Macedonia: To go or not to go? Before going I was a bit in doubt. I had already spent a week in Albania and the locals kept asking why I was going to Macedonia if I already had been in Albania. According to them everything was more beautiful on their side. The only thing they admitted to be equally beautiful was lake Ohrid, which they share. Knowing that the ties between Albania and Macedonia are not particularly strong, I supposed their opinion was biased.
Usually, I am a very visual tourist and especially the nature is very important to me. Friendly people and a good vibe obviously come second place, security third. But being surrounded by beautiful nature definitely comes first. To be honest, the pictures I found on Google Images didn’t necessarily blow me away. But the reviews I read were just so positive. “There has to be something about it”, I thought to myself and took off to Macedonia. If you’re curious to know the final verdict, keep reading.
Once I arrived in Ohrid, my doubts started to wash away. For some reason, I felt immediately comfortable. This might have been due to the fact that I stayed with a very nice couchsurfer who made me feel at home straight away. But after I spent some more days in Ohrid and met other people who shared my experience, I’m pretty sure there is more to it.
Lake Ohrid is one of Europe’s oldest (more than 1 million years!) and deepest (288 meters!) lakes. There are only few lakes in the world that old. Next to being an old and deep lake, the crystal clear water of lake Ohrid is supposed to have special healing properties. I heard several locals talk about this and its “special electromagnetic field”.
I have no clue how much of this is true. But all I can say is that I really felt magically drawn to the lake. It’s such a beautiful and soothing place which has many nice activities to offer.
Walking along the coast
On my first day all I wanted was to stroll along the coast and see the entire lake. I initially wanted to walk all the way to Sveti Naum which is 30km from Ohrid. In the beginning I actually thought I was going to make it. There is an easy path just along the coast and I seriously thought this path would continue all the way to Sveti Naum (how naive!).
Soon the path started to become more difficult, would disappear and reappear again. I got lost a couple of times and towards the end had to walk on the highway as well. I ended up walking until Bay of Bones (15 km from Ohrid) and from there took a bus to Sveti Naum.
Despite the hurdles and difficulties, it was still a beautiful walk and I can especially recommend the first part. So, if you are as keen on walking as I am, just walk the first 5-10 km.
Bay of Bones
The Bay of Bones is an open air museum build on top of the water of Lake Ohrid. Remnants of a prehistoric settlement (1200-600 BC) were found at this spot and reconstructed.
From the Bay of Bones I took the bus to Sveti Naum. If you also want to use the bus, check the timetable, it doesn’t run very frequently. From Bay of Bones to Sveti Naum it’s approximately 30 min by bus.
The monastery of Saint Naum is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Ohrid, 30 km away from the city. It is not only popular for it’s beautiful monastery, but also for the springs which feed the lake. Once you arrive at the complex, you will see various companies offering boat tours on the springs.
I personally didn’t have the time to do the boat trip, because I wanted to catch the last bus back to Ohrid again. But I walked to the two others little churches nearby the monastery. On my way there I passed by the springs as well. I tried to take pictures, but the clarity of the water just doesn’t come across on the picture. In order to give you a better picture of how clear the water actually is, I took a quick underwater shot.
The city of Ohrid
The next day, I decided to slow down a bit and to stay near the city. Ohrid has many nice places to offer apart from the many “chill areas” around the lake.
St Jovan Kaneo
Undoubtedly one of Ohrid’s most famous tourist attractions is the St John’s Church at Kaneo bay. It’s beautifully situated, overlooking the lake and the mountains. Don’t miss to watch the sunset from there.
Near to the church there is a famous restaurant called Kaneo. I didn’t eat there, but I spent some extremely relaxing days at the lake there. They have a huge pontune with beds on it, which you can rent for approximately €2.50 per day. I immensely enjoyed floating for hours on the pontune, reading my books, sipping my coffee and taking refreshing jumps in the water.
Sveti Pantelejmon - Kliment
There is a medieval fortress on top of the hill.
Mavrovo National Park
After I stayed a couple of days longer in Ohrid than I actually intended to, I finally got moving again. As I am always drawn to the mountains, Mavrovo National Park was the next destination. Getting there was pretty difficult. I first had to get a bus to Gostivar where I was dropped off on the highway. From there I walked to the bus station and bought a ticket to Mavrovo. I had to wait about three hours for the next bus.
After six hours of travelling I finally arrived. And I was…disappointed. I had to think of the Albanians that told me Macedonia is not as beautiful as Albania and I could see why. The mountains in Mavrovo are not nearly as beautiful as the Albanian mountains are and the lake is nothing compared to lake Ohrid. But I was still surrounded by nature, so I couldn’t complain too much.
The next day I went from the place where my hostel was (Nikiforovo) towards the Sandaktash peak. Eventually, I didn’t make it all the way to the peak, because the weather was pretty bad and it was cold.
It was an easy hike through the forest, leading to mountain meadows from where you can enjoy the view over the lake, accompanied by sheep and their herders. Be aware that the trail is pretty poorly marked though. I eventually followed maps.me which gave me an indication of the direction.
When I came back to the hostel, I found out that two guys were going to Ohrid by taxi. Since, I wasn’t too impressed by Mavrovo, I decided to share the taxi with them and go back to my favorite place in Macedonia. If you are with more than 2 or 3 people, I would generally recommend taking a taxi. It’s much quicker and not necessarily more expensive.
In fact I have only really been to Ohrid and I guess it’s clear that I really loved that place. Many people rush through the Balkans, giving every country two or three days, before they rush through to the next country. If this is you, make sure to stay those days at lake Ohrid and you will be assured of a magical stay in Macedonia! Beautiful nature, good vibes and friendly, welcoming people are guaranteed.