10 Best Things To Do in Ohrid: A One-Day Itinerary

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by Michael Rozenblit

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Straddling North Macedonia and Albania, gorgeous Lake Ohrid is one of the top destinations to visit in North Macedonia. There are a number of things to do in Ohrid beyond enjoying the tranquillity and beauty of the body of water itself and it’s so worth setting some time aside to enjoy this lovely destination.

Considered to be one of the oldest lakes in the world and the deepest lake in the Balkans, Lake Ohrid is a popular holiday destination among North Macedonians and other Balkan residents.

Though it does straddle two countries, the North Macedonia side of Lake Ohrid is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And the town of Ohrid itself has a lot to do aside from lounging around on the lake.

So if you want to step a bit off the beaten path and explore a truly spectacular area, then consider visiting Ohrid – you’re sure to fall quickly in love.

How Many Days in Ohrid?

There isn’t a lot of information out there about visiting North Macedonia, let alone Lake Ohrid. So it is normal for visitors to wonder how many days to spend in Ohrid in order not to feel too rushed, be able to explore the town and also get some time to get out onto the lake.

Fortunately for those short on time, the town of Ohrid is quite small and compact and you can see the vast majority of what it has to offer in just one day. That being said, spending only one day in Ohrid doesn’t really give you the time to relax and chill out in this holiday destination, which is what most do when they flock to this lake!

Ideally, you would spend 2 days in Ohrid or more. This will allow you to do a bit of sightseeing while also giving you time to lounge on the beach or get out onto the lake. With a few more days, you can also head outside of Ohrid Town and visit places like the St Naum Monastery and Galičica National Park. You can even go wine tasting in the surrounding area!

Church of Saint John the Theologian on Lake Ohrid
Church of Saint John the Theologian on Lake Ohrid

Getting To & Around Ohrid

Ohrid Town is located in the southwest of North Macedonia and sits along the shores of Lake Ohrid. As mentioned above, Lake Ohrid itself actually spans across both Albania and North Macedonia, making it a central place to visit if you’re on a longer trip through the Balkans.

When it comes to getting to Ohrid, there is a small international airport just outside of Ohrid Town. The airport, however, is seasonal and only serves a handful of European destinations, so it’s not always the best option. Your best bet is travelling overland.

From the North Macedonian capital of Skopje, you can get a direct bus to Ohrid and the journey will take about four hours through the gorgeous countryside.

If you have a rental car, the drive from Skopje to Ohrid takes about 3 hours. It is also possible to visit Ohrid as a day trip from Skopje either on a full-day tour or on a private tour.

If you’re coming from Albania, there is a direct bus from Tirana to Ohrid that takes about 2.5 hours, however, it is not very frequent.

You could also get a bus from Tirana to Struga – a town on the lake just north of Ohrid Town – and grab a minibus or a taxi from Struga to Ohrid. It’s only about 15 minutes away. You can also organise a tour if you want to take an Ohrid day trip from Tirana.

You also could combine a trip to Ohrid with a longer trip across mainland Greece. There are no direct buses from Ohrid to Thessaloniki, however, you can drive between the two in about 4 hours if you’re keen for a beautiful road trip.

Once in Ohrid Town, you can easily get around the town itself on foot and there is no need for a car.

Even if you want to get somewhere outside of the town, for instance to the Saint Naum Monastery, you can grab a boat to ferry you across the lake. However, if you do want to head out to Galičica National Park, it may be best to hire a car for this.

Banks of Lake Ohrid
Banks of Lake Ohrid

10 Things to do in Ohrid: A One-Day Itinerary

A good part of the appeal of visiting Lake Ohrid has to do with simply chilling out and enjoying the beauty of the lake – this is a popular holiday destination for a reason!

However, there are a number of great things to do in and around the town that you can easily occupy a day or two if relaxation isn’t really your thing!

Ancient Macedonian Theatre

You can begin your exploration of Ohrid Town at a fascinating ancient ruin. The Ancient Macedonia Theatre of Ohrid is a wonderfully preserved Greek amphitheatre that dates back to 200 BCE. Nestled between two hills, it’s in a perfect location to keep it protected and to ensure that the acoustics are fantastic.

