs! You can get to the monastery by taking a Boat Trip to St Naum Monsastary from Ohrid Harbour.

Visit some of the 365 Churches

Ohrid is home to over 365 churches, earning it the nickname “Macedonia’s Jerusalem.”. Due to the vast number, you will likely stumble across many of them whilst having a stroll around. Some of the most significant that you may want to seek out are:

1. Church of St. Sophia (Sveta Sofija): Dating back to the 11th century, the Church of St. Sophia is one of Ohrid’s most iconic landmarks and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This church is known for it’s impressive Byzantine architecture, adorned with intricate frescoes and elaborate mosaics. Inside, you can marvel at the stunning artwork that covers the walls and ceilings, depicting scenes from the Bible and the lives of saints.

2. Church of St. John at Kaneo (Sv. Jovan Kaneo): Perched on a cliff overlooking Lake Ohrid, the Church of St. John at Kaneo is a breathtaking example of medieval Macedonian architecture. Built in the 13th century, this small but picturesque church is renowned for its stunning location and panoramic views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Inside, visitors can admire the beautifully preserved frescoes that adorn the walls and learn about the church’s history and significance.

Image of Church of St. John at Kaneo (Sv. Jovan Kaneo)

3. Church of St. Clement and St. Panteleimon: Dedicated to two of the most revered saints in Macedonian Orthodox tradition, the Church of St. Clement and St. Panteleimon is a masterpiece of medieval art and architecture. Located in Ohrid’s Old Town, this 9th-century church features exquisite frescoes, intricate wood carvings, and a peaceful atmosphere that invites visitors to reflect on their faith and spirituality.

Image of Church of St. Clement and St. Panteleimon

Ancient Theatre of Ohrid

Ancient Theatre of Ohrid

Built during the reign of King Philip II of Macedon in the 3rd century BC, the Ohrid Ancient Theatre is one of the best-preserved ancient theaters in the Balkans. Originally used for theatrical performances, concerts, and public gatherings, the theater played a central role in ancient Ohrid’s cultural and social life. While the theater was primarily used for dramatic performances in ancient times, today it serves as a venue for a range of cultural events and performances. From classical music concerts and theatrical productions to dance performances and film screenings, the Ohrid Ancient Theatre continues to be a hub of artistic expression and creativity. Visiting the Ohrid Ancient Theatre will offer breathtaking panoramic views of Lake Ohrid and the surrounding landscape. The theatre is free to visit unless there is a performance going on.

Ohrid Town

Image of Ohrid Town

Ohrid is the cultural capital of North Macedonia. Strolling through its narrow cobblestone streets, you’ll discover a wealth of historical architecture, including the iconic Samuel’s Fortress, the 11th-century Church of Saint Sophia, and the National Museum of Ohrid. The town’s vibrant nightlife and delicious local cuisine add to its appeal, making it a perfect base for exploring the lake’s surroundings.

Another gem on the lake is Struga, a charming town known for its traditional architecture, vibrant arts scene, and annual poetry festival. Struga is home to Poetry bridge, which spans the Black Drin River and connects the town center with the charming Old Town district. Named in honor of the Struga Poetry Evenings, one of the oldest poetry festivals in the world, the bridge is adorned with verses from famous Macedonian poets, adding a touch of culture and artistry to your walk.

Take a Boat Trip

Image of boat trip on Ohrid Lake

No trip to Ohrid is complete without taking a cruise around the lake. Several boat tour operators in Ohrid offer a variety of routes and itineraries to suit your preferences. You should be able to find a provider on the day or you can book in advance. One available trip offers a panoramic boat tour around Ohrid Old Town and the opportunity to learn about its history from the captain on board. You will see the Church of Saint Sophia, the Church of Saint Clement, the Caves of Love, and more for around £17. You could also take a Boat Trip to St Naum Monsastary from Ohrid Harbour.

How to Get to Ohrid

Ohrid is easily accessible by air, with Ohrid St. Paul the Apostle Airport serving both domestic and international flights. Alternatively, you can reach Ohrid by bus from major cities like Skopje and Bitola. Once you arrive, getting around Ohrid is best done on foot, as many of the attractions are within walking distance of each other however if you do need to use taxis, these are very inexpensive compared to other places I’ve visited.

Where to Stay

Velestovo House

When I visited I stayed at Velestovo House. This hotel offers stunning views of the lake, the staff were friendly and helpful and it has some excellent guest reviews. Prices are usually well under £50 a night so this is a great budget option. Below is the view from my balcony.

Image of view of ohrid lake from Velestovo House

Vila Bisera comes highly recommended by my sister who recently visited and loved her stay there. This is a more upmarket option. It offers a four-star rating, three seasonal outdoor pools with parasols and sunbeds and excellent guest reviews. Prices are currently around £117 a night.

Image of the pool and outlook of Vila Bisera

Ohrid is truly a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Its unspoiled beauty and tranquility offer a culturally rich experience that will leave you wanting to go back time and time again!

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5 Comments

  1. Great guide as Lake Ohrid caught my attention some years ago and I haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet. This must be a sign and your guide will be super helpful for when I travel!

  2. This is such a good selection of spots… I could definitely use some time in Ohrid Town, it sounds just like the kind of place that’ll come right after my heart!

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