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By Julia Van Peer
"Ohrid: The jewel in the crown of Macedonia."

It wouldn’t be a trip to North Macedonia without visiting the country’s pride and joy, Ohrid. This town, along with its namesake the Lake of Ohrid, is listed UNESCO World Heritage, and is among the most scenic lake towns in the Balkan. 


Medieval Byzantine churches, a buzzing old quarter in the centre of town, and ancient dwellings telling legends of the numerous occupants of Ohrid over the centuries. Samuel’s Fortress, looming over the orange-roofed houses and narrow cobblestoned streets, reveals a legacy full of enthralling stories. While the charming Old Bazaar and an array of lively bars and restaurants lure you to lean back with a refreshing beverage.


The waters of Ohrid Lake are shared between Albania and North Macedonia, but the most eminent landmarks are to be found on its eastern shore. The best way to experience Lake Ohrid is by ambling along the shores or even take a boat trip over its clear calm waters. If you’re feeling more adventurous, hire a mountain bike or undertake a day hike in the surrounding magical nature. But above all, take your time to unwind and enjoy a breathe of fresh air in this peaceful enclosure.


In this post, I’ll introduce you to the best things worth visiting in Ohrid. 

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View over Ohrid Lake from the village of Trpejca.


Perched on the edge of the vast lake shared between North Macedonia and Albania, Ohrid is increasingly becoming a local tourism hotspot. With the imposing lush green mountains of Galicica National Park on one side, and the cobalt blue lake on the other, its location is picture-perfect. 


Constructions of the town began in the 7th century, making it one of the oldest human settlements on European grounds. This is reflected in the abundance of Byzantine-style monasteries, Ottoman influenced architecture, and archeological remains from the Bronze Age to the Middle Ages. Around every corner there is a new tale to tell or a new myth to be heard. Navigate the steep streets winding up the hill to Samuel’s Fortress, before gazing upon the marvellous churches, and bargaining your way through the Old Bazaar. Then there is the stunning deep blue water, splattering against the walls of the town. It truly is a unique destination. 


Ohrid truly is one of a kind. Picture by


Back in the day, when the town still had its original name of Lychnidos, houses were mainly built of either wood or clay, neatly squeezed next to each other in much too narrow cobblestoned streets. These days you find yourself wandering through almost the exact same roads as in the old days. Maybe not all buildings are replica’s of the ancient dwellings, however the town’s atmosphere takes you back to better days. It reminded me a little of Krujë in Albania. Small in size but impressive in every other aspect.

This is one of those places where you wouldn’t mind getting lost in in the maze of alleys. A myriad of medieval churches can be found on the way, including the small Church of Lin, and the minimalistic Church of St. Sofia which is beautifully lit in the evening glow. 


Like any other Balkan town, Ohrid also has a rich selection of peppy bars, delicious burek stands and cozy restaurants. But only here do you have the added charm of the nearby lake. 


Straddle along in the streets of the Old Town of Ohrid.

Samuel Fortress – Dating back to the 10th century, under Tsar Samuel’s reign, the fort was renovated only a decade ago. Climb up the fortress for a birds-eye view over the rooftops and the stunning lake beyond. To get some of the best sights, conquer the steep stairs to get to the fortress walls and watch towers. The 60 denar is truly worth every step and every vista.


Old Bazaar – A town could not have belonged to the Ottoman Empire and not have an Old Bazaar as a memento. Ohrid’s Old Bazaar may not be as impressive as Skopje’s, but here too handcrafted jewellery and original souvenirs line the stalls and shops. The paved street has juice bars and ice cream parlours at regular intervals in case you need to refuel. 


Amphitheatre of Ohrid – Once located next to the Via Egnatia, connecting the Balkan with the Roman Empire, the Romans too left their mark on the lake town. Tucked in between residential buildings, the Ancient Theatre of Ohrid was constructed around 200 BC. Over the years it served many purposes, including bloody gladiator fights, executions by both Romans and Christians, and more recently it became a venue for Ohrid’s summer festival. It’s free of any charge and open to visitors every day of the week. 


The ancient amphitheater in Ohrid.


The highlight of everyone’s visit to Ohrid is the Orthodox Church of St. John Kaneo. To reach this glorious wonder, either walk the scenic over-water boardwalk or take a taxi boat from the main port. 


For a small compensation you can enter the church and marvel at the inside dome covered with lavish frescoes and luxurious icons. Executed by both local and foreign artists, St. John the Theologian Church displays a legacy to times when Ohrid was a religious and cultural centre. Once you have absorbed the inside beauty, it’s time to move to the famous viewpoint.


The most iconic sight of Ohrid. Picture by

Climb up the hill above the church to shoot the postcard-like photograph. Standing on a cliff, right above a fishermen settlement, overlooking theenclosing mountains touching the radiant lake. The simplicity, the orange-red bricks, and the imposing dome make it a visit worthwhile. The church is thought to have been built during the 13th century, in dedication to John of Patmos, believed to be John the Apostle. 


Other churches worth visiting are:

  • The Church of St. Sophia – As mentioned in the section of the Old Town, this church can be found right in the heart of Ohrid. When the constructions started in the year 852, during the First Bulgarian Empire, it was decided they would build a church on the site. After a few centuries, during the Ottoman Empire, the church was converted into a mosque and its frescoes were covered and preserved. Now it is one of the most preeminent religious buildings in the whole of North Macedonia. As Skopje’s Stone Bridge is depicted on the country’s coat of arms, so is the Church of Saint Sophia illustrated on the 1000 denar banknote.

