If you haven’t heard about the deepest, most serene lake in Europe, that’s ok, we can’t all be perfect. But google it and get there… NOW.
Lake Ohrid is situated on roughly 30km of the border between Macedonia and Albania. This glistening fresh water oasis is the deepest lake in Europe and is comfortably nestled among the mountains of Galichica National Park and neighbored by Lake Prespa.
Macedonia overall receives very few visitors compared to the more overrun Balkan countries like Greece and Croatia. However, the country itself is very cheap in comparison and its inhabitants are not yet tainted by masses of tourists trampling through, making this boutique getaway spot one of the most up-and-coming family and backpacker havens in Europe.
The actual town of Ohrid sits on the Northeast end of the lake and makes for the perfect home-base during the trip. Here, Ottoman style buildings garnish the windy cobbled stone streets and house an assortment of restaurants, shops, and quaint apartments for rent. The crystal clear waters edge is lined with stoney beaches; some sections are adorned with lounge chairs, umbrellas, and cozy cafes, others are secluded hideaways for the fearless pioneer to discover.
Where to Stay
For the the solo backpacker, I highly recommend Sunny Lakes Hostel. I booked 2 nights and ended up staying 8. The owners are exceptional. They go above and beyond for their guests – personally walking them to the bus stop (in my case, the cell phone repair shop) and even giving up their own beds if walk-ins come and they’re fully booked. The atmosphere is fun and friendly, the rooms are cozy, breakfast is included, and there are TWO hammocks in the outdoor common area… SOLD.
For couples and families, guesthouses and apartments are plentiful and reliable. A variety are available via Booking.com
What To Do
Eats: For those on a budget, grocery stores are plentiful and a large fruit/vegetable market runs daily, allowing you to cook for an entire hostel family (the equivalent of 6 or 7 hungry vagabonds) for under 5euro.
Fancy a night out? Head to the Jazz bar where locals and travelers alike go to party and dance to live music.
Galichica National Park is also accessible by shared van and is definitely a highlight of the area. This string of small mountains are not only a beautiful backdrop for the lake, they can be climbed in a matter of hours. The prize at the top – a 360degree viewpoint, abandoned communications buildings available for exploration, and full views of both lake Ohrid and Prespa.
The lake town and the smaller surrounding towns offer countless activities for all budgets from boating and jet skiing to camping, hiking, and even paragliding off the mountain.
Buses depart from Ohrid for the neighboring town of Struga and small shared vans line up to take passengers down the East side of the lake towards St. Naum monastery and the Albanian border.
From Tirana, Albania: Buses depart from the main station just a few times a day to Struga (Macedonian side) and take roughly 7 hours depending on the border crossing. From here you can catch another quick minibus or a taxi to Ohrid. More frequently are buses heading every hour to Pogradec (Albanian side). From here, you then take a 45 minute taxi ride across the border and around the lake to Ohrid. This option takes closer to 5 hours but may be a bit trickier to catch a cab (essentially locals willing to drive for a negotiated price).
From Skopje: Buses frequently run daily, take about 3 1/2 hours, and costs start at 7eur but vary depending on which company you choose.
As of right now, the only direct flights in and out of Ohrid are from London, Brussels, Zurich, Basil, and Amsterdam. However, they do not depart every day and are a bit pricier (200-300eur) during high season.