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Lake Ohrid in Macedonia: A Sacred Balkan Paradise

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Welcome to the most sacred and beautiful place in the Balkans- Lake Ohrid in Macedonia. This was our favorite part of the country, and after just one weekend, it left us wanting so much more.


Ohrid Lake is actually considered the coldest place in Macedonia, yet is the perfect summer getaway for locals. It is the deepest lake in Europe, and is also said to be sacred by Macedonians. With 358 square kilometers, there are plenty of great things to do at Lake Ohrid, as well as both touristy and hidden gem spots to discover.


In this guide we're going to share everything to know about visiting Lake Ohrid in Macedonia, from the best things to do, where to stay, and more. Let's dive right in!

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Where is Lake Ohrid in Macedonia?

Lake Ohrid is located in the mountains between Macedonia and Albania. Situated all the way in the west of Macedonia, the lake straddles the border of Albania. While the lake can be accessed by both sides, we are going to cover the area that belongs to Macedonia.

where is Lake Ohrid in Macedonia

Lake Ohrid is on the western end of Macedonia.


How to Get to Lake Ohrid in Macedonia

We rented a car for our Balkan adventures, which is really a great way to explore the countries in Eastern Europe. However, if you'd like to visit Lake Ohrid with public transportation, it is totally doable! 


The two main cities that make this happen are the capitals of Albania and Macedonia. There is a bus that goes from Tirana to Skopje (and vice versa) that stops in Struga, a small town near the border.

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The trip from Tirana takes about 2 1/2 hours to Struga, and the trip from Skopje takes about 3 hours. From Struga you can easily find a taxi to take you to Ohrid town, or wherever you decide to stay along the lake.


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Entry Requirements for Macedonia

Before entering any new country, it's important to check the entry requirements. Here are both the visa and covid requirements for traveling to Macedonia.


Visa Entry Requirements for Macedonia

Macedonia allows visa free access to all people from the EU, UKUS, and Canada, for a period of up to 90 days. Any time exceeding that, you will need to apply for a visa at your local embassy.


Covid Entry Requirements for Macedonia

All Covid related requirements have now been lifted, so all tourists (whether they are vaccinated or not) can freely enter Macedonia without any issue. When we visited in July we also found that masks were no longer being worn either.


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Local Adjustments

Whenever you travel there are some things that you may forget about, that could differ from where you are coming from. Lake Ohrid is actually shared by both Macedonia and Albania. However we are going to focus on the local adjustments to keep in mind while traveling to Macedonia.


Language

The official language in Macedonia is Macedonian. It is very similar to the other Slavic languages around the surrounding Balkan countries. They use an adaptation of the Cyrillic script, so the signs can be quite hard to read for those not familiar with this alphabet.


Currency

The currency used in Macedonia is the Macedonian Denar. Currently (June 2023) 1 USD and 1 euro are both equal to 62 Denar. Most accommodation and restaurants actually only use cash, as well as street vendors. You'll need to make sure to withdraw plenty of cash, as it is what you'll be mostly using throughout the area.


Outlets

Macedonia uses the same plug types as the rest of Europe, which are types C & F. The standard voltage in Macedonia is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. If you are from the US make sure to get a travel converter (not just an adapter), so that your electronics won't burn out.


Water Potability

Lake Ohrid is one of the biggest reservoirs of fresh water in all of Europe! The water is perfectly safe to drink straight  from the tap.


Tipping Culture

Unlike most other countries, Macedonia actually doesn't have a real tipping culture. Some people leave nothing at all, and others will leave 100 or 200 Denar for good service. It isn't typical to leave tips anywhere except restaurants and bars. So if you are satisfied you can leave up to 10%. 


The service in restaurants in Macedonia was pretty horrendous in our experience compared to some of the other countries we've been to. (But we'll get into that a bit later).

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Where to Stay on Lake Ohrid in Macedonia

Lake Ohrid stretches 56 km from top to bottom. The lake can be accessed right after crossing the  Kjafaasan border from Albania, circling down to another Albanian border of St Naum.


There are small towns scattered along the entire coast of the lake, so there are plenty of places to stay on Lake Ohrid in Macedonia.

Where to stay in Ohrid in Macedonia

A lot of homes in the area have grapes dangling around them.

The most popular area to stay is Ohrid town. Not only are there a ton of restaurant, bars, and shops, but it's a great hub for taking boat rides, and connecting with other areas of the lake.

shops, Ohrid town
Ohrid town
Ohrid Old Town

The town of Ohrid is our favorite place to stay on Lake Ohrid.

Book a place to stay in Ohrid Town:

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Getting Around Lake Ohrid in Macedonia

There are two ways to get around Lake Ohrid in Macedonia, which are by renting a car (or other vehicle), or by taking taxis and tours.


