Macedonia isn’t a super popular travel destination in Europe but there are some hidden gems in the country and Lake Ohrid is definitely one of them.
Lake Ohrid is one of the best places to visit in Macedonia because it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the few in the world that is both a natural world heritage site (the lake itself) and a cultural world heritage site (the Old Town). The beautiful lake is also on the border with Albania, so it’s also easy to combine with a trip to Theth in Albania’s Accursed Mountains.
This little gem on the water is a perfect place to sit back, relax, and enjoy a few drinks while swimming under the sun. If you want to visit Lake Ohrid on your next trip to the Balkans, don’t hesitate to add it to the itinerary.
Ready to go? Make the most of your visit with this complete guide to Lake Ohrid!
How to Get to Lake Ohrid
Determining how to get to Lake Ohrid all depends on which city you’re coming from. If you want to learn how to get from Sofia to Lake Ohrid, click the link to see my detailed guide.
To get to Lake Ohrid from Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, it’s much easier. Simply check this timetable and then go to the Skopje bus station for the one that suits you best. The bus ride is a bit over 3 hours long and costs 520 denars / about 10 usd.
To get to Lake Ohrid from Tirana, you can buy a bus ticket on the route that eventually goes all the way from Tirana to Skopje (which is where we were heading). You can buy the tickets from Drita Tours, an agency located behind the large International Hotel in the center square.
The bus leaves every day at 4pm and 7pm. Just be warned that this route takes forever.
We went from Tirana to Durres (on the coast) and then s l o w l y made our way to Struga. The border crossing required a personal search of each bag and we all had to get off the bus which took another 45 minutes. Finally, we arrived in Struga, which is where you’ll get off to go to Ohrid. From here, it’ll be another 20 minute taxi ride (and should cost about 10 to 12 usd) to get to the lake.
Having inadvertently went to Lake Ohrid from both Skopje and Tirana (don’t ask), I can strongly suggest that the trip is much faster and better on the Macedonia side. If you can schedule your itinerary to go from Skopje to Lake Ohrid to Tirana instead of the other way around it will definitely be better.
What to Do When You Visit Lake Ohrid
Ok, you made it to your destination! Now, what should you do when you visit Lake Ohrid? I have all the answers for ya right here.
Chill on the Water
The best thing to do when you visit Lake Ohrid is to simply relax. My favroite place to do that during our 3 night stay was at Cuba Libre Beach Bar. It’s about a 15 minute walk from the center and here they have lounge chairs on a dock on the water and a restaurant serving food and drinks. You can show up the morning to get a lounge chair or reserve yours the day before. From here you can jump off the dock to cool off when you get too hot and they have everything you need, including wifi and clean bathrooms, for a great day.
The cost is 200 denar / 4 usd for a bed and umbrella for the day and it’s totally worth it. Also, the food was surprisingly good (I mean, it was totally average but that was better than I expected) and the prices were great. Mixed drinks and food started at 250 denar / 5 usd and beers were only 110 denar / 2 usd. In total for coffee, lunch, sun beds and plenty of beers for two we spent 2700 denar / 50 usd at Cuba Libre. I thought it was a pretty good deal for a full day!
Go on an Adventure
If laying in the sun all day isn’t for you there are also more adventurous activities available in Lake Ohrid. If you’re looking for more, paragliding trips are easy to organize directly at Cuba Libre, or you can rent scooters, bikes, or kayaks from agencies in the center, get a paddle boat for only 200 denar / 4 usd per hour to explore the lake, or take boat tours on the water.
Take a Boat Trip to the St. Naum Monastery
On our third day, we decided it was time to switch it up a bit and visit the St. Naum Monastery. This required a 1.5 hour boat ride and you can buy tickets directly on the dock in the main square. They cost 600 denar / 11 usd per person and the boats leave at 10 am every day.
The ride is nice and we arrived to the monastery around 11:30. It has an old painted chapel and a lot of peacocks running around the grounds. After that, we ate lunch at Ostrovo with a table right on the water and then took a short boat ride into the fresh water springs. The cost was 200 denar / 4 usd per person and was definitely worth it. It felt like I was exploring a long lost jungle and the color of the water was gorgeous.
Finally, we finished our day trip laying on the beach under a tree and reading until it was time to go. The boat left at 3 and with an extra stop at the Bay of Bones museum on the way back we returned to Lake Ohrid around 5 pm.
Explore the Old Town
The Old Town was built around 800 AD and is quite beautiful to walk around in. There’s not a ton to actually do in it but it’s great for photography and has lots of cute little restaurants to sit down in for a bite to eat. In the Old Town one of the main attractions is the National Museum and you can visit a workshop for handmade paper as well.
Catch the Sunset at the Church of St. John
How beautiful is this place? It was right by our Airbnb and is an easy walk from the Old Town. We went for sunset and the view of the water and the chapel and the sun sinking behind the mountains was great. Afterward, walk a few steps down the coast for dinner at Kaneo (I’ll get to that soon!) and you’ll have a perfect night.
Where to Stay When You Visit Lake Ohrid
When you visit Lake Ohrid you can either stay in the center area or the Old Town area. They’re about a 15 minute walk apart and it just depends on what you’re looking for.
We stayed in the Old Town at this Airbnb and I recommend it because it had amazing views from the balcony. If you want to be closer to the lake and the bars and restaurants then staying downtown will be better for you. Whichever you choose you really can’t go wrong and they’re so close together that the decision won’t have a huge impact on your stay either way.
Where to Eat When You Visit Lake Ohrid
Now for my favorite category: food! If you visit Lake Ohrid you’re in for a treat because the food is great. I was surprised because usually small touristy towns are overpriced and the food is disappointing but not Lake Ohrid… if you know where to go that is.
We stayed for three days and stopped here every single day for breakfast. Fruit Box is just that good. They have tons of different smoothies on the menu, both fruit and protein, and have these small little chocolatey breakfast balls that are only 30 denar each as well. The smoothies were super cheap and were a perfect refreshing start to our hot days under the sun.
This place is amazing. It’s a tiny little Turkish restaurant tucked in at the far end of the pedestrian street. Their menu is small, which is always a good sign, and we each got the falafel plate. It included bread, hummus, six falafel balls and an array of veggies for only 170 denar / 3 usd. So filling, so flavorful, so cheap. That’s my kind of meal.
Kaneo was my favorite restaurant and if you visit Lake Ohrid definitely don’t miss it. It’s located right by the Church of St. John, so it’s perfect to combine some sunset pictures at the church with dinner at Kaneo.
Here I strongly recommend the truffle gnocchi (I love truffle) and a dish called “trout in prison.” Both were made with homemade pasta and were just so delicious. Plus, for the quality and view the price was great. Meals cost between 300 and 500 denar / around 5 to 10 usd and the mojitos were spectacular as well.
Visit Lake Ohrid With This Complete Guide
Our 3 night / 4 day stay in Lake Ohrid was everything I wanted and more. The water was cold and refreshing, the food was hot and tasty, and the vibe was just right. Lively but relaxing is exactly what I need on vacation and Lake Ohrid definitely delivered.
If you’re considering a visit to Lake Ohrid, book it. This is one of the most beautiful places in Macedonia and has everything you need for a perfect vacation!
PS still planning your trip in the Balkans? Learn how to spend 24 in Skopje, see my thoughts on if Tirana is worth visiting, and then explore the nearby Accursed Mountains in Albania with my complete guide to Theth!