Turquoise blue, clear water. The sun’s rays warm your face as you watch fishing boats from your deck chair and sip on your cocktail – Caribbean? Greek island? Bali? – Wrong! North Macedonia! Lake Ohrid is not really an insider tip anymore and the tourist hotspot of the region. No wonder, there are so many different things to in Ohrid you should not miss on your Balkan round trip.
What do you learn in this article?
BIG5 Things to do in Ohrid
You don’t want to miss the sights? Find here all the tips and your checklist for your trip to Ohrid:
BIG5 Ohrid – Speed Date
Ohrid directly at the lake of the same name is situated in a dreamlike landscape and offers in the old town many points to relax and enjoy
Compared to other regions and cities in the Balkans, Ohrid is already very touristy and large parts of the city are geared towards tourism – but of course it also has advantages
Take a boat trip and if possible go for a swim in the clear lake!
Living without a plan about the departure times of the ships into the day – Most tours to the monastery Sveti Naum start in the morning around 10 o’clock – and bang you have to wait my day or take the bus. And take a bus instead of a boat on the lake? Well… I speak from my own experience
Don’t tell your mother:
The security in some taxis leaves something to be desired. Buckle up? Door opener? TÜV sticker? Everything is overrated!
BIG5 Ohrid – Rapid Fire Q&A
- How many days should I plan for Ohrid? – One day is enough for an extensive discovery tour of the city followed by a boat trip, and another day should be planned for a visit to the Sveti Naum monastery
- Do you need a rental car in Ohrid? – No, if you have accommodation in the centre, everything is within walking distance
- Where is a good place to go swimming in the lake? – In Ohrid directly it is difficult, the best beaches are on the south shore, for example in Trpejca
- How much is a boat ride? – The price is clearly a matter of negotiation, depending on the number of people (10-15 Euro for two as reference)
- I actually missed the boat to Sveti Naum tomorrow, is there any other possibility? – Yes, there are also buses several times a day (about 150 MKD)
BIG5 Ohrid – Orga
Best travel time
The best time to travel to Ohrid is from May to October, it is especially hot in July and August – great weather for the lake
Arrival & Departure
Visa: Check here if you need a visa for North Macedonia with your passport
- Bus: From / to Skopje: Several times a day (3:15 hours, about 8-15 Euro)
- Bus: From / to Albania, especially Tirana (3:30 hours, approx. 17-25 Euro). Attention: Departure of the long distance buses to Albania from Ohrid’s neighbouring town Struga
Tip for the further journey to Albania: In retrospect, it was quite clever to ask immediately for the continuation of the journey. The long-distance buses to Albania do NOT start from the bus terminal in Ohrid, but from the neighbouring town Struga. The cheapest transfer to the bus terminal there can be done by minibuses (approx. 1 Euro / person), which leave on the main road (roundabout at the streets Dimitar Vlahov & Jane Sadanski)
The next stop is… Skopje / North Macedonia or Tirana / Albania
Recommended location: Choose an accommodation in walkable distance to the lake’s promenade to be independent from any transport service
- Budget: Joleski Accommodation (116 G Dejan Vojvoda Str., 6000 Ohrid; ~ 17 € EZ & DZ!), Guesthouse in a good location with balcony – ask for a view of the mountains of Galičica
- Medium: Villa St. Sofija (Ul.Kosta Abras 64, 6000 Ohrid; ~ 25 € single, 45 € double), great location in the old town of Ohrid with a short walking distance to the lake
- Medium: Germanoff House (Car Samuel 57, 6000 Ohrid; 30 € double), apartment in the heart of the old town with very nice and practical rooms. Ask for a balcony with a lake view!
- Noble: Petreski Apartments 1 (Bulevar Turisticka N.73, 6000 Ohrid; ~ 105 € double), 4 * apartment with jacuzzi in the center of Ohrid
- Noble: Villa & Winery Mal Sveti Kliment (8-10 Metodi Patcev Str., 6000 Ohrid; ~ 105 € double), 4 * guest house with lake view near the amphitheater
The currency in North Macedonia is the Macedonian Denar (MKD).
Withdraw money: In such a tourist hotspot no problem, there are many ATMs and banks
Beer indicator: half a litre of beer costs approximately 1,50 Euro in the restaurant, in the supermarket there are practically German prices. Even in the restaurants right at the lake the prices are manageable.
Costs for a taxi: 1 kilometre ~ 0,50 Euro
- Restaurant Fortuna (Dimitar Vlahov 20, Ohrid 6000) recommended by the locals, down-to-earth restaurant with local dishes. Not located directly at the bazaar, but still in the centre – absolutely recommendable!
- Beach bar Kaneo Beach (Kocho Racin 27, Ohrid 6000) – directly on the waterfront with a great view over the lake from comfortable armchairs or couches. Just the right thing to relax after a long day of sightseeing.
