2 Days Sightseeing in Ohrid
I think two days is a great amount of time to explore Ohrid. This means you have time to explore the old and new town with its port, then spend time chilling on the Lake Ohrid. Maybe including a boat trip or if you visit in main season which is mid-July to mid-August you can swim in the clear waters of the lake. They even say you can drink the water straight from the lake, but I would be too worried about swallowing one of the fishes to do this.
I didn’t know much about the country of North Macedonia until this trip and I have to admit it is one place that needs to be on everyone’s travel plans as the countryside is stunning, the country has beaches, lakes, mountains to offer as well as towns and cities to explore.
Ohrid is Known as the pearl of Macedonia and this is likely to the town being famous for its artificial pearls. These can be found in the many shops in the old town I did some window shopping and the pieces of jewellery were lovely I wish my bank balance could have let me buy a few. They did not seem that expensive and if pearls are your thing you are going to want to make some purchases.
Getting around Ohrid
I visited Ohrid as part of a Best of Balkans group tour, but you can get here by bus from Skopje or if you are doing a road trip of the Balkans it is a place that needs to be added to your itinerary. Lonely Planet offers more information about travelling to Ohrid see here.
Read about my Trip to Skopje
As I was on a group tour, I got around Ohrid on our tour bus but there are local buses and there was good road system so exploring by car is a possibility.
Ohrid is a city in North Macedonia and is on Lake Ohrid which also borders with Albania. The lake is Europe’s oldest natural lake and there are 365 churches in the region which means you could visit one church every day of the year. This is a lot of churches considering there are only about 20,000 residents, it is also called Jerusalem of the Balkans due to the number of churches.
Ohrid is part of UNESCO’s World Heritage which is another reason why I am surprised I have not heard of it before. Our local tour guide said that they just don’t have the money to invest to raise awareness of the destination which is why it is lesser known but I think this adds to the appeal as it is still not that overran with tourists even though it does get busy, when it becomes a more popular destination which I think it will over the next few years it is going to be heaving so I recommend you visit ASAP.
The lake is on the border of Albania and North Macedonia, we visited from the North Macedonia side on the best of Balkans tour 9-day tour. The main season is mid-July to mid-August when the area gets busier with tourists. I visited in May and the lake was still stunning, a bit too cold to swim in though.
The white river flows into the lake and the lake then flows into the black river. There is a distinction in colours of the water as they are different temperatures and don’t mix.
The lake is a lovely place to watch the local fishermen, sunset and sunrise and is seen from many areas of Ohrid where you can just spend hours looking at the beautiful waters. There is also the possibility for boat trips and in the old town there are water taxis on the lake.
You can enjoy a drink in one of the many eateries around the lake either in the port of Ohrid or somewhere less touristy.
We stay at the hotel Aura which was a few minutes out of town it was a little dated compare to the other hotels we had stayed at during our Balkans tour but it was right on the lake which was just so beautiful.
The lake was one of the highlights of the best of Balkan tour as I was so in awe of the stunning scenery. If you have more than 2 days, you could easily relax on the lake with a good novel and just take in its beauty and clean fresh air.
Monastery of St Naum
The Monastery of St Naum is 29 km outside of Ohrid and so worth a visit. Try and get there early we visited before 9am and were one of the first coaches but by the time we were leaving many more coaches and cars had arrived, so it was getting very busy. Plus, the road to get to the monastery is only one lane so it takes longer with traffic coming in and out. Apparently, it was too pricey to extend the road and they wanted to invest the money in the monastery rather than the road structure.
It was a cobble road to walk up to the Monastery it was a little steep but there were benches along the way so you could take your time and rest. The pathway is now very long, and I did see a sign pointing to a wheelchair accessible path, but I didn’t go this route.
The monastery has panoramic vies over the lake, which alongside the architecture, peacocks and gardens make it a place well worth visiting. The peacocks are dangerous, and we were advised not to get too close. I noticed three males that were calling out and posing for the cameras.
St Naum was among the first saints declared by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church after its foundation in the 9th century. Naum is venerated as a saint also in the Eastern Orthodox Church. He passed away in 910 and finds eternal peace in his monastery, lying in the tomb placed in the chapel in the southern part of the church. They say if you put your ear on the tomb you can hear his heartbeat and you should rest your head on the tomb to gain some of his wisdom.
The central church in the monastery is Orthodox, it has no windows and the only light inside the church is coming in from the domes in the room to protect the many paintings on the walls inside.
There is a fee to enter the church of 100 Macedonian dinar which is just over 1 euro, no photos could be taken inside the church again to protect the paintings.
I didn’t go inside but did have a look from the main entrance and it was beautiful. There is also the chance to get a souvenir here or light a candle. We were told that there are no chairs inside the church and the service would last for 2 hours and to keep standing showing that you would sacrifice yourself by the discomfort.
The gardens are lovely, and I walked around looking at the water features, I came across a statue I am not sure who it symbolised, and the plaque was not in English, so I didn’t understand.
There is also the chance to have a boat ride on the springs that feed the lake Prespa which then runs into the Ohrid lake. It was 20 euros for a 25 minutes boat ride for up to 6 people or you could join other tourists if they were waiting and split the cost. Some members of our group went on the trip and said it was very peaceful and they could see right to the bottom of the clear waters.
