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Things to do on Lake Ohrid that will make you fall in love

FAll in love with Ohrid PinterestLake Ohrid is a UNESCO protected lake and town in South-West Macedonia. Squeezed into the border of Macedonia and Albania, it is a heady combination of crumbling villas, terracotta tiles and gigantic statues. This is a town where you will fall in love – with early morning mists hovering over the lake, with deserted castles and monasteries and with delightful, natural springs bubbling from emerald waters.

I’ve put together five top things to do in and around Lake Ohrid, enough to tempt even the cold-hearted into a romantic clinch. These fabulous destinations are like a tempting vixen or charming prince, impossible to resist.

St. Naum monastery

A visit to the monastery is as much about the journey as the arrival. You feast on beautiful coastal views, and glimpses of the Bay of Bones, the President’s summer house and the only five-star resort on the lake.

The hulking outline of mountains rising on the opposite side of the lake in Albania add drama to the monastery’s location. Like a guardian angel, it perches on a rocky outcropping, overlooking the bay. It’s free to visit the inner courtyard but 100 Den to go inside the small monastery (30 if you are a student!)

Inside, frescoes line every inch of wall space, so dated they look like smudged crayon drawings which have rubbed away over time. A sense of serenity overwhelms me and I find myself reliving the sensation of meditating on an Indian retreat.

 

St.Naum Monastery
St. Naum Monastery courtesy of Adventurous Kate
St. Naum frescoes
St. Naum frescoes courtesy of Adventurous Kate

Once you have taken your ecclesiastical fill, wander down the hillside towards the few restaurants and village shops. En route, you will pass boat owners touting short trips into the emerald green springs. Negotiate a price and jump onboard.

St. Naum springs

It’s silent apart from the water lapping at the hull of the boat and the oars splashing as we row slowly through the springs of St. Naum. Vivid green waters hide gurgling springs below, the main supply of lake water. We can just make out huge bubbles spewing from the ground into the cold waters like potions in a cauldron.

My tour guide, Nikola is something of a storyteller regaling me with tales of previous mishaps on the boat. I struggle to understand everything he says but am happy to stare into the crystal clear waters and thank my lucky stars I am fortunate enough to be here.

We row (yes, Nikola is crazy enough to allow me to take the oars!) to a tiny monastery hidden in the bush, the colours so vivid it looks as though the pop filter on my camera has been applied to the scene. It’s truly stunning, like a quaint little cottage hidden in the woods.

Cost: the boat trip costs 10 Euro per person and you can book your own trip with Nikola at Nikoturs.

St. Naum Springs, Ohrid, Macedonia
Thankfully there were no other boats to be seen – St. Naum Springs, Ohrid, Macedonia

Samuil’s Fortress, Ohrid

This fortress is a Goliath. With remearkably well preserved walls, a huge inner courtyard and a gigantic flag fluttering above, it can be seen from almost anywhere in Ohrid. If you want specatcaulr views a little closer, however head to the church of Perivleptos where you have the perfect vantage point of the castle.

It pays to get here early too. Although the official opening time is 9am, I arrive at 8.30 and wander through the gates to find myself alone. Like an excited child, I rush up onto the ramparts to admire spectacular views of the town slowly waking from a slumber, wisps of hazy clouds lingering. The video gives you an idea of how fabulous this attraction is (100 Den or 30 if you are a student) especially when you have it entirely to yourself. I have one of my quiet, wow moments, one where I feel a little overwhelmed with a wondrous sense of delight.

Does anyone else experience that sensation when travelling?

Samuils Fortress, Ohrid, Macedonia
Samuils Fortress, Ohrid, Macedonia

St John at Kaneo Church

The Wizz Air site proudly displays a picture of this church, which probably sub-consciously influenced me to book the flights. It’s a red terracotta delight perched high on the cliff, above stunning azure waters. I’m drawn to it like a moth to a flame, carefully skittering down the hillside to take a closer look. The architecture resembles many other churches in the area (365 apparently!) with a small dome in the middle and pale-red brickwork.

You can reach the church by following a boardwalk along the base of the cliff from the old town of Ohrid. After passing a little shingle beach, the path weaves its way up the hillside until you arrive at a bluff overlooking the church.