Because of this, the theatre is still used for performances to this very day. Especially in the summertime, the theatre plays host to performances in the Ohrid Summer Festival.

The fascinating thing about this theatre is that it is the only Hellenistic theatre of its kind in North Macedonia, so it’s definitely a place that is worth checking out while visiting Ohrid. Especially if you’re a history buff!

Samuel’s Fortress

Ohrid Town was once the capital of the First Bulgarian Empire during the 11th Century while under the rule of Tsar Samuel of Bulgaria.

During that time, he constructed this imposing fortress to guard the town from invaders. Though the majority of the fortress was constructed in the 11th Century, there is archaeological evidence that a fortress of some sort has existed in this spot since the 4th Century BCE.

Today, the imposing fortress is a major tourist attraction in the town and paying a visit to it is one of the best things to do when you’re in Ohrid. From the top of the fortress, you can get spectacular views over the old town and of Lake Ohrid and it’s absolutely beautiful.

There is a small fee to enter, however, it’s worth it to be able to climb around the old stalls and take in the incredible panoramas from this historic place.

Samuel’s Fortress
Samuel’s Fortress

Labino Beach

From the fortress, you can wander through some walking trails for about 10 minutes until you reach the rocky and lovely Labino Beach. While no visit to Ohrid is complete without lounging a bit on the beach, one of the highlights of reaching here are the views you can get along the way.

If you wander along the pathways from the fortress, you will come across a few viewpoints where you can get an excellent vista of lovely Lake Ohrid.

After your walk, you can take the time to chill out a bit on the beach or maybe take a dip in the water. Though this isn’t going to be an expanse of soft, white sand, the pebble beach is still a great place to visit.

Old City Park

Next to the beach, you can take the time to wander through the Old City Park. This is a large park that’s on the edge of Ohrid Town and is filled with historic sites to see.

One of the most notable landmarks to take in while wandering around this area is the Church of Saints Clement and Panteleimon.

This Byzantine-style church is dedicated to St Clement, who was a disciple of St Cyril. The church has evidence of it being the site where the first students of the Glagolitic alphabet – which was the first written Slavic script and what today’s Cyrillic alphabet is derived from (the script that is used in countless Slavic countries – including North Macedonia – today).

During Ottoman rule of this area in the 15th Century, the church was actually turned into a mosque. Today, however, it is back to being an Eastern Orthodox Church.

There are other beautiful churches to see in the City Park along with plenty of archaeological sites that are so worth taking in. It really puts into perspective just how old and historic Ohrid as a town is.

Church of Saints Clement and Panteleimon
Church of Saints Clement and Panteleimon

Church of Saint John the Theologian

Hopefully, you haven’t tired of seeing beautiful and historic churches because the next stop is one of the most iconic in all of Ohrid – the Church of St John the Theologian, also known as the Church of Saint John at Kaneo.

This church sits on the banks of Lake Ohrid and is incredibly picturesque and symbolic of the town entirely and it is one of the top Ohrid attractions.

This 13th-century church is located on its own little cliffside peninsula jutting into the lake. It is a gorgeous site to see.

Inside the church, you can also view some beautiful frescoes painted on the interior of its dome that were discovered during a 1960s restoration of the building. No visit to Ohrid is complete without snapping a photo of this beautiful building.

Ohrid Boardwalk/Bridge of Wishes

After taking in the aforementioned historic sites, it’s time to stroll around and simply enjoy the lovely scenery along the lake. There is an expansive boardwalk that you can stroll along lakeside where you can really take in the tranquil vibes of this town.

Make sure not to miss the Bridge of Wishes, a small bridge that offshoots from the boardwalk. This bridge, like many in Europe, is where plenty of couples leave a lock to symbolise their love.

If you want to see the lake from a different vantage point, this is also a great time to head out on the lake and take a boat ride! There are plenty of operators around and you can be shown the sights and views of the lake and gain a bit of perspective.

