Lake Ohrid is my current number one travel recommendation – and most people have never heard of it. It’s a magical place which I predict will become a huge destination over the next few years, overtaking the popularity of places like Lake Bled in Slovenia. I recently travelled there for a long weekend and I’ve been raving about it ever since.
The first question I’m always asked when I mention Lake Ohrid is where is it? Lake Ohrid is shared between the Republic of Macedonia (also referred to as FYROM) and Albania, but we stayed at the Macedonian side with a private day tour to Albania. The flights were an absolute steal for a bank holiday weekend thanks to the Wizz Air sale and we booked Villa Ohrid via Hotels.com. And where’s Macedonia? The easiest description is above Greece and you can feel the influence; to me, Lake Ohrid felt like Greece before it became a main Summer holiday destination.
A quick tip – Macedonian Denar isn’t available in the UK so we all took a small batch of Euros for the first evening then withdrew cash from one of the ATMs in town. You can pay in Euros at most places but you will suffer from a poorer exchange rate so we found it best to pay in Denar. I highly recommend Monzo if you want to avoid fees abroad. I've been totally converted to this clever bank which offers a contactless card, an app which categorises your spending and great exchange rates with no fees.
Food wise, our meals were similar to Greek or Turkish food, with plenty of delicious meals baked in terracotta pots, tzatziki, stuffed vine leaves, baklava and of course, Raki after every meal (otherwise known as the strongest alcohol known to man!) However there is also plenty of local dishes, most notably the Ohrid trout, fished directly from the lake and served as a whole fish at most restaurants. We tried it at Cun Restaurant and it was delicious, falling off the bone and beautifully tender.
Other local specialities included Tavche Gravche, white beans in a tomato sauce with pepper baked in a pot, and Turlitava, a mixed vegetable and meat stew also served in a terracotta pot. We tried both at Restaurant St Sofia, one of our favourite places to eat with incredibly friendly staff, a huge wine selection and a gorgeous view of the St Sofia cathedral. Next door with the same wonderful view, Via Sacra also served traditional dishes, tasty freshly made pizza and “proper” lemonade, lemon juice to which you could add your own sugar to sweeten. Delicious!
For another excellent view, Gladiator is located above the Ancient Ampitheatre and was conveniently close to our apartment, serving delicious meze style dishes including wonderful stuffed vine leaves. The restaurant was slightly pricier than our other meals but still godsmackingly cheap - the most expensive starters were £2.50 and mains were an average of £4.50!
I’ve never quite visited somewhere which looks as perfect as it does on Instagram, but St John’s at Kaneo does. Those perfect Google photographs are simply the reality and I was blown away by the sheer beauty of both the buildings and nature at Lake Ohrid. There’s a lovely loop walk to visit the key churches and monasteries in Ohrid, starting at St Sofia before heading to St John’s at Kaneo, then St Pantilimon Plaosnik then finally up the hill to Samuel’s fortress, for amazing views of the town and lake. It’s a great walk to see most of the key churches in Ohrid, before heading back to the town to explore further.
All the churches cost at most a couple of pounds to enter and remember to cover your knees, shoulders and midriffs else you won’t be allowed in. Inside, we were greeted by some of the most beautiful frescos I’ve ever seen. The Byzantine design and the colours left me awestruck. The most impressive was the Church of the Mother God Perivleptos, located near the amphitheatre, but every single one was stunning. Photographs weren’t allowed, so they are something you simply have to see for yourself! Ohrid famously once had 365 churches, one for each day of the year, and many still remain. Everywhere you walk, you can discover tiny churches on street corners which only look big enough for a handful of people and each one is unique and fascinating in its own way.
The beautiful boardwalk along the lake edge is perfect for an early morning stroll, after visiting St John’s at Kaneo. I even had a quick dip in the water in my beautiful little black swimsuit from Simply Beach. It’s the most badass swimsuit I’ve ever owned and so flattering. It’s the first thing that goes in my suitcase if I’m heading to the pool or beach and I can't wait to take it to Mexico with me for my next trip.
Lake Ohrid is also one of the friendliest places I’ve ever visited and although we stuck out like a sore thumb as four British girls on holiday, rather than being met with aggression, we were met with genuine curiosity on why we were visiting – and then joy that we enjoyed it so much. Because Lake Ohrid is a holiday destination for locals escaping the heat of the capital city in the Summer, it feels “ready” for an influx of tourists and I’m excited to see how tourism will really benefit the area and allow more people to discover this incredible place!
The Lowdown: Stay, Eat Visit
Stay at Villa Ohrid. Our apartment was an absolute bargain, costing just £25 each for three nights. The balcony had the most beautiful view of the town, the owner was so friendly and it’s just a short walk from Gladiator and the ancient amphitheatre.
Eat at Restaurant St Sofia for a great view of the cathedral, a huge selection of wine, delicious traditional dishes and the infamous “Sexy Salad” dessert. You’ve got to order it…
Visit St John’s at Kaneo to see an “Instagram reality” which is even more stunning than you might imagine with picture perfect views of the crystal clear lake.
Flights Flights cost £78 return from London Luton with Wizz Air. You can definitely grab some cheaper flights as these were booked over the May bank holiday weekend.
Accomodation Villa Ohrid, booked via Hotels.com, cost £25 each for 3 nights. 2 bedroom apartment (per person, between four)
Expenses Just £65 for four days, including church entries, shopping, alcohol and eating out with multiple courses twice a day!
Total cost of four day trip £168
Have I persuaded you to add Lake Ohrid to your bucket list?