Have you ever thought about visiting Ohrid, the famous UNESCO World Heritage site in Macedonia? Don’t hesitate to go and explore the Old Town with its oriental architecture, the wonderful Orthodox monasteries and the impressive archeological sites. And first of all, enjoy a boat trip on Lake Ohrid, one of Europe’s deepest and oldest lakes!
1. Discover the Old Town of Ohrid with its typical architecture and little chapels
The Old Town of Ohrid is a wonderful experience. Being compact, it is easily walkable and all the major sites can be seen in a relatively short time. But you can also just wander around the cobbled streets, winding up and down the hillside along the lake shore. From above, the view is spectacular! If you want to avoid the crowds, explore the back streets; they are surprisingly empty and walking around is peaceful and relaxing. And keep your eyes open! Admire the beautiful old Macedonian houses, take a rest in the park in front of the St. Sophia Church and walk down the Antique Theatre. And don’t forget to enter the nice little chapels scattered around. They are maintained by the surrounding neighborhoods and they are full of icon pictures, flowers and candles. It is the custom to leave a small amount of money when you visit such a chapel. Just light a candle and place your donation in front of the icon of your choice. And when you are tired of walking: find a cozy café or a traditional restaurant and enjoy the delicious Macedonian cuisine!
Lake Ohrid is one of the most beautiful lakes of the Balkans. The water is crystal clear and full of fish. The mountainous surroundings are of an exceptional beauty. At sunrise, the lake looks mysterious with fog floating above the surface; sunset, with its vibrant orange colors, is a moment of quietness and meditation. Of course, it comes as no surprise that many people like to take a boat ride out onto the lake. Don’t miss it! Just walk along the lake front in Ohrid and barter with the captains waiting to take you for a trip. You can choose a small boat, e.g. to the St. John Kaneo monastery, which offers you splendid views of the Old Town and the Samuil’s Fortress. Or you can make a trip all the way to the St. Naum Monastery, passing by a series of picturesque fishing villages. There are plenty of possibilities!
One of the most interesting buildings in Ohrid is the Robevski House. It is considered to be a masterpiece of old Macedonian architecture. Built in the 19th century for the rich merchant family Robevski, it is nowadays a National Museum that is certainly worth a visit! You can see wonderful old furniture, carpets and wood-carved ceilings. Maybe you also like Macedonian costumes, ancient coins and old manuscripts!? Anyhow, you will get a good idea how 19th-century life in a well-off family was like. By the way, on the ground floor you can also see marble objects, Roman tomb stones and other archeological finds. And from the top floor you will have a beautiful view of the lake!
Down a wooded path, you will reach Plaošnik, a hill above the Old Town of Ohrid that includes an important archaeological excavation, but – what is even more important – also a church from 893 that was built by the first Orthodox bishop in Macedonia, St. Clement, who constructed a monastery dedicated to St. Panteleimon and established the first Macedonian University in the same area. The typical Byzantine church contains beautiful medieval frescoes. And nearby are 4th-century church foundations, with wonderful Early-Christian mosaics. Walk around, enjoy the amazing view from the top of the hill and soak up the atmosphere of this ancient historical place.
This stunning 13th-century church is located on a cliff over Ohrid Lake and contains wonderful medieval frescoes. When you stand in front of the church and see the blue waters of the lake, you will certainly understand why medieval monks found spiritual inspiration here; it is a quiet and peaceful oasis. Enter the little church, you will be impressed by the mystic atmosphere. Light a candle for the sake of family or friends and take a rest in the garden overlooking the lake and the Kaneo district.
6. Don’t miss the St. Naum Monastery
Did you know that St. Naum Monastery is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in Macedonia? It is a stunning place on Lake Ohrid (29 km south of Ohrid), situated on a high rock over the lake and surrounded by deep forests. The springs of the Crni Drim River keep the place cool, even in summer.
The complex was originally built in the 10th century, but most frescoes in the church date from the 16th and 17th century. When you walk through the gardens, you will see multi-colored peacocks strutting through the grass. Roses are flowering around the park and the view from the courtyard walls is amazing. By the way: Macedonians believe you can still hear the saint’s heartbeat by pressing an ear to his stone coffin inside the church. Give it a try! Maybe you will hear it, too! And don’t get disappointed, when you see the “souvenir market” outside. Many Orthodox people buy something to remember their visit of the monastery, although most products come from China or Taiwan. For a visit to St. Naum, you can take the bus from Ohrid, but you can also take one of the boats leaving from the harbor of Ohrid.
Did you know that Ohrid has a splendid museum on water? It is situated on the southern coast of Gradište Peninsula in the Bay of Bones (15 km south of Ohrid). As a matter of fact, it is not only a museum; it also covers the authentic reconstruction of a part of a pile-dwelling settlement, dating back between 1200 and 700 BC. Walk around and imagine how people lived here. The settlement is connected with a reconstructed Roman military fortification (Gradište) on the hill above the Bay. All this will give you an extraordinary opportunity for a time travel from prehistoric to ancient times and vice-versa.