If you have yet to discover Ohrid, it’s time to plan a trip there. Located on Lake Ohrid, one of Europe’s oldest and deepest lakes, Ohrid is home to a medieval castle, ancient churches, well-preserved Ottoman-era buildings in the old quarter and much more. It is North Macedonia’s top tourist destination, but not many North American tourists have been there.
Are you ready to add Ohrid to your travel bucket list? Here are five ways to experience Ohrid:
1. Go on a Lake Ohrid tour
Ohrid, along with Lake Ohrid has been a UNESCO protected region since 1979. This crystal clear lake serves as the sea for Macedonians. The promenade in Ohrid is lined with restaurants, cafes, and gardens. It’s one of the most beautiful natural wonders in Europe.
The best ways to experience Lake Ohrid and Ohrid is to take a boat tour on the lake. There are many tour companies offering boat tours around Lake Ohrid where you can enjoy the unforgettable views of the surrounding hills, churches and towns, and several species of fish in the lake as well.
Daily boat service is available from Ohrid to Sveti Naum Monastery and Bay of Bones. Bay of Bones is a reconstructed Bronze Age stilted village. The Church of Sveti Naum is a Byzantine-style, multi-domed building with unique 16th and 19th-century frescos. You can learn about the history of Ohrid and why it was considered as one of the most important religious and educational centers at the end of the ninth century.
It takes about one and a half hours each way to Sveti Naum, a town close to the Albanian border. The locals say that you can still hear the heartbeat of Saint Naum (Sveti Naum) inside the church if you put your ear on his tomb.
Two-thirds of Lake Ohrid belongs to Macedonia and one-third is in Albania.
2. Climb up to Car Samoil’s Fortress
On the way to Car Samoil’s Fortress is the 200 BC Hellenistic-type theatre. The Romans removed ten rows of the amphitheater and made it into a venue for gladiators. Today, the amphitheater hosts performances during the summer months.
The massive Car Samoil’s Fortress occupies the entire summit of Ohrid Hill. Built in the 10th century by a Bulgarian tsar, this medieval fortification of walls and ramparts show the importance of Ohrid and the power it had in the region. Though it’s not easy to climb on the narrow and steep stone stairways, it’s worth the effort as you will be awarded gorgeous views of Lake Ohrid and Ohrid.
The fortress is closed on Mondays.
3. Sunset at Church of Sveti Jovan at Kaneo
Often called the Jerusalem of Europe, Ohrid had over 365 churches. And today there are about 50 that are still functioning. Church of Sveti Jovan at Kaneo is one of the most photographed attractions in North Macedonia.
The best time to get to the iconic St Jovan Church at Kaneo is just before sunset. Take a quick look inside the church and enjoy the original frescos behind the altar. Then, see the sun go down into the beautiful blue waters of the lake from the 13th-century church perched on a cliff.
After the sunset, take a walk down to Kaneo beach for dinner or hire a boat to get you there from the Church.
St Jovan Church is open from 9 am to 6 pm.
4. Savor Macedonian food
Letna Bavca Kaneo on Kaneo beach is perfect for anyone who enjoys dining at a restaurant with a terrace by the water. Enjoy the sun and the views of Lake Ohrid while you eat and drink. Seafood and pasta are delicious at Letna Bavca Kaneo.
Other restaurants to check out:
Restoran Belvedere – with outdoor dining under a large tree
Restoran Tino – offers traditional Macedonian food and live music in the evening
Restoran Dalga – another restaurant for seafood like native Plashica fish
Restoran Antiko – serves traditional Macedonian food where you can try Turli Tava, Selsko meso, Tavce gravce and more
5. Explore the old town by foot
Ohrid is one of the oldest towns in Europe. Established between the 7th to 9th centuries, the beautiful lake town boasts of narrow cobblestone streets, Ottoman architecture like the Robevi house, ancient and new terra-cotta houses, and well-preserved medieval churches and monasteries.