As tourism in the Balkans continues to grow more and more travelers are starting to hear whispers of North Macedonia’s charm. Lake Ohrid is completely unique to any other place we have visited and has everything we look for in a small town. Its size means it can easily be explored on foot, and it surprised us every day with something new! After planning for only three nights, we ended up staying seven because we had such a great time. Come explore the best things to do in Lake Ohrid Macedonia, and even learn about the day trip to St Naum Monastery.
Lake Ohrid Macedonia Travel Tips
Location: Southwestern Macedonia
Official Language: Macedonian
Currency: Macedonian Denar
How Long to Visit: 3+ Days
Airport: Skopje Airport
Best Time to Visit: May to September
How to Get to Lake Ohrid Macedonia
Our story of getting to Lake Ohrid was probably different than most as we came across the border of Albania using a bus and taxi. Nevertheless, you can get to Ohrid in many different ways.
The most popular route is flying into the capital of Macedonia in Skopje and busing your way down. You can also fly into the Albanian city of Tirana and cross the border from there. Either way, you’ll probably be taking a bus to the main station. Once you arrive jump in a quick taxi to your hotel in Lake Ohrid.
When our taxi pulled up into the main part of town we couldn’t believe our eyes… Bakeries, a nice walking street, and beautiful lake straight ahead. Little did we know, our time in Lake Ohrid Macedonia was going to be better than we ever could’ve thought!
Fun Things to do in Lake Ohrid Macedonia
1. Base Your Stay in Old Town
When looking for the best things to do in Lake Ohrid your journey will almost always start with old town. The famous district has thousands of years of history wrapped into its gorgeous architecture.
Being one of the oldest human settlements in Europe, old town is an eye into the past and holds some of the best views in the area. As the city is built on a small hill many places come with stunning views. You’ll have your pick from one of the many Lake Ohrid hotels and apartments when searching for a place to stay!
2. Eat in the Turkish Zone
The Turkish street is the most exciting part of Lake Ohrid in Macedonia, and its restaurants are the main centerpiece. While walking down the colorful main road you’ll smell the spices and see meat spinning on every corner. If you’re looking to try a local dish Cevapi is a must!
The grilled smokey meats are served with garnishes, fresh baked bread, and are bursting with flavor. Also, make sure to get a hot tea Turkish style after your meal. We enjoyed eating our way through Lake Ohrid so much we actually wrote a whole post about it below!
3. Drink Skopsko Beer
For beer drinkers, there’s only one choice for your time in Lake Ohrid… Skopsko! In fact, we even tried to order a different beer at one point and the waiter insisted we had Skopsko. Everywhere you go from Lake Ohrid to St Naum, you’ll see people taking down the national beer. It makes sense as nothing goes better on a hot day than a cold one overlooking the lake. Cheers!
4. Explore By Bicycle
The first thing we noticed in Lake Ohrid was the many people riding bikes around the waterfront. It wasn’t long before we jumped on our own and were happily cruising around the lake!
There is a well maintained bike path that will take you to several different beaches and swimming spots. You can get a bike at most Lake Ohrid hotels, or at the many storefronts renting them. It will be cheap for just a couple of hours, but we recommend taking one out for the entire day for around 15 euros.
5. Spend the Afternoon at the Cuba Libre Beach Bar
While you have a bicycle make sure to stop at Cuba Libre Beach Bar! Its location on the far side of the lake gives you the perfect vantage point to see the beautiful colors and buildings of Ohrid.
With a full menu, it’s also a great spot to grab a drink or snack and enjoy the views. We loved kicking back in the lounge chairs on the end of the dock, and being able to dive right into Lake Ohrid. The chairs do come with a $5 rental fee, but it’s well worth the price to be right on the water.
6. Swim off the Lake Ohrid Macedonia Old Swimming Court
There is a long jetty in town that goes out into the water. In the summer it’s packed with locals who jump off the rocks to cool down from the hot weather. This is the closest place to town to go swimming and is perfect for an afternoon dip. While swimming here was a highlight in Lake Ohrid Macedonia, we also couldn’t get enough of the gorgeous view!
7. Visit Samuel’s Fortress
When searching for what to do in Lake Ohrid this will likely be the first thing that comes up. Well it does look steep, trust us when we say it’s worth the hike! Samuel Fortress sits proudly above the city and has for thousands of years.
The earliest historical data dates back to 478 BC when it was noted as important in the defense of the kingdom. However, the fortifications most well preserved were built by King Samuel from 976 to 1014, which is why it still bears his name today! There is a small entrance fee to get in, and it won’t take more than an hour to explore.
8. Relax at Labino Beach
There’s so many hikes to do in Lake Ohrid, but this was our favorite! After passing St. John at Kaneo head down the path to this hidden rocky beach. This is a great spot to relax for the afternoon as you’ll find shade under the trees, and plenty of spots to dip in the water.
9. Hike to St. John at Kaneo
One of the best parts about Lake Ohrid Macedonia is how its history blends with architecture and nature. No better place is this seen than in St. John at Kaneo!