Church of Saint Sophia

There are a lot of churches to visit in Ohrid, but after wandering along the boardwalk or getting out onto the water, it’s time to take in yet another – the Church of St Sophia.

This is another Byzantine-style Orthodox church located in Ohrid’s old town. Constructed in the 9th Century (and rebuilt in the 10th Century), it is home to a large collection of Medieval art and is considered to be quite an important church in North Macedonia due to its historical significance.

Church of Saint Sophia
Church of Saint Sophia

Robev Family House

Moving still further into the old town you will come across the Robev Family House. This 19th-century house was once home to the Robevi family – a family of wealthy merchants and today it has been turned into a museum.

For a small fee, you can tour the museum and take in a lot of interesting artefacts that were once owned by this important family. You can also learn about the history of 19th-century Macedonia and see the impressive collections held by this family over the three floors comprising this house.

Church of Holy Mary Peryvleptos

Yes, after the Robev House Museum, it’s time to head to another church! The Church of Holy Mary of Peryvleptos (also sometimes spelt Peribleptos) is also built in the Byzantine style and was constructed in the 13th century – making it one of the oldest churches in Ohrid.

What makes this church notable is its impressive and well-preserved frescoes that depict a number of beautiful religious imagery and are worth taking the time to view.

Church of Holy Mary Peryvleptos
Church of Holy Mary Peryvleptos

Ohrid Old Bazaar

And if you’re looking for a great place to browse or maybe pick up a great souvenir from your time in Ohrid, then consider heading to the Old Bazaar. Located in the centre of the Old Town of Ohrid, this is the main tourist drag in the town and is filled with different shops and eateries.

This can be a great place to pick up a necklace or earrings adorned with Ohrid pearls, which are made from grinding down shells found in the lake.

Even if you aren’t in the mood to pick up a souvenir, this is a great place to stroll along and take in the lively atmosphere, especially as the sun begins to set. The Old Bazaar has had a marketplace along it for centuries and it is still lively today, though certainly selling different things!

Have More Time?

If you have more than a day to spend in Ohrid, then there are a few other things you can do to occupy your time.

One of the most popular places to visit as a day trip from the town is the St Naum Monastery. Located about 30 kilometres south of Ohrid close to the Albanian border, this is a historic monastery that can be reached via ferry from Ohrid town.

If you want to spend more time on the lake itself, you can opt to go on a longer boat ride. There are plenty of options to be able to spend a few hours out on the lake, enjoying the peaceful vibes and seeing the towns from a different perspective.

Those who want to get a bit more active may want to consider visiting nearby Galičica National Park. This gorgeous natural area is located within easy reach of Ohrid and has a number of hiking trails to enjoy. It is, however, best reached if you have your own vehicle.

Finally, you could also plan to go wine tasting! There are a number of wineries within the vicinity of Ohrid such as Monastery Winery that will take you on a tour of them. Otherwise, you can always find a local vintage in restaurants and bars within the town itself.

Saint Naum Monastery
Saint Naum Monastery

Where to Stay in Ohrid

Old City House – This cosy guesthouse is located 300 metres from the beach in Ohrid. They have a number of air-conditioned rooms along with a kitchen for guest use and a lovely terrace to enjoy.

Villa Jordan – This 4-star hotel overlooking Lake Ohrid is perfect for those after an upmarket stay. There are several great rooms to choose from along with a large swimming pool and free parking.

Blue Lake Hostel – Those looking for a hostel will love this highly-rated option in Ohrid’s old town. They have a number of different rooms and also organise fun activities for guests.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Ohrid hotels!

Lake Ohrid is a delightful destination that isn’t necessarily on the radar of many visitors. However, there are plenty of great things to do in the area and it’s a wonderful place to visit.

Are you planning to visit Ohrid? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!

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Michael is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Both solo and with his partner, Maggie, he has travelled to over 50 countries across the globe and has a particular affinity for the Balkans and Eastern Europe. He’s lived in numerous countries worldwide but currently resides in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia. Read more about Michael

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