The Lake Ohrid is well known around Europe and not only and there are a lot of reasons. It is one of the most ancient lakes of the hearth, one of the deepest of Europe and, someone says it, one of the cleanest of Europe. I got those information reading about it and talking with locals, but I can say by myself for sure that is one of the most beautiful that I have ever seen. I come from Italy and in my country there are a lot of lakes, as around Europe, I had the chance to see some of them.
Why do I consider Lake Ohrid as a jewel of Macedonia? Well, I have been, as you red in my previous articles, many times in the country and step by step I explored the various towns and villages, but as natural attraction the lake is the one that gave me big positive feelings. Maybe it is not only because of the water and of its blue colour, but also because of the town. Ohrid is really lovely, especially the old part built on a hill.
Before to describe this unique place I need to mention Struga, another town located on the same lake, few kilometres far from Ohrid. It is faced on the lake and it offers a lovely down town, the typical carsija present in almost all the cities in Balkans with an Ottoman origin. In the middle of the town there is the Black Drim River that cuts the centre in two parts.
It is a lovely place and there are many attractions to be visited: the church of St. George, a XIX century example of religious architecture built on the ruins of a church of XVII century; the Nature Museum with a lot of species of birds, insects and animals that populated the area in the past and in present time; the Vangel Kodjoman Gallery, with all a lot of paintings realized by the famous Macedonian contemporary artist. Also around Struga there are a lot of places to be explored, as some archeological sites.
The town is a tourist destination and for this reason is full of good hotels, restaurants and bars, especially in the centre and on the lake. Struga is few steps from the Albanian border and of course a small part of the lake is on Albanian side, so it is easy to get there, maybe for a small trip meanwhile the traveller is visiting Macedonia. Also Ohrid is a tourist destination, so I suggest to not miss it, especially because it is a completely different place.
It is protected as Unesco Heritage and it offers to the travellers a marvellous view of the lake. The old part of the town was built on a hill from where it is possible to enjoy a great panorama. On the top there is a beautiful ancient basilica with an archeological site. The small streets take the visitors to the main attractions passing by the old houses in Ottoman style. It is like to walk in the past.
Ohrid is a combination of elements able to mix the past and the present. It looks a peaceful town where to relax, but during the day a lot of tourists are doing sightseeing and shopping, meanwhile young people are living the bright nightlife. There are many things that has to be mentioned, but as usual I prefer to focus on few parts of the town which I like most.
The first place is for the lake, it is really marvellous and it reserve nice surprises. Then the basilica with the churches disposed on the way that connects the lake to the top of the hill. Archeology in Ohrid has to be mentioned because there are really well kept monuments coming from the ancient age. Last but not least I want to write about restaurants and accomodations, because they deserve a place on my blog.
It was born 1 million of years ago and this means that is the oldest lake in Europe and it is rich of animal and plant species, experts says 212. In town there are places where to lie down under the sun and swim, but there are also small boats ready to take tourists around searching for more peace and some explorations inside the nature. The prices to rent a boat are a bit expensive for Macedonian standards, but it is nomal to find higher rates in the tourism towns. For Western Europe rates it is cheap, anyway it is allowed to negotiate.
On the water there is a museum, located few kilometres far from the centre of Ohrid, close to Peštani. It is the reconstruction of Bronze Age stilt houses on Lake Ohrid. It is made in recent time, but with a lot of accurancy and they payed attention to every details, putting inside the houses the different objectives like the ones used by the ancient population in their home on the water. It is really educational and interesting and from there the view on the lake is amazing. There is a road that goes there, but not the boats.
In the lake there are obviously some fishes, in particular the Ohrid trout. They are protected because the quantity is decreasing, but in some local restaurants they propose the trout in the menu. I am not dure that the fish cooked is coming from Lake Ohrid, but at least it is very good. Anyway I suggest to to enjoy the lake deeply, aslo to spend there a week is a good idea.
Archeology, churches and fortress
Walking in the old part and the carsija of Ohrid the visitor find modern and traditional shops, especially on the main street, but the most interesting thing is to see the old constructions well kept. Among them there is Robevi House, built in Ottoman style during XIX century with the name of the most important family of the town at that time. Now there is a museum with historical finds from the area.