The Macedonian Orthodox church was built sometime in the 15th century, and is one of the most impressive in the region. It couldn’t have a more beautiful setting above Kaneo beach looking out over the lake. Whatever your beliefs are, trips to St. John at Kaneo and the St Naum Monastery are a must when visiting Lake Ohrid!
Lake Ohrid Tip: We placed the last few points in order of location. From town you can hike up to Samuel’s Fortress, down to Labino beach, and then take the small path that leads back to St. John at Kaneo. Plan for at least 2-3 hours to complete this loop.
10. Spend the Day On Lake Ohrid in Macedonia
You guessed it! Spending a day on the lake is easily one of the best things to do in Lake Ohrid Macedonia. The sheer beauty of the water will take your breath away, as its clear blue colors are surrounded by bright green mountains and traditional houses. Speaking of the water, Lake Ohrid is known as one of the most translucent of its kind in the world! In some places, it’s said you can even see over 20 meters to the bottom.
11. Day Trip to St Naum
Don’t want to break the bank on a private boat? For just 10 Euros you can join a large group tour of Lake Ohrid that takes you to the little town of St Naum! Tickets can be bought right on the main pier of town as people fight for you to jump on their boat. The reason most people visit is the sacred monastery of St Naum, but there’s plenty of other things to do to keep you occupied for a couple hours.
Most of the tour boats will stop for 2-3 hours here after crossing Lake Ohrid. This will give you time to see the fresh springs, go to the beach, and even do a hiking trail around the area.
The original monastery was built in the year 935 by St Naum of Ohrid himself, dismantled, and then again rebuilt in the 16th century. This popular day trip is a fun way to both get out on the water and see more history at St Naum!
12. Hire A Private Boat Tour of Lake Ohrid Macedonia
The group boats are great but… If you spend money on one thing in Lake Ohrid Macedonia it should be taking out a private boat! The lake is lined with boats that fit 8-10 people advertising day trips out on the lake.
While there are bigger boats that cost less (like we mentioned above) the private boat is a better option. This way you will have control of where the boat goes and be in for a more intimate experience. You can negotiate your own price and go everywhere from St Naum to the many secret beaches.
13. Avoid The Bay of Bones (Thing NOT to Do!)
This may be an unpopular opinion, but we were glad to skip out on this popular tourist attraction. The Bay of Bones is the site where archeologists found remains of humans living in Lake Ohrid thousands of years ago.
The museum hovering above the water is a wooden reconstruction of what scientists think it may have looked like 3,000+ years ago. The history behind the Bay of Bones is very interesting, but the actual site wasn’t something that attracted us. Honestly, we passed it on our way to St. Naum and weren’t that impressed.
14. Spend the Night in Lake Ohrid Macedonia City Square
A night out in Lake Ohrid during your visit is a must, and there’s plenty of awesome bars and cafes to have fun at. The main square is filled with lively restaurants that are perfect for people watching. If you head farther into town from the water you’ll find more places to eat and retail shops lining the streets. This will empty out into another popular square where the Turkish zone begins!
15. Walk to Potpesh Beach
On our last day in Lake Ohrid we stumbled upon this cool walk around the corner from the main section of town. From Ohrid Central Square wrapping around the right side of the rock wall, they’ve built a long deck stretching over the water.
We’d find out it actually leads from town all the way to Potpesh beach! Just a 10 minute walk from the main part of Ohrid, Potpesh Beach Cafe is set in a small cove away from all the commotion. Here you’ll find lounge chairs, food, music, drinks, and a picture perfect view of the lake!
After the Best Things to do in Lake Ohrid… Continue on to Albania!
If you look across the lake you may see something in the distance… That’s Albania! Even though it’s much less visited than the Macedonia side, half of Lake Ohrid actually resides in Albania. This means it’s just a quick half hour to the border where you can cross in and begin a new journey.
We actually did it from the other direction, coming from the lovely city of Berat to Macedonia. Either way, we spent 2 weeks in Albania and highly recommend you visit! There they have countless amazing beaches, mountain towns, delicious food, and a completely different experience from the relaxation of the lake.
Best Hotels in Lake Ohrid Macedonia
Fun Vacation (Mid Range) – Villa Varosh – Large modern rooms with beautiful views. Make sure to treat yourself to lake view for your stay in Macedonia’s finest vacation town! Villa Varosh is also walking distance to the town and all major attractions.
Travel Couple (Longterm Travel) – Villa Old Town – This was our favorite of the Lake Ohrid hotels we stayed at by far! Amazing view from the balcony, and just a short walk up the hill in the heart of old town.
Hostel Life (Budget) – Sunny Lake Hostel – Located in a quiet area, but still close to everything. All rooms come with a balcony and breakfast is included!
For more Lake Ohrid hotels you can explore the latest prices here!
Have any questions about Lake Ohrid Macedonia, or want to share your own experience? Please comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
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Macedonia Travel Planning
Flights: We always find our cheap flight deals using Skyscanner. That’s how we flew from Norway to Poland for under $20 USD, and Thailand to Vietnam for less than $50!
Rental Car: We use Discover Cars for renting vehicles. A quick travel tip is to ask for a discounted weekly rate rather than booking 2-3 days.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for thousands of activities around the world. From street food tours to skip the line entry passes!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.
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