There are several booths selling souvenirs at the entrance to the Monetary, it seemed to be the same stuff consisted of magnets, toys and jewellery, walking past each booth the stall holder will point out what they had on offer and tell you the price, got a bit boring as they all seemed to be selling the same but I got my local magnet for 1 euro.
Tip : Buy from a stall in the middle as the ones at either end seemed to be charging a little extra.
Bay of water Museum
The Bay of Water Museum is an underwater archaeological site in the Bay of Bones. It is easily found on the main road outside of the town of Ohrid with car parking and entrance is 100 Macedonian dinars
Things to see in Ohrid Town
The port is a lovely place to explore it is mainly flat area with boat trips and eateries.
It seemed to be the hub of the town with a lovely atmosphere.
There are some cafes and restaurants with excellent view over the water to explore, a couple of glasses of wine or a cold beer after exploring the town in the sunshine.
The old town is full of Byzantine architecture, it is a compact but somewhat hilly town to explore. I have mobility limitations and did struggle in some parts but if you take your time and stroll slowly it is doable. I think a wheelchair user would struggle getting to some of the high points as the paths are cobbles and not in the best of conditions however, I did see several people with pushchairs.
Walking around the old town there is a lot to see from the buildings, old fashioned cars, souvenirs stalls and the many interesting buildings. I recommend just slowly strolling around and spotting everything there is to see.
Cats are everywhere in Ohrid, they seem to be everywhere in the Balkans apart from Skopje the capital of North Macedonia which was dominated by stray dogs.
The town also has a lot of history our guide who was a passionate local professor told us that Ohrid is supposed to be the oldest city with continuous living people but due to lack of funding this cannot be proven with archaeological investigations it is such a shame you would think archaeological experts from around the world would be eager to find out if this was true. Due to lack of finance is also one of the reasons we know very little about Ohrid as they just don’t have the funds to promote themselves like other destinations.
Church of St John
Church of St John the Theologian. The church dates back to the 13th century with its simplistic structure and situated on a cliff with splendid views over the placid water of Lake Ohrid.
I love visiting churches when I am travelling and I think this one must have one of the best views, it is a shame I didn’t get chance to go inside.
We had already done quite a hike up the steep hill to get to the church of St Sophia now I do have mobility limitation so find walking difficult but even in the heat the rest of my group were huffing and puffing. Our guide said we will now start walking back down and I was like thank god for that until a member of the group asked about Church of St John “sure we can go there but its tough going as its steep everyone up for that… (before I could say nooooo!!!) great then off we go” and he speeds off. I am thinking how am I going to do more steep walking bit everyone in the group starts following now I could have made my own way back down but to be honest I didn’t really know where I was, so I decided to follow the group.
My roomie was good and stayed with me asking if I was OK she held my hand to support me in some of the less sturdy area and I was feeling good and I had already managed to walk this far. It felt like such an achievement when I did make the walk sounds silly but when you have difficulty walking and manage to do something out of your comfort zone it feels good.
I know my own limitations and even though I did push myself I would suggest you only attempt this, if you are fit and well. If you can do it however it offers the most stunning views, we had a little rest here admiring the church taking photos before we have an easier journey of going downhill.
This route was still a little difficult due to steps with limited hand rails but I think this might have been a easier route to get to St Johns if you don’t want to do the steep forest way and this route is also along the water line so it has beautiful views all the way, it was slow going as people were going up as we were coming down and it was narrow in places so we had to stop to let the others past.
Church of St Sophia
The church of St Sophia is one of the largest medieval churches in the Balkans and is one of the most important monuments of North Macedonia. We had hiked up a steep terrain to get a look of the church from the outside.
It is 100 Macedonian dinars to enter and the interior has some paintings which look faded but were painted over in history, so they have been renovated. No photos are allowed inside the church.
Church of Saints Clement and Panteleimon
Said to be the site of the oldest university in Europe and birthplace of the Cyrillic alphabet. The church of Saints Clement was also used as a quarantine for new people arriving in the city to stop the spread of disease. New arrivals would spend 40 days in the hospitals one for female and one for males and then they could enter the city, these hospitals are now churches.
The Ancient Theatre of Ohrid is over 2000 years old still holds concerts today with Sting recently playing get link to concerts in Ohrid.
It used to be mainly men that watched entertainment in the old outdoor theatre being tended to by females who were also willing to keep them company during the show. Today it is a different affair which I bet is a cool experience to see a concert outside in this beautiful setting.
Samuels fortress Also referred to as Samuils Fortress was heavily restored in 2003 were it is thought to date back to the 4th century BC. It has great views over the town and lake and if you are up for a bit of a steep hike then walking up the cobbled streets is cool.
Robevi Family House
The Robevi Family house was where a famous Ohrid merchant family lived. The building is Ottoman Turkish architecture and is something that I have not seen before as the design is quite distinctive worth having a look if you are in Ohrid.
Ohrid New town
The New town has a main pedestrianised street with shops selling souvenirs and ice cream stroll along here to pick up your memoirs I always get a postcard and a magnet what do you collect from your trips.
The shops accepted euros as well as Macedonian dinar the only time I had an issue was trying to buy a bottle of water from a little shop near our bus pick up he said he only accepted notes and would give change back in Macedonian dinar even though I had the right amount in coins well he miss out on a lot of sales that day as 46 of us boarded our bus outside and a lot of us wanted to stock up on refreshments but didn’t have the local currency.
Have you been to Ohrid, I bet if you haven’t you now want to. Share with me what you loved or didnt like about this city in North Macedonia.
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