In the centre there is the magnificient St. Sophia church with its front porch, then the ancient theatre realized in 200 B.C. well conserved but not so much valorized, maybe that is why tourists are surprised when they see it: they do not expect it and then they find a superb architecture from the past. Going up in the middle of the houses it is possible to reach the top of the hill with the fortress. There are only the walls, but from there the view on the lake and on the surroundings is incomparable.
To reach the fortress and especially the basilica I prefer to pass directly from the beach ( with gravel ). From the lake there is a way with a wooden bridge and then a trail that goes up. The beauty of this pathway is of course the panorama on the Lake Ohrid, but step by step it is possible to stop in the churches located on the different levels. The church of Sveti Kaneo is the most important religious building in Macedonia, sacred in XIII century and located on a small hill facing the lake.
On the top, not far from each others, there are the fortress, the monastry of St. Pantaleimon and the archeological area of Plaošnik. The monastry is really wonderful Bizantine religious architectural example and it is dedicated also to St. Clement, the disciple of Cyril and Methodius who invented the actual version of Cyrillic alphabet. In the other side of the courtyard there are the results of the archeologists work.
It is possible to see the remains of a Christian basilica and of a Baptistery. In the area there are also Muslim tombs. Of course also from the same place the view of the lake is great, especially with the sunset, because of the colours reflected on the water. It is full of tourists almost all the time, but there is a lot of space, so there are never problems to ”disturb” each other during the visits.
Eat and sleep in Ohrid
Stay in Ohrid is a good solution also if you want to see the district, also because the offer is various. Around the town there are the National Park of Galicica and at around 20 minutes by car it is possible to visit the Sveti Naum Monastry. Ohrid is famous for its 365 churches all around the district. I don’t know if it true or it is a legend, but if you like to explore religious buildings you will be satisfied.
In the town you can find mainly two types of accomodation: the hotels and the private houses. In the years many people started to rent rooms and apartments, as it happens in all the world, to tourists. The difference is that they propose the space they have. It can be that you have a room with bathroom, a big aprtment or just a bed in a living room. That is why each home open to visitors has a star rating. From 1 to 5 stars as the hotels, so you can easily choose and find proper rates.
I can recommend you, because I have been there, a five star private house called Germanoff House. I had a room on the top floor with private bathroom and a lovely balcony (with tables and chairs). The elegant setting shows the luxury, especially according to the private houses standards in the area and the equipment is complete and modern, with Wi-Fi and room service. It is located few hundred metres from the main square with St. Sophia basilica and also surrounded by restaurants, one of them with an agreement for the house guests.
If you prefer an hotel you can move few hundred metres from the old part and stay in front of the lake at Hotel Aleksandrija, a luxury structure that offers elegant and spacious rooms with all the modern services to make the guest stay more confortable. The location is perfect to enjoy Ohrid and the high standards can be easily compared with Western Europe ones.
If you like to taste the local food Restaurant Chun is highly recommended. It is a fancy place with a clear recall to the lake and located at the entrance of the old part of the town. They propose a fish and meat menu with recipes coming from the local cuisine. The staff is kind and you can find inside more locals than tourists, maybe also for this reason is a good place where to have a dinner.
Another restaurant that I liked is Restaurant Damar, a typical Macedonian place, with old costumes on the wall and a various menu that include many meat proposals, well presented and served by a friendly staff, as often is happening in Macedonia. About fish they say that they have the chance to get sometimes few trout from the lake and to cook them. Who knows if it is properly like that, but anyway the fish in the plate was very good.
During the night bars and discoteques gives fun for young people, tourists and for who do not want to go to sleep. The choice is variegated, but I can suggest Liquid bar, very popular among locals. It is a modern structure in an ancient house, with a nice setting and an external part directly on the lake. All day long it is possible to drink, meanwhile during the evening you can drink, listen music and dance, not only during summer time.
The last advice
For me it was really useful to read the book “Ohrid on the shores of the ethernal lake” that describe the town and the attractions with the point of view of a photographer and of who lived there. It is not properly a guide for tourist, but according to me the best mate to explore the town.
Also it was very interesting to me to watch the DVD “Global treasures Ohrid Macedonia” that shows the best monuments, churches and places to be visited explaining the history and the most important elements.