Driving in Lake Ohrid

The highway goes right along the coast of the lake, and is also paved, making it very easy to drive from one spot to another in the area.


While in the town of Ohrid though, you won't need a car at all. Parking is super difficult, so we actually suggest keeping your car parked outside the center and walking. We actually didn't know that there is no free parking in the downtown area, and ended up getting a ticket (only payable in cash).


You can rent a car, scooter, or ATV when the center of Ohrid town, or also get taxis for inside town. (We didn't see any taxis, but our friend from the area told us there are in fact taxis in the area).

Other Ways to Get Around Lake Ohrid

Finally, if you don't want to drive or take a taxi, a lot of the sites can be reached by taking boat tours! This is of course the most beautiful way of getting from one spot to the other. Keep reading and we'll get a bit more into that.

bunker Lake Ohrid

A colorfully painted old bucker along the highway of Lake Ohrid


Things to Do at Lake Ohrid in Macedonia

When we visited Lake Ohrid we thought one day would be sufficient. Truthfully though, there are plenty of things to do at the lake and around it! Here are some of our top recommendations.

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Take a Boat Trip

As soon as you walk towards the water in the center of Lake Ohrid you will find a ton of signs, with locals lined up with their boats waiting to take tourists around the lake.

boat tour Lake Ohris in Macedonia

There is a 10:30 group tour daily for 25 euros.

There are both public and private boat rides. The public ones are group tours that go at 10:30 in the morning, coming back around 4 pm. They are 25 euros a person, and they stop at several highlights around the lake. If you don't want to spend a lot but want to see the best spots around the area, then this is definitely one of the best things to do in Lake Ohrid.


Private boats are available all day long, and run for about 40 euros the hour (we were two, so prices may vary depending on group size).


Lake Ohrid boat ride
boat around Lake Ohrid in Macedonia
boat trip around Lake Ohrid

Taking a boat is the best way to experience the highlights of Lake Ohrid.

Have a Beach Day

You may be thinking- but this is a lake, not the sea. Well, there are actually plenty of small beaches scattered along the coast of Lake Ohrid in Macedonia! Driving from Sturga to Ohrid we found plenty of beach clubs and umbrellas lined along rocky beaches.

Lake Ohrid weather

There are plenty of stretched of beaches along Lake Ohrid.

Driving south we saw smaller, but super beautiful pockets where sunbathers and swimmers lie their towels and chairs out.


The color of the water of Lake Ohrid in Macedonia is truly shocking. We stopped at a recommended beach, and couldn't believe just how blue the water was! Trpjeca is known as the "Saint Tropez of Macedonia" and we definitely felt like we had teleported to the French Riviera.

Trpjeca Lake Ohrid in Macedonia
Trpjeca Lake Ohrid in Macedonia
Trpjeca Lake Ohrid in Macedonia

Trpjeca is known as the St Tropez of Macedonia

Check out the Churches

Want to hear something wild? Back in time there used to be 365 churches around Lake Ohrid in Macedonia. At one church a day, you could spend an entire year visiting them! Of course you can see many in just a day though, so don't worry.


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Now there are less churches, as many were taken down by Muslims to build mosques. No one knows the exact number, but there are still plenty standing.


Our personal favorite is right in the town of Ohrid, the Church of Saint John the Theologian. It is perched up on a hill right over the water, and gives you beautiful views of Ohrid Town down below.

church in Ohrid town in Macedonia

This is spectacular place to admire the sunset.

Visit St Naum

The number one highlight for Macedonians is to visit St Naum. It is known to be the spiritual capital of the country, and is why so many people visit Lake Ohrid each year.

St Naum, Lake Ohrid in Macedonia

St Naum is the most sacred place at Ohrid Lake, and in Macedonia.

St Naum is so much more than just a church though. There is an entire beach area for people to relax, a dam where you can take a boat ride, horseback riding, and a bunch of shops.


Peacock at St Naum, Lake Ohrid in Macedonia
St Naum, Lake Ohrid in Macedonia
beach at St Naum, Lake Ohrid in Macedonia
restaurants St Naum
souvenirs St Naum, Lake Ohrid in Macedonia

Since St Naum lies all the way to the southern tip of the lake (just across the border from Albania) the most popular way to visit here is by boat. We wanted to go by boat, but wanted to stop by Trpjeca as well, so we decided to drive. It is about 40 minutes from the town of Ohrid, and the road goes along the lake, making it a scenic ride.

St Naum Lake Ohrid


Climb up to the Castle

when you arrive in Ohrid it is impossible not to see the giant fortress sitting at the top of the hill. Overlooking the city of Ohrid and the lake, it's definitely one of the best spots to watch the sunset in town. We went while the sun was setting, and it was simply beautiful.


