Europe Travel

A Visit to Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia

Location: Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia

What a pleasant surprise. A beautiful spot on a beautiful lake. North Macedonia is not on many American’s radars as a destination. Most of its visitors are coming from Europe. But this emerging destination deserves consideration. Our visit was brief, but I’m so glad we came. Here are my thoughts on A Visit to Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia.

The Fortress and the Old Town Ohrid

North Macedonia

What’s in a name? Well the people of North Macedonia have a lot to say about the name of their country. Macedonia is a regional name for a large region of the Balkans that today makes up northern Greece and the current North Macedonia.

Since antiquity the name has been used to identify both the region and the people. When today’s North Macedonia broke free of Yugoslavia in 1991 the name dispute reignited with Greece when the new Republic claimed the name The Socialist Republic of Macedonia. Over the next 25 years tensions escalated over the name with Greece insisting on a geographic qualifier. Negotiators from the UN helped to resolve the dispute finally in 2018 and the new name became North Macedonia.

Dotted line shows “Macedonia”

Yet today, many local people feel cheated of what they believe to be the true name – Macedonia. But, for the purposes of this blog post, I will use the current official name recognized by the government and the United Nations – North Macedonia.

Lake Ohrid

This gorgeous lake is 138 square miles, and is shared between Albania and North Macedonia. The majority of the 300-metre-deep lake however is in North Macedonia. It is considered to be one of the oldest lakes in the world – 3-5 million years. It is fed primarily by underground springs. Learn more about it here.

Lake Ohrid

Lake Ohrid is 139km from Tirana Albania – you could visit on a day trip. We however wanted to stay longer, so we booked an Airbnb in the village of Ohrid. What a great spot…one of the few lodgings directly on the lake.

Room with a View
Shared patio

Things to Do

We visited in mid April and the “season” had not really started. Busy season is May – September when tourists flock to the beautiful lake to swim, boat, fish and enjoy the sun. During our four day visit we had three perfect weather days, but the final day was raining and stormy. The lake sits at 695 meters above sea level.

Looking across the lake to Old Town Ohrid with the fortress on top

Sveti Naum

We crossed the border from Albania at the south end of the lake. This is a lesser-used border crossing but we had time and wanted to circle the lake. Our first stop after arriving in North Macedonia was the beautiful Sveti Naum, an ancient monastery founded by the Bulgarian Empire in 905. This is a gorgeous spot, with shops and restaurants too. Parking is $1 and entrance to the Monastery is free. Don’t miss this when visiting Lake Ohrid. It is possible to come here by boat from the town of Ohrid. It is an hour and half boat ride.

Sveti Naum
Spring water lagoon that feeds Lake Ohrid at Sveti Naum

Bay of Bones Museum

Heading north from Sveti Naum it’s a short drive to the Bay of Bones Museum. An authentic reconstruction of a pile dwelling settlement, at the excavation site of Ploca Micov Kamen, near Gradishte and Pestani along the Ohrid coast. We found it to be a bit run down, but the $1 entry fee was acceptable.

Bay of Bones Museum
Reconstruction of home
Reconstruction of ancient over the water village, Ohrid

A very interesting history dating back between 1200 and 700 BC. The lake was quite shallow around this period, which allowed for a massive wooden structure to be erected above the water, considered by many as one of the largest prehistoric palafittes. Definitely worth a visit despite the current state of repairs. It is also possible to visit Bay of Bones by boat from the town of Ohrid.


The town of Ohrid, is both historically significant and the largest city on the lake – the eighth largest city in North Macedonia. The old town is beautiful, rising on a knoll above the lake, while the new town spreads through the valley. Primarily a tourism destination, it is both a cultural and natural UNESCO World Heritage site, often referred to as the Jerusalem of the Balkans. The lake is one of the most bio-diverse lakes in the world.

We took a lovely boat ride on the lake on a beautiful day

Lake-related activities are the big draw, especially in the summer. Multiple boats of all sizes ply the waters. Although it was too cold to swim in April, swimming is a popular summer pastime. The Ohrid Summer Festival, a music festival mid July to mid August draws thousands.

View of Ohrid from the mountain

The Fortress of King Samuel

Sitting like a crown atop the small mountain overlooking the Lake, this imposing fortress makes a spectacular sight. The 10th century fortress was built as the first capital of the Bulgarian Empire. Although it is called King Samuel’s Fortress, recent archaeological discoveries have shown it was constructed into a grand fortress by King Philip II of Macedonia, Alexander the Great’s father.

Fortress of King Samuel
Fortress walls

Church of Saint Sophia

One of North Macedonia’s most prominent monuments, the 1000 year old church is nestled in the old town, right next to our Airbnb. The beautiful church is considered one of the finest medieval churches in Macedonia. You must visit this gem when in Ohrid.