Church of St. John at Kaneo in Ohrid, Macedonia
Church of St. John at Kaneo in Ohrid, Macedonia

The monastery of St Pantelejimon

In the shadow of the castle and high above the water, another monastery greets you with roman pillars suggesting a grand, bygone era. It is clearly an auspicious monument as our visit coincides with that of the Macedonian president meeting Serbian orthodox priests. My curiosity gets the better of me and I decide to pay the 30 Den (student price or 100 for adults: £1.50) so I can get my first glimpse of the president.

I wander around the church, snapping pictures of the mind boggling roof shapes then stop to sunbathe. I am basking in the shade of the roman ruins when a posse of people emerge into sunlight. I immediately identify the president (something about the scary looking bodyguards surrounding him!) who passes by so close I can almost reach out and grab him (but I don’t fancy being shot today!).

His security is pretty limited and I’m astonished that I can get so close with no security clearance and no search. It makes an amusing interlude to my day but I soon forget about it in my quest to discover Ohrid.

The monastery of St. Pantelijimon, Ohrid, Macedonia
The monastery of St. Pantelijimon, Ohrid, Macedonia
The Monastery of Patelijimon, Ohrid, Macedonia
The Monastery of Patelijimon, Ohrid, Macedonia

These are just five treasures of Ohrid which you may fall in love. Even an ice maiden would struggle to resist this town’s charms.

Want to read more?

If you are interested in reading more about our Macedonia trip, you can view other Macedonia posts here or sign up for our weekly newsletter and never miss out on our latest travel escapades.

What do you think?

Which of these places do you think you would fall in love with? Or have you visited Ohrid and already fallen in love. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Top Travel Hack tips for Ohrid

  1. Book accommodation through Airbnb for locations near the old town and lakeside that will not break the bank. We stayed in the Aurelie apartment.
  2. You can get to St. Naum by bus although it is a short walk to get to the monastery from the drop off
  3. Alternatively, you can jump on the return boat trip from the harbour to St.Naum for €10. This includes a 75 – 90 minute boat trip each way including commentary.
  4. Book flights using a search engine such as Skypicker although your only direct option is with WizzAir.

About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of TravelTheGlobe4Less. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 80 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money saving travel tips

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16 comments

  1. St. Naum springs and the Church of St. John at Kaneo in Ohrid would be a great place to start exploring the town. I’m pretty sure I will love it. Thanks, Anne.

  2. I’ve always wanted to visit Macedonia and this makes me want to go even more! I like hearing when AirBNBs are an awesome option – even the best option for accommodation near amazing sites like this. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Beautiful constructions, I’d love to visit Lake Ohrid and the area around. St. Naum monastery is particularly intriguing, those frescoes give off a bit of an eerie feeling. Sorry if I missed it, how old is that monastery?

  4. Wow thankyou for the introduction to Ohrid – looks like a stunning region – so much history and fascinating cultural and religious heritage. I would love to visit soon!

  5. The architecture looks absolutely incredible…I especially love the design of the Monastery of Patelijimon. And how cool that you could row to a tiny monastery! The colors really look fantastic.

    • I know they were surreal. Just a shame I was running out of time as I would have loved to visit the little monastery alone.

  6. I love Unesco sites all that history calls to me and the fact it is not crowded is perfect. I had not contemplated this location before but now it is on my map.

  7. I’ve never heard of this place before and now it makes me want to go! The architecture of the castle, monastery, and churches are so beautiful! My friends were telling me Macedonia is a great place to visit, now I know why!

  8. This place looks super cool. Yep, I get those wow moments all the time. Sometimes I just need to sit for a minute to take it all in 🙂

  9. Beautiful video, I felt like I was exploring next to you. Lovely brickwork on the Monastery walls.

  10. I don’t know much about Macedonia but it seems I would love to visit there – lots of history and architecture which is what I enjoy.

  11. Wow this place looks absolutely amazing! I’d love to visit! Very informative post and stunning photos!

    • I had a bit of help with the photos thanks to the loss of some files on my computer. THey are great aren’t they? I’m so grateful to the lovely travel bloggers who helped me out with these.

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