- Dr. Falafel (7mi Noemvri br.8, Ohrid 6000) – after enjoying the typical meat-heavy Balkan cuisine a welcome and above all tasty change
BIG5 Ohrid – Activities
- Walk to the church of St. John of Kaneo for THE typical Ohrid postcard motif
- Take a boat trip across Lake Ohrid – change of perspective!
- Visit the monastery Sveti Naum – interesting frescos and real peacocks on the site
- Go on a discovery tour of the historic old town – with its fortress, amphitheatre and other sights
- Had enough walking? Relax with a view over the turquoise blue lake (e.g. in the beach bar Kaneo Beach)
BIG5 Ohrid – Photo spots
- Photo from above the church of St. John of Kaneo over the lake – THE photo motif of Northern Macedonia
- From the towers of Samuil Fortress over the old town and the lake
- From a boat with a view of the fishing district and the church of St. John of Kaneo
- From the wall in front of the church of St. Mary across the roofs of the old town with a view of the fortress
- The monastery Sveti Naum from all imaginable perspectives
BIG5 Ohrid – Things to do off the beaten track
- Visit the less crowded neighbouring city of Ohrid: Struga, only a few kilometres away and easily accessible by minibus
- Hiking through the untouched nature of the Galičica National Park
- Take a boat trip to the eerily clear underground springs of Lake Ohrid near the monastery of Sveti Naum
- Amazement in the icon gallery – the icons in the small gallery are considered the best examples of North Macedonian icon art
- Visit the “Bay of Bones” – an interesting open-air museum with true-to-original replicas of Bronze and Iron Age huts
BIG5 Ohrid – Culinary Journey
- Local fish dishes like the Ohrid trout
- Stuffed peppers – with minced meat and rice, made from local peppers directly from the market
- Rakija – a very elastic term, but mostly apricot brandy, a typical drink in the neighbouring countries
- Tavče Gravče – typical oven dish made from white beans, meat, vegetables and paprika
- Gjomleze – delicious baked dough speciality of the Ohrid / Struga region
BIG5 Ohrid – Communication
The language spoken in North Macedonia is Macedonian
- Thank you – blagodaram / благодарам
- Yes – da / Да
- No – nema / нема
- Hello – zdravo / Здраво
- Bye / Goodbye – zbogum / збогум
BIG5 Ohrid – Helpful Websites / Links
- Official website of the city of Ohrid
BIG5 Ohrid – Overview Map for your city trip
Lake Ohrid – natural jewel and Lake Garda of the Balkans
Turquoise blue, clear water. The sun’s rays warm your face as you watch fishing boats from your deck chair and sip on your cocktail – Caribbean? Greek island? Bali? – Wrong! Whaaat? Northern Macedonia?? Where is that and what’s there?
Ohrid on Lake Ohrid is not really an insider tip anymore. In the course of the last few years, it has been highlighted by various travel guides and in some cases even put on a par with Lake Garda. It is regularly visited by large coaches and is a must-see on every Balkan tour. THE tourist centre of the country, of the whole region.
Ohrid (pronounced: Ochrid) is the best known and most popular tourist destination in Northern Macedonia. Exactly that is what you can see in the city. After days in Podgorica, Pristina and Skopje, the well-developed tourist infrastructure with transport facilities, restaurants and activities quickly catches the eye.
The tourists get along: Besides a picturesque scenery with mountains and the turquoise blue lake, the city also has a lot to offer historically! Come and see for yourself!
Things to do in Ohrid: A boat trip, that’s fun…
… …a boat ride that’s beautiful! What would a visit to Lake Ohrid be without a trip on one of the small boats? The boats start at the main square (with the big flag), which you cannot miss along the promenade.
As already mentioned, the tourist infrastructure is very well developed and the locals are prepared for travellers. This is soon noticeable by the fact that while strolling alongside the boardwalk, one is immediately addressed by different tour operators, boat captains and other light sailors.
You can negotiate the price, by trip or per person. We paid roughly 20 Euro for two persons. For Balkan conditions not the cheapest excursion, but for a relaxed boat trip for two worth it.
The standard route leads a little bit further outside to get a great panorama of the small town Ohrid with the fortress on the hill. Then it continues past the fishing village, passing below the famous church of St. John of Kaneo and back again.
From the boat there is a completely different perspective on Ohrid and its sights, really recommendable from my point of view – and very relaxing to be sailed comfortably across the lake.
Experience Ohrid ‘s things to do in one day
So, how was the boat trip? I enjoyed it, anyway!
For a leisurely tour of the city, it’s best to start from the big flag on the town square right by the harbour. You can find the exact route in the Google map under BIG5 – overview map for your city trip a little further up.
Along the waterfront promenade, the path leads you past the restaurants Chun and Porta into the city. You are in the lower old town, historic houses like Haus Robev and Haus Urania give you a good feeling of how the townscape and life in the region looked like in the past.