If you'd like to explore the fortress itself, you'll want to get there earlier. Unfortunately we didn't know the timetable, so we didn't get a chance to see the inside.

castle Ohrid Lake in Macedonia

The castle is one of the highlights in Ohrid town.

Walk along the Boardwalk

Right from the center of Ohrid you can walk up the right side of the lake. Here you'll find a long boardwalk that sits right along the coast. It leads to tiny beaches, as well as plenty of restaurants right on the water.


Check out the Shops

Normally we don't suggest shopping as a highlight of somewhere. However, Fede was busy working at a restaurant in the center of Ohrid, and I went to go explore the area a bit. The Bazaar is located right in the center, and is full of local shops.


The fashion is cheap and high quality, and there is also a unique shop that makes handmade jewelry out of clay! The earrings are super unique and only 200-300 Denar ($4-6), making them a great souvenir to take home or gift.


shopping Ohris town
shopping Ohrid Town
jewelry shop in Ohrid

Make sure to check out the great fashion and handmade jewelry!


Take in the Views from the National Park

Right behind Ohrid Lake is Baba Galicica, a national park of Macedonia. We suggest coming here if you have a car, as it is mostly a curved road going through here. We accidentally visited here driving from Lake Ohrid towards Bulgaria. The windy road gives spectacular views of the lake below, as you can see in the photo below. We paid 100 Denar to drive through.

view of Lake Ohrid

There are spectacular views from the national park.

Go Paragliding

Want something a bit more exciting? Well, you an actually paraglide from the park behind Lake Ohrid. With gorgeous views of the lake and mountains surrounding, this is definitely one of the best things to do in Lake Ohrid in Macedonia.


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Local Food & Drink

When it comes to local food and drink, there are plenty of Macedonian specialties! However we're going to just focus on a few of the "must" experiences when it comes to eating at Lake Ohrid in Macedonia. Here they are:


Local Trout

There's trout, and then there is Lake Ohrid in Macedonia trout. You may be thinking- isn't it the same? Well actually, there is a special type of trout only found in this lake, making it a must try when visiting! Keep in mind, it is much pricier than regular trout, but still affordable (about 15 euros typically in a restaurant).  

Lake Ohrid trout

There is a special type of trout that can only be found in Lake Ohrid!

Belvedere

This is definitely the best restaurant in Ohrid, and a must visit. Honestly, we had terrible service, but the food and atmosphere was just perfect. Normally we wouldn't promote a place with such service, but it's actually pretty typical in Macedonia unfortunately. 


Make sure to get there early or get a reservation, and make sure to order from the grill! We got the pepper steak which was unbelievably tender and tasty.


Restaurant Sveta Sofia

This was another great restaurant. Centrally located, it has a great ambience, and delicious food. This is where we got the local trout, and found it to be very tasty.


Safety Around Lake Ohrid in Macedonia

When we visited Skopje, we had an unfortunate incident where our car was broken into. When we first arrived we were pretty nervous to leave our car again in the streets. However, we spoke with various locals that assured us the area around the lake is very safe.


We do suggest being cautious regardless by keeping your car in a safe place, and watching your belongings at all times. Other than that, Ohrid town always felt very safe to walk around both during the day and at night.

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Other Things to Know About Visiting Lake Ohrid in Macedonia

Now that you know the best things to do at Lake Ohrid, how to get there, and get around, there are a few other things we're going to touch on. Here are a few other things to keep in mind while visiting Lake Ohrid in Macedonia.

Ohrid town

The view of Ohrid Town

Weather at Lake Ohrid

The weather at Lake Ohrid in Macedonia is known to be the coolest throughout the country. We visited in July and the weather was so much more pleasant than the other areas of the country. It was super sunny and warm during the day (hot enough to swim) and had mild cool nights.

Weather at Lake Ohrid in Macedonia

The weather in the summer is full of warm sunny days, and cool nights.

The Best Time to Visit Lake Ohrid in Macedonia

The best time to visit Lake Ohrid in Macedonia is definitely during the summer. This is high season, but we also never felt it to be overwhelmingly busy. If you like smaller crowds then we would suggest coming early June or September.


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How to Pack for a Trip to Lake Ohrid in Macedonia

There isn't too much you need taking a trip to Ohrid Lake in Macedonia. Because there are small beaches scattered around, we would definitely suggest a swimsuit, sunscreen, and tower. Another thing that is super helping is to have water shoes, as the beaches are rocky.


Bring a refillable water bottle, as there are free fountains where you can fill up free water.


As far as footwear goes, you won't need sneakers for anything really. We stuck to flipflops and sandals the whole time, and had no problem. You might want to bring something nice to wear at nice if you go to one of the fancier restaurants.


Packing List for Lake Ohrid

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Lake Ohrid is perfect for 3-5 days, and the major highlights can certainly be done in just a weekend away.


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