Ohrid: A Cultural Getaway By The Lake
January 1, 1970
by Nadica Pankovska
Whether you enjoy relaxing walks, adrenaline filled adventures or anything in between, Ohrid is a must place to visit this summer. Nested in the mountainous region of Macedonia, it is considered as one of the many hidden gems in the Balkans.
It’s assumed that the city was named Ohrid because it’s located on a hill or “rid” – Macedonian word for a hill. The so-called “pearl of Ohrid” – Ohrid Lake is the biggest lake in Macedonia with an area of 358km2, on 695m above sea level, with a maximum depth of 286m and a perimeter of 87.53km.
A unique day in Ohrid
Morning adventure to the National Park – Galichica
Start the day with a tour to the National Park – Galichica, situated east of the city, where you can go and enjoy the phenomenal views of the lake from the peak, on 2.582m above sea level while hiking through the pleasant untouched nature. If that sounds dull to you then the park offers the thrill and experience of paragliding above the lake.
Afternoon chill by the lake
If you are not the biggest thrill seeker, you can always admire the lovely beaches alongside the crystal clear water, or enjoy the luscious cuisine at one of the many restaurants where you can try the Macedonian specialties, fresh fish or the most famous traditional dishes, such as “Ribja chorba” – fish soup, “Gjomleze”, “Makalo” or the famous Ohrid trout – “Ohridska Pastrmka”.
Cultural evening, sightseeing and strolling through Ohrid’s cobbled streets
After lunch you can go for a cultural sightseeing expedition within the old part of the city where you can visit some of the most significant churches, (it is estimated to be one church for each day of the year, considering there are 365 in the city!), see how handmade paper is produced, visit one of the many pearl workshops and witness the process of birth of the Ohrid pearls, or sit down at the antic theater and relive the medieval era.
Through the cobbled narrow streets, you can easily scale up to Samuel’s fortress. Below the fortress is the archeological site Plaoshnik where the Saint Clement`s Monastery is situated which features remarkable architecture, blending together many cultural layers throughout the years.
Breathtaking sunset at Kaneo
As the day winds down, you can walk down the unbeaten path to the church of St. John Theologian at Kaneo, where you can stop to relax and take in the moment while watching the sun hiding behind the mountains across the lake.
Summer night full of lights
After the long day, you can stop for dinner in one of the many restaurants in the city square along the shoreline, or in the Old Bazaar going through the square.
The vibrant nightlife starts around 10 PM, with a wide variety of bars and clubs open until the early hours which feature a musical specter wide enough to satisfy everyone’s taste. If you happen to be in the city during the peak season, you can enjoy a rich cultural scene with many events on open air such as Ohrid Summer Festival among many others.
A place to rest your head
At the end of the day when you’ve gone through all your daily activities, you will need somewhere to wind down and get some rest. The city provides a wide range of accommodation, from hotels to privately owned apartments, campsites, and even villas. The cheapest price per person is as low as 5 euros in most apartments and can go up to 40 euros a night in some hotels.
A little bit of history
The antic and medieval Ohrid used to be a cradle of culture, warmly welcoming many architects, painters, and writers to the city, who left a deep trace in the cultural and historical shaping of the city, positioning Ohrid as a valuable artistic metropolis in the south of Europe.
What is notable about Ohrid is the traditional architecture embedded deep within the roots of the city. The style is very specific and the most recognizable symbol of the city’s architecture is the traditional Ohrid House. The buildings were constructed the way they were because of the characteristic location of the city. The narrow streets were the main reason for expanding vertically instead of horizontally. The idea was to allow for more sunlight to pass through and everyone to have a view of the lake.
The pearl of Ohrid: Ohrid Lake and its beaches
The lake is one of the oldest on the planet, with rich lake flora and fauna. In the so-called “Macedonian sweetwater sea” there are more than 17 species of fish, such as trouts, white fish, and eels.
Apart from the beaches within the city, there are few more popular ones along the shoreline of the lake which are a 15-20 min drive from the city, or by boat tour.
The villages Lagadin, Trpejca ( the so-called Macedonian St. Tropez), Gradiste and Ljubanishta have some of the most beautiful beaches along the lake and the monastery of St. Naum is a must for everyone who likes to spend time in the pure nature.
Transportation and orientation around Ohrid
Getting to the city
Ohrid is accessible by land and air transportation. The airport is located about 7 kilometers from the city center. If air travel is too expensive and you don’t own a car then there is the option of taking the bus, which is a cheap ride from the capital city Skopje and costs about 12 euros for a round trip.
Getting around the city
You can easily walk around the city, but if needed you can always hop in a taxi (be careful about the prices and always ask for the taximeter and a bill).
During the day on the lake, you can rent a “Pedalinka” – small boat with pedals, or get a boat tour.
When in Ohrid
Like many other popular summer locations, Ohrid is also a host of annual festivals and concerts. Many famous musicians and artists have played on different occasions where the audience could enjoy the sounds of jazz, dance, electronic and folk music.
If you’re in the city around July or August, you can partake in many of the widely known cultural manifestations and events happening in the Antic Theater of Ohrid, such as the famous Ohrid Summer Festival. There is also a swimming marathon every year and the Balkan Folklore Festival.
Staying in Ohrid does your wallet a favor
One of the great aspects of coming to Ohrid are the affordable prices. The wages in Macedonia are very low compared to other European countries and proportionally with that so are the prices.
- Drinks – Non-alcoholic drinks cost about 1-2 euros in most cafés while alcoholic beverages can cost as much as 5-6 euros.
- Food – you can always find some bakery to fill your stomach in the morning, for less than 2 euros. If you decide to spend some time for lunch in a restaurant, a starter course and main dish can cost between 5-10 euros, and the specialty dishes cost between 10-15 euros. After lunch, you can always go for dessert or an ice-cream for less than a couple of euros.
- Local tours and sightseeing – info about the amenities and organized tours can be found on the spot, where you can always bargain the price, or reserve a spot up-front using the internet.
And of course, there are many more things to be written, but my personal recommendation would be to enjoy your time, go off the beaten path and explore the unknown!
Have a safe trip see you in Ohrid!