  • Church of Saints Clement and Panteleimon – A little bit below Samuel’s Fortress you will pass the Church of Saints Clement and Panteleimon. Similar to the Church of Saint Sophia it was build in the 9th century and converted into a mosque as well during Ottoman reign. 


Dropped in between Albania and North Macedonia, the sublime Ohrid Lake is the perfect lakeside getaway. It is one of the oldest and deepest lakes in Europe, covering an area of over 358 square-kilometres. Nowadays home to a wealthy freshwater fauna and flora, the water basin came to exist about two to three million years ago, thus providing drinking water for our ancestors. 


View from Trpejca beach.


Children playing on an unused jetty.

Lake Ohrid looks incredible from afar, which is why there are many panoramic viewpoints to be found along the road. I liked the views from Trpejca in particular, because it was less touristy and you still get brilliant vistas here. The small village of Trpejca offers a pebbled beach alongside imposing cliffs, with a handful of cute little beach bars and restaurants. If you move a little bit more north many other alternative villages and beaches appear, some more charming than others, all with one thing in common: deep blue water inviting you to take a refreshing dive! 


There are a couple of different ways to explore Ohrid’s beauty, including a pleasant boat trip, driving up and down a curvy road, or strolling along its shores. I visited the almost deserted lake in October but I can imagine, even in the smallest of villages, beaches and bars are filled with tourists during summertime. And who is to blame, with such beautiful panoramas.


A stunning sunset over Ohrid Lake.


Ohrid isn’t just easy on the eye, it’s also rich in wonderful fauna and flora.


Depending on how far your adventure-radius reaches, mountain biking is an ideal way to explore Ohrid’s surroundings. Not only can you drive along the twisting road to spot the lake from different points of view, but Galicica National Park offers a wide range of mountain biking trails. There are many bike rentals to be found in the centre of Ohrid. We were very satisfied with City Bike Ohrid.


Another way of feeding your adventuresome senses is by undertaking one of many hiking trails. Breathtaking valleys, mountain lakes, pristine rivers, and lush green fields filled with wonderfully scented flowers await the hiker. Make your way to the entrance of the Galicica National Park and from here signs alongside the road indicate possible trails. Normally the entrance fee is around 200 denar, but when I was here in October it was free of charge. 


While many people stop their visit at St. John Kaneo Church, there are many other wonderful destinations to be seen. For example the iconic Monastery of Sveti Naum, located near the border with Albania and only a 1.5 hour boat drive away from Ohrid. If you want to make a day trip out of it, you pay an amount of 600 denar per person for a return ticket. Of course the chapel is also accessible by car and even by public transport. If you have a little time left on your itinerary it truly is worth the visit. 


There are plenty of Mountain Bike trails around Ohrid.


If you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, joining a walking tour is the best way to discover the town of Ohrid. They cover a lot of ground in a couple of hours and if you’re lucky your guide shares some great stories about the old days. Likewise many excursions are available to explore Ohrid’s surroundings. Most of the time they already include transportation from and to Ohrid. Some possible guided tours are Odisea, Lake Excursions, Kostoski, and many more. 


Before coming to the Balkan I couldn’t have foreseen that the traditional cuisine would be this delicious. On the one hand there are distinct differences between countries and even between regions within one country, when it comes to homemade food. On the other hand you have several dishes that are prepared in practically every restaurant on the Balkan Peninsula, be it with small differences in methods of preparation. Shopska salad (a traditional salad with cucumber, tomato and cheese), burek (rolled up dough with vegetables or meat), ajvar (mashed peppers), stuffed peppers with cheese, these are but a small fraction of various recipes. Typical for North Macedonia is the Tavce Gravce, baked beans served with spicy peppers, onions and fresh tomato. 

Try it yourself in one of the following restaurants:

  • Kaneo – If you are looking for the best fish and seafood preparations around, Kaneo will steal your heart. Further, you you can enjoy a moonlit view over the St. John Kaneo Church, at the end of a perfect day.

  • Gladiator – Located a little bit further from the city centre, Gladiator is a small authentic restaurant. With delicious food, superb views, and the most friendly staff, it will make your evening memorable.

  • Restoran Sveta Sofija – A menu with almost exclusively traditional North Macedonian dishes, that is what marks Sveta Sofija. And if you’re lucky the evening will be filled with live folk music.

  • Kaj Kanevche – Located on the lake, there is no other restaurant offering views like this. If you’d like to taste a traditional North Macedonian stew, you will have to order it at noon, giving them time to prepare the meal.


Like the lake town of Mavrovo, also Ohrid counts endless accommodations ranging from the budget hostel to a mid-range airbnb and luxury hotels. Sites like, and make your search much easier. These are few of many options: 

  • Marina Apartments – Budget

  • City Palace Hotel – Mid-range

  • Villa Mina – Mid-range

  • Vila Bisera – Luxury


To enjoy the best weather in Ohrid, you should plan your visit somewhere between May and September. High season is during the months of July and August, yet you will bump into other tourists around every corner, making it harder to relax to the fullest. A better period would be May, June, September or October, to escape the big crowds. 

While summer is defined as ‘the best time to visit the lake’, autumn always steals my heart. When I visited the town in October, I only came across a handful of tourists, the weather was still sunny and dry, and the colours turned into magnificent amber-red and golden-yellow. 


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Hi there!

I'm Julia, a Belgian native who loves to travel and explore off the beaten places all over the world. Discover more on how to fill your travels with adventure, warmth, and colour. Learn more about me here.

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