Lake Ohrid – The Pearl Of The Balkans

Lake ohrid nth macedonia recommendations travel guide hidden gem eastern europe balkans

Lake Ohrid is the hidden gem in Europe that you’ve likely never heard of. If you have heard about this gem, chances are you haven’t visited. If you are one of the lucky few to have visited this pearl, you will know what we are talking about! This quaint old lakeside town in North Macedonia is picturesque and incredibly charming. Our 6 day stay was enough for us to declare it one of the most underrated travel destinations in Europe! Keep reading to see why we rate Lake Ohrid so highly, and some recommendations for when you visit!

We ventured to Lake Ohrid from Malmo (Sweden) with little expectations and a lot of unknowns. Our research in early 2022 into non-Schengen countries and destinations uncovered North Macedonia, and Lake Ohrid was one of the highly recommended destinations. However, comparative to other European destinations, there isn’t that much information online, and we didn’t know anyone who had visited Lake Ohrid before. We arrived late on an overcast day, but instantly took a liking to the narrow cobbled streets and calm lake. Tess’ parents also made the journey to Ohrid from Albania (2 hours via private transfer from Korce) which allowed us to enjoy some much needed R&R and family time. Over the next few days, with glowing sunshine, Lake Ohrid worked her charm, and by the end of our stay we were enamoured with her beauty.

Lake Ohrid is the perfect destination for those wanting to relax, but also have a bustling old town to explore. This destination is a budget travellers dream, with accommodation costing us ($60 AUD or €40 per night, see here), coffee around $2AUD/€1.5, and meals often $6-12AUD/€4-9 (and there were cheaper options if you wanted to seek them out!). Additionally, we felt very safe during our stay in Ohrid (but didn’t let our guard down). If you are looking for an ‘off the radar’ destination, Lake Ohrid is a definite contender!

The ‘must see’ when you visit Lake Ohrid:

Wander the main promenade

A main promenade runs over 2kms along the calm waters of Lake Ohrid. You are greeted with the stunning old town and fortress on the hill, along with mountainous views surrounding the lake. This is the perfect place for a relaxed stroll, a morning run (like we did!), or hire a bike and cycle along!

Discover the old town

The old town has a bustling main street that is worth venturing along, especially at night. The smaller side alleyways, particularly the 2 that run parallel to the lake in the direction of the fortress offer great views and pass by many old Ottoman houses. These streets were often clean, calm and not far from the heart of the action.

Walk the boardwalk

Head to the right past the church of Saint Sophia and down towards the lake, where you will find a picturesque boardwalk. The lake water is often clear and calm, and the views of the old town and mountains are excellent. Additionally, the boardwalk takes you to some of the best ‘hidden finds’ in Lake Ohrid. The best swimming spot in Ohrid is at the end of the boardwalk, whilst one of the best restaurants, Kaneo, is another 5 minutes further past the boardwalk.

Check out the impressive samoil’s fortress

The fortress stands proudly on the hill above the old town, and can be seen from many places along the waterfront. Built in the late 900s, there is some history showing part of the site before this build can be traced back to the 4th century BC. The cost of entry is only 120 Denar, however if you don’t wish to enter, walk the track around the perimeter to take in the impressive size of the fortifications.

Visit the church of saint john

The quaint Church of Saint John the Theologian sits on the water, at the edge of the cliff. Located at the end of the Ohrid Boardwalk (see above), it’s worth the walk to check out.

Have a swim in Ohrid’s clear waters

The water of Lake Ohrid was surprisingly clear when we visited (August). This provided an excellent opportunity to swim and refresh, particularly on the warmer summer days. Our favourite beach to swim at was Beach Potpesh, located at the end of Ohrid Boardwalk, however you can swim from most parts of the promenade around the lake (like the locals do).

See the old history & stunning views!

Wander up the hill towards the fortress and church, stopping on the way to check out the impressive old amphitheatre. Spend some time wandering the streets as they wind up the hill, taking in the breath-taking views of Lake Ohrid and the old town.

Enjoy some local food!

The food in Ohrid suprised us for a number of reasons.

1. It was incredibly well priced, often costing 50% less than what it may cost back in Melbourne.

2. There were some great authentic local restaurants which we recommend you check out (see below)!

3. Some of the restaurants boasted stunning waterfront terraces that had us coming back every day!

Some restaurants & cafe’s to check out in Lake Ohrid

FOOd – top picks in Ohrid
  • Restaurant Sv. Sofija [TOP PICK]: The food here is incredible. Try some of the traditional dishes, particularly the pork stew! The restaurant comes to life at night with live music! This was truly one of our favourite meals of the trip!
  • Restaurant Kaneo: This waterside restaurant is highly rated and recommended, so we checked it out for dinner. Whilst more expensive than Sophia, it delivered great food and stunning views! Make sure you book a table to avoid disappointment. The highlight was when the head chef (Vladko) came out to talk to us for 20 minutes about the restaurant and the dishes! Order the ‘Trout in Prison’, it was a highlight!
  • Other good options: The following restaurants don’t try hard with decor or service, but the food is simple, flavourful, and cheap! Located along ‘Gone Delchev’ street, head to these for grilled meat and salads!
    – Kebapcilnica Vkusno
    – Gostilinca Brioni

Top COFFEE in Ohrid
  • Top Pick: Liquid – They do an excellent coffee (particularly the double macchiato). The view here on the terrace is incredible! This place became our morning local! We would head to the gym or for a run, then meet up at Liquid for a coffee and an omelette.
  • Take Away: Artisanal Coffee Roastery – great for a coffee on the go and located adjacent to Liquid.

  • Fruit Box: whilst there were a few smoothie and juice bars in the old town, Juice Box was our favourite. Great smoothies at decent prices ($3-5), along with a selection of healthy snacks like protein balls!

Want to stay in Lake Ohrid?

We highly recommend you stay at Villa Varosh where we spent our 6 nights. Incredibly well priced, very clean, and in a perfect location, this accommodation was excellent. Take a look here at Villa Varosh!

We didn’t stay at these other places but thought they looked great:

Take a look at some options to stay in the lakeside town of Ohrid below:

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Comments (3):

  1. Diane

    August 23, 2022 at 8:49 am

    Great post! πŸ™Œ
    Very informative! πŸ‘Œ
    Appreciate the inclusions!😘

    • Ky

      August 23, 2022 at 4:26 pm

      Good to have you (and Tony!) along for the adventures!


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