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I am writing this article about things to do in Ohrid Lake sitting in the Villa Mina apartment in the Southwest of Macedonia, watching as morning clouds are raising from the mountains and travel through the otherwise clear blue sky. The lake Ohrid is right in front of me exceptionally calm after yesterday’s storm. If it wasn’t for the loud local music playing from the hotel’s speakers, it would have been perfectly peaceful here. There are only a few German and Dutch tourists staying in here with us, but the rest is local people either working or looking for an escape from city heat.
Macedonia is a small country in the Balkans rich in history that it largely shared with its neighbors: Greece, Albania and the other Former Yugoslavian countries. History is evident everywhere here through the numerous steel monuments erected right and left. Some of the main country’s heroes are Alexander the Great and Cyril and Methodius, the founders of the Cyrillic alphabet, among others.
Macedonia is a country that you appreciate more the more you stay here and it is a perfect place to visit for those who love history and wishes to know more about Eastern part of Europe.
Because we only came here for a long weekend, after a short stopover in Skopje, we fled to the country’s Southwest to chill by the biggest lake of Macedonia – Ohrid.
Things to do in Ohrid Lake
Lake Ohrid is one of the deepest and oldest lakes in Europe. Its importance has been further recognized by UNESCO, which declared the region near the lake as a world heritage site, as well as by NASA, which named one of the lakes on Titan after Ohrid. The lake is shared by Macedonia and Albania. Here are my top picks on what to see and do around Lake Ohrid.
1. Visit Ohrid town and its numerous sights
Ohrid is the largest town on the lake Ohrid. There are a lot of things to do in Ohrid town and you can easily spend an entire day exploring it. There are 365 churches in Ohrid alone! Apart from that, there are parks, monuments and a selection of cute cafes that are literally situated on water. If you are here by car, make sure to take some cash with you to pay for parking, which is not free in the city.
St. John at Kaneo church
St. John at Kaneo church has become a postcard not only for the Ohrid Lake itself but even for entire country of Macedonia. No wonder there, because of its location on the cliff, it makes for a picture-perfect scene. The built year of this Orthodox church is dated back to the 13th century, while its architecture is believed to be inspired by the Armenian churches.
Have a dinner at Kaneo restaurant
Since you walked all the way to the church of St. John at Kaneo, why not stop for dinner at one of the finest restaurants in the city? Kaneo restaurant is situated right on the lake and it might get rather wet during a stormy day. But you’re guaranteed to have a dinner with the best views. It might get busy, so I recommend you booking a table in advance.
Ancient theater of Ohrid
This structure clearly resembles the influence of Roman Empire in the area. The theater is said to exist from as far back as 200 years BC and was used for the meetings, gladiator fights and later for executions. The latter use led for the theater to be abandoned by the locals, which, funny enough, is the reason why it is preserved so well to this day. There is not much going on here today, but it is a fun place to visit and to see the ancient structures.
This has been Tsar Samuil’s fortress at the time when Ohrid was an important center in the Slavic world. Some of the gates and towers of the fortress are still standing and are accessible to visitors for the entrance fee of 60MKD. The walk is short, but it offers awesome panoramic views over the Lake Ohrid and the entire town itself.
Church of Saints Clement and Panteleimon
Another gorgeous church with great historical significance. According to some sources, the first students of the earliest Slavic (Cyrillic) alphabet have been taught in this church by no one else by St. Clement.
The church is big and currently undergoing restoration. The best view towards the Church of Saints Clement and Panteleimon opens up from the Samuil’s Fortress.
2. Bay of Bones water museum
I am not a big fan of spending a warm sunny day in the museum, but the Bay of Bones on Lake Ohrid is nothing like your ordinary gallery. It is an open air museum that aims to reconstruct the settlement that lived on the water of Ohrid Lake centuries ago.
Here, you have the chance to walk among the huts built on water, peek through the windows, walk inside and feel what it was like to live here. All huts’ interior is a little bit different making the walk all the more exciting. Besides the open air museum, you get the exceptional lake views, which make a stop here all the more exciting.
Get a drink at the museum shop and simply sit down to appreciate the nature of Ohrid Lake.
3. Monastery of Saint Naum
Monastery of St. Naum was one of the most interesting things to do in Ohrid Lake for me. It is situated almost on the border with Albania, but not far from the Ohrid town (29 km). You can easily get there by car or by a tour bus.
You can tell that the territory around the monastery was recently renovated and is ready to receive tourists. The main sight is the St. Naum Monastery which includes the most beautiful Christian Orthodox church I have ever seen. It is so old (believed to be built at 905 AD) that the stone steps on the church floor were perfectly smoothed out by the visitors that attended the church for centuries. The walls and frescoes echo the feel of the many generations that walked through the corridors of this little church.
You are not allowed to take pictures inside, but maybe it’s for the best because then you can actually dissolve in the total tranquility and spirituality of this place.
The area is densely populated by peacocks that walk around spreading their colorful tails and making a lot of noise. This wasn’t my favorite part as, I have to admit, I was a little scared by these not so friendly birds.
There is also a possibility to take a boat tour and see the monastery from the side of the lake, which gives a far better possibility to take a picture.
Once you are done appreciating the history, you are welcome to stop at one of the restaurants on the territory of the St. Naum Monastery. There is a really nice choice of places to eat with either a view over the lake or a the inner stream.
Where to Stay in Ohrid Lake?
The possibilities are endless, as this is one of the main tourist areas in the country. It all depends on what are you looking for? Do you want to stay in the town and be close to the cultural sights? Or do you want to be a bit out in the nature and enjoy the tranquility of the lake?
During our visit, we were looking for a place to rest and take a break from the busy city. Since we rented a car, staying on the Lake further away from Ohrid town was easy.
We stayed at Villa Mina that is situated 16 km from Ohrid town in the great distance to other sites that Ohrid Lake has to offer. The hotel is very low-key and rooms are rather basic, but you’ll have everything you need, including breakfast, bar and the swimming pool with the most amazing views.
The patio area of the villa is a fantastic place to chill, tan, read a book, and glance over the lake while laying on your pool chair or swimming in the pool. There is a parking spot for your car as well.
Making a booking, be sure to ask for the room with the lake views to get the best experience.
Are you planning to visit Macedonia? Which places would you choose to visit? Share your comments in the section below!
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