Ohrid is located in the south-west region of North Macedonia. It is a town that has a lot of history and more importantly, one of the oldest lakes in Europe lake Ohrid. It is a city that has 365 churches, a church for every day of the year. The lake is protected by UNESCO, and it is one of the few heritage sites protected by the UN.
Historians tell us that Ohrid is maybe one of the oldest settlements in the world. Plus, the lake dates back more than 3 million years. The clear waters, beautiful buildings and tasty food make Ohrid one of the best destinations in the world. The name comes from the phrase “vo hridi” which means a cliff. The reason why is simple – the first settlements were located on a massive cliff above the shore. Ohrid territory that we know today was settled starting the 8th century up to the 19th century. Back in Byzantine rule, Ohrid became the central cultural and economical place, and also as the episcopal capital of the Orthodox church. In the 9th century, in Ohrid, the first Slavic University was formed by Kliment and Naum Ohridski. After that, in the 11th century, Ohrid became the capital of Tsar Samuel’s Kingdom, whose famous fortress still endures till this day.
How to get to Ohrid?
The best way to travel is by plane. Luckily, Ohrid has an Airport “St. Paul the Apostle” International Airport. It is located 7 km from the city centre. Taxi in North Macedonia is cheaper than any European country, so you will not spend so much. Inside the airport, there isn’t a lot of luxury, because after all, it is a small airport. There are one coffee and one restaurant. Other ways you can get to Ohrid is by car or a bus. It all depends where is your location, and how much money you are willing to spend.
The close proximity of the city centre and old town make Ohrid a great place to explore on foot. If you want to have the perfect walk, you should start from the main square towards the main church. Along the way, you can find many museums and churches. We recommend visiting St. Sophia church and of course, the Antique Theather. When speaking about the ancient theatre, every summer in July, there is the Ohrid summer festival. From music concerts to poetry reading, you can enjoy cultural enlightenment from all over the world.
What to Visit In Ohrid?
We mentioned a church and an ancient theatre, but wait, there is more. The Samuel fortress it is the crown of the city. It is located in the old town, and it was initially built in the 5th century BC. Some historians say that it was initially built on another fortress, yet they haven’t produced any concrete evidence to support that statement. The Tsar Samuel’s Fortress provides a magnificent view of the town, lake and mountain. If you want to experience Ohrid in one aspect, then this is the best way to do it.
Churches of Ohrid Other than St Sofia, we recommend visiting St Mary Perivleptos church. Built and painted at the end of the 13th century, it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. All the paintings inside were created by Michael and Eutychius two young Byzantine painters. From their style, renaissance painters inspired to create beautiful pictures. We can go on and on about churches(365 after all), but if you want to find out more, talk with a local guide to show you the most famous one in the cities and the nearby villages.
The old bazaar is small, even though it was the capital of an ancient empire. The bazaar stretches on one street named St Clement of Ohrid, which is full of tourist every summer. There you can find dozens of shops, cafes, and restaurants where you can taste beautiful Macedonian food. The bazaar ends with the most significant and main square of the city. There you can see the Ali Pasha Mosque. If you didn’t know, in Ohrid there are not only churches but mosques as well. Macedonia was ruled by the Ottoman Empire for more than 5 centuries, and their rule left their marks. The mosque has a simple design but has an excellent value for the history of Ohrid. Recently, it went under reconstruction, but after a problem by the locals, it is left into a standstill. Also, in the old bazaar, you can find the Zeynel Pasha Tekje. This is a holy place for the Bektashi order a type of Islam. It dates back from the 16th century, and it belonged to the Helvet dervish group. If you want to experience the mix of culture in Ohrid, we recommend visiting the Zeynel Pasha Tekje.
Ohrid developed a traditional residential architecture in the past. There are narrow streets and tunnels, where the houses are built over the roads. Usually, any home in the old town has a tiny yard hidden in the back of the house. Plus, old town buildings near the shore all have a white colour because natives found a way to protect themselves from the sun’s hit both direct and indirect reflection.
Lastly, we are going to talk about the beaches. There are three notable beaches in Ohrid. One of them is the Labino beach. A small and stony beach that isn’t crowded with people as the others tend to be. The water there is clear and refreshing. However, be careful, the lake can be cold even in summer days.
Next one is the Ljubanista beach, located on the south-west side of Ohrid Lake. It is the biggest and most beautiful beach around Ohrid Lake. It is made from sand (which is unusual for a lake) and the water is clean as well. You can find many people there, both tourists and locals. Around noon it gets crowded, so the best time to visit would be around 6 PM. Plus, if you wait for the sunset, you will be not sorry. It is a breathtaking experience. Enjoy the view!
The last beach we are going to talk about is Gorica Hotel Beach. To be honest, it is not a beautiful beach, because it is made from rocks and small pebbles. There you can find a lot of people, and it can get crowded. Best time to visit is in the morning or late before sunset. Near the beach, you can find small cafes and restaurants where you can get some food and refreshments.
Ohrid is a great place to enjoy a good swim, eat a portion of great food, drink Macedonian wine, party and learn a little bit of history about this part of Europe.
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Food and Drink: North Macedonia has excellent wines, considered better than some French and Italian brands. They are cheaper than any European country, so you can afford them easily. Also, try the local Macedonian alcoholic drink – rakija. Similar to the Serbian, it is a great drink, that can make you drunk with only one small glass. Let us not forget the local beers – Skopsko and Zlaten Dab. They are Macedonian brews that will give you a new perspective on your beer tasting buds – now you will know what an old recipe beer tastes like.
In Ohrid, you can find all the traditional Macedonian foods in tavernas – mousaka, pastarmalija, turli tava, polneti piperki (stuffed pepper), zelnik, but the Ohrid Pastrmka (fish) is one the most alluring aspect in Ohrid’s culinary range. We recommend trying them all, even if you are on a diet! If you want to taste excellent and unique fish, Nextravel highly recommends. Tavernas, restaurants and bars have affordable prices compared to other European tourist cities.
Hotels: While everything is affordable in Ohrid, hotels and apartments can have the usual European price, but with a good reason – a lot of foreign tourists. In the summer the prices are a bit high, but at every other time of the year, they are quite affordable.
Clothes: Summers are hot, but during the night it can get a bit chilly. The terrains create a climate where you need to bring long sleeves when going out in a bar or restaurant at night.
Nightlife: Ohrid has the best nightlife in North Macedonia in summer. Summer festivals bring famous DJs such as Carl Cox, Paul Van Dyke, Tiesto and many more. The bars offer exceptional nightlife experience, especially in the old town – living modern nightlife in an ancient building.