Just a 30-minute drive outside the Albania border lies a tranquil lakeside town in North Macedonia. This small town of 40,000 residents is a beautiful, treasured secret to locals in the region who come here for a weekend getaway or make it their summer escape.
To others across the globe, it would rank high on the list for their next vacation or retirement dream goal if only they knew this place existed.
Welcome to Ohrid!
Lake Ohrid is one of the largest and deepest freshwater lakes in Europe. It is actually set in two countries, Albania and North Macedonia (more commonly known as Macedonia). The lake looks pristine from any direction, or country, for that matter. But the small town of Ohrid on the Eastside of the lake is the place to go for the best experience. Those who decide to make the trip will not be disappointed!
More airlines are adding routes to both Tirana, Albania, and Ohrid, making it much more accessible than it used to be. This charming town is actually just a 2-hour journey from the capital of Albania compared to a 4-hour journey from its own country’s capital, Skopje.
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Historical Old Town
Ohrid, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a mix of old and new, like many other European cities. Old Town is where tourists will discover the heartbeat of Ohrid.
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Cobblestone streets and alleyways zig and zag all across the city center, mostly full of locals going for a walk or digital nomads on their laptops at a breezy sidewalk cafe. Macedonians live life at a slower pace, and it is easily noticeable here. Want a coffee, for example? You might have to wait for your barista to finish their morning cigarette first before taking your order. Need a cab ride? Maybe your driver hasn’t finished reading the newspaper yet. That’s right, a newspaper.
There are numerous restaurants in Old Town offering fresh seafood straight from the lake and a cheap, cold local brew. Most of them offer outdoor patios so patrons can enjoy the calm, cool breeze and take in the amazing scenery of Ohrid. Many of these establishments specialize in cuisine from other nearby countries too such as Greece, and even Turkey. Those looking to indulge themselves really can’t go wrong here!
Going Back In Time
Walking through Old Town and the surrounding streets, one is bound to come across a church. It would actually be almost impossible not to since this town was once known for having 365 churches – a different church for every day of the year!
What’s left behind now is incredible. The preservation of these buildings is still mostly intact, with some dating back to at least the 9th Century AD! There are a lot of challenging hills to climb in Ohrid, but the postcard-worthy views of the lake, combined with the unique design of these Romanesque churches, is a one-of-a-kind experience well worth the trek.
Macedonia is the third least visited country in Europe, but the tourists who have already checked Ohrid off their list recommend the steep hike to Samuel’s Fortress for the breathtaking 180-degree views.
If one could forget there’s a smartphone in their pocket, they would truly feel like they are taken back in time.
The Serenity Of Lake Ohrid
Wherever travelers wander throughout Ohrid, it is impossible to miss out on Lake Ohrid. In many parts of the world, it’s common for lakes to be murky and not have the best reputation. Lake Ohrid just doesn’t belong in that category. The calm, crystal-clear water is more comparable to what one would see at a 5-star resort in the Maldives.
Seemingly untouched, it’s no mystery why this area is known as the “pearl of the Balkans”. There are a lot of options to best experience this natural wonder:
- Or simply dipping your toes in the water and enjoying the serene surroundings of the lush green hills
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Many tourists say the best way to experience Lake Ohrid is by taking a boat ride at sunset. The orange glow lights up the entire town. One recent traveler described the lake as, “a really special place” and “drop-dead gorgeous”.
If vacationers are seeking pure bliss and serenity, look no further than Ohrid, North Macedonia.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com