Saint Sofia
Church of Saint Sofia (Canva)

Church of St. John at Kaneo

This was my favorite of the many historic sites of Ohrid. A stunning location, Saint John the Theologian is a Macedonian Orthodox church situated on the cliff over Kaneo Beach overlooking Lake Ohrid. The church is dedicated to John of Patmos, the writer of Revelation, who has been by some considered to be the same person as John the Apostle. The construction date of the church remains unknown but documents detailing the church property suggest that it was built before the year 1447. Archaeologists believe that the church was constructed some time before the rise of the Ottoman Empire very likely in the 13th century. Restoration work in 1964 led to the discovery of frescoes in its dome.

What a view
Church of Saint John at Kaneo

Ohrid Old Town

The beautiful historic architecture of the old town is worth just wandering about the cobbled streets of the old town. Tumbling down the hillside from the fortress above, the old town is home to many residents, as well as hidden restaurants and lodging.

Parts of the original wall remains
Seeing the Old Town from the water is a must

Ohrid Pedestrian Areas

The new town has a lovely pedestrian walkway along the shore of the lake. We used this as our morning running route, following the path for more than two miles one way. Additionally a pedestrian shopping area is popular with locals and visitors. Great shops where you can buy the famous Ohrid Pearls, other souvenirs, groceries, and much more. Dozens of restaurants are available in this area serving the traditional Macedonian cuisine of the region as well as other options.

Along the pedestrian walkway
Pedestrian shopping area
So many dining options and my favorite Shopska Salad

The Hills are Alive

The beautiful hills and mountains surrounding the lake have options for hiking and enjoying nature. We did an 8 mile round trip up to the tiny village of Ramne. There wasn’t much happening in Ramne but we enjoyed the view. We were fascinated by the flora including the wild lilacs and spotted several new birds.

Hiking in the mountains around Ohrid
Great view from the top

A Visit to Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia

We loved a perfect, relaxing four days in Ohrid and recommend it. As a stop to other destinations or as a destination on its own, you will enjoy a visit to Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia. Stunning scenery, amazing history, delicious food and friendly locals. It’s time to get to know North Macedonia.

One of the locals and a very old Yugo

Thanks for reading my post A Visit to Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia. See last week’s post Home Again Home Again Jiggety Jig. We appreciate your support, shares, pins and comments. Thank you.

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  • Reply Jolayne

    What an adventure. My husband wants to go to Croatia; I think I would add a visit to the Balkans at the same time. Macedonia is beautiful.

    May 18, 2024 at 3:49 am
    • Reply Laureen

      We have enjoyed all the Balkan countries we have visited. You would too.

      May 18, 2024 at 5:57 am
  • Reply Sonia

    We have been wanting to visit Albania and Macedonia. It looks like April, though shoulder season, would be a great time to visit before the crowds arrive.

    May 18, 2024 at 5:38 am
    • Reply Laureen

      Very interesting region of the world

      May 18, 2024 at 5:57 am
  • Reply Heather Markel

    This looks amazing. I was in Albania and had wanted to spend a couple of days here but instead went to Southern Albania. How was the driving in Macedonia?

    May 18, 2024 at 6:10 am
    • Reply Laureen

      Much better than Albania – although we were in a smaller town.

      May 18, 2024 at 9:18 pm
  • Reply Amy

    Thank you for staring this post with a map! I was wondering where Macedonia was to place North Macedoni. ☺️

    Looks like an idyllic area for a visit! Your pictures are gorgeous.

    May 18, 2024 at 8:00 am
  • Reply Annie

    Albania wasn’t open to tourists when I visited the area in Autumn 1989, and even the (then) Yugoslavian side was pretty run down for visitors. So it’s good to see things are looking up.

    May 18, 2024 at 1:18 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      They are working hard to be there.

      May 18, 2024 at 9:19 pm
  • Reply Sharyn

    I haven’t spent much time in this part of the world because it always seemed there were disputes, but it looks so interesting and safe now. I’m adding it to my list.

    May 18, 2024 at 10:00 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      Still some issues but we felt very safe

      May 25, 2024 at 8:06 am
  • Reply Sharyn McCullum

    I loved the picture of the cat on the car – seems cats rule in this part of the world!

    May 18, 2024 at 10:03 pm
  • Reply Nancy Rimel

    Reminds me of Greece with a bit of Italy thrown in for good measure….. especially the picture of the cats. Beautiful shots Laureen.

    May 20, 2024 at 2:43 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      But much less expensive!

      May 25, 2024 at 8:05 am

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