After a short walk through narrow alleys you pass the Sophienkirche, a place with a long history back to the Roman times. The stage is still used for various performances.
And now to the BIG5 sights of Ohrid:
Church of St. John of Kaneo – THE photo motif
First of all down to the lake again! Here a wonderful path on stilts runs along the cliff below. It looks like Pirate Island from the movies. The beach bars along the way are a great place to relax after the walk, just drop into your chairs and enjoy the great view of the lake.
From here only a few more steps and there it is: The church of St. John of Kaneo. The church, probably from the 13th century, with its typical Byzantine architecture rises picturesquely on the hills above Lake Ohrid.
From the hill behind the church you have a magnificent panorama over the church and the lake. Does the picture look familiar to you? Absolutely – It is THE picture when it comes to trips to Northern Macedonia. You brought provisions for a picnic? Very clever, because from the benches and walls around this tourist hotspot you can relax and let your soul dangle.
Plaošnik excavation site and church area
Since a construction site blocks the direct route, the route continues through a coniferous forest. A good stretch uphill – don’t be frightened, you’ll soon be done. The path ends above the Plaošnik excavation site, the ruins of ancient Lychnidos. On the site you will also find the imposing church of St. Pantelejmon and Kliment. Interested in church history and archaeology? Then this place is just right for you!
From the plateau you also have further beautiful panoramic views of the picturesque blue tones of Lake Ohrid.
Otherwise, you can take some pictures from outside and follow the road back to the city.
Things to do in Ohrid: View from the Samuil Fortress
Fancy some great views over the city and lake? Then the towers of Samuil Fortress (Самоилова тврдина) are a must! Built under the Slavic rule of Tsar Samuil at a strategically important point, it was one of the strongest fortresses in the Balkans and still characterizes the “skyline” of Ohrid today.
A total of 18 towers and 4 gates have been preserved, a visit for little money is worthwhile!
On Roman traces: the amphitheatre
As the souvenir sellers at the roadside already unmistakably indicate, here, one is back on the touristical highway of Ohrid. White the houses of the old town shine in the sun. After a few minutes of relaxing downhill you reach the amphitheatre of Ohrid. Impressive!
Built in 200 BC in Hellenistic style, the theatre was once a place of bloody gladiator fights and executions, especially during the time of the Roman occupation. It is still a special cultural meeting place today, especially during the Ohrid Summer Festival.
From the amphitheatre you have again a great view over the old town of Ohrid to the lake.
Things to do in Ohrid: Go on a discovery tour in the old town
You still have supplies left? No? But still some water – a must at this temperature! Then the wall in front of the church of St. Maria Perybleptos with a great view of the fortress, amphitheatre and the roofs of Ohrid invites you to take a break.
If you have some time left, you can visit the magnificent icon gallery.
Passing the church of St. Constantine and Helen, just before the kindergarten / school, a small path leads back down to the city. Follow the road, through small alleys, back to the dense crowd of the old bazaar and Piazza della Fontana. If you follow the St. Clement street to the right you are back on the flag at the main square, our starting point for the small city tour.
Things to do in Ohrid: Suggestions for your evening
Let the long sightseeing day with many kilometres of walking comfortably end with a view of the Ohrid Lake. A very good location for this is for example the beach bar Kaneo Beach (Kocho Racin 27, Ohrid 6000), from whose comfortable couches and armchairs you can reward yourself with a hot or cold drink and enjoy the sunset.
There are definitely more than enough restaurants in Ohrid for an exuberant dinner – the tourist infrastructure is well prepared and oriented to many tourists. Right on the promenade you will find many restaurants with a view of the lake. A tip from the locals is the restaurant Fortuna (Dimitar Vlahov 20, Ohrid 6000), a little further into the city and not so crowded by tourists – but with cheap local food!
After an extensive dinner you feel like enjoying the nightlife of Ohrid? Then the Liquid or the Havana Club are the places of your choice. During the day they are more relaxed beach cafés, in the evening bars with loud music.
You brought more time with you?
Wonderful, Ohrid and its surroundings have even more things to do for you!
You should spend at least a second day in the region and take a day trip from Ohrid to the impressive monastery of Sveti Naum. A special highlight are, besides the many icons and paintings, many peacocks running around freely!
Also worth a visit is the “Bay of Bones“, an open-air museum with lifelike pile dwellings on the lake.
You’ve had enough of the tourist bustle? Hike through the untouched nature of the Galičica National Park. Macedonia is a paradise for outdoor fans. Lonely national parks all over the country, picturesque landscapes, a diverse animal and plant world – and definitely off the beaten track.
Are there still points of your travel preparations for Ohrid / Northern Macedonia open? Write me with pleasure! 🇲🇰
Are you interested in a Balkan road trip? Have a look here: Balkans Road trip – Incredibly versatile adventure