North Macedonia is a landlocked country, but when you’re standing on the shores of beautiful Lake Ohrid, it doesn’t feel that way. Lake Ohrid is one of the oldest and deepest lakes in Europe, and it’s the biggest lake in North Macedonia. Declared a UNESCO world heritage site, it’s absolutely stunning, and there are only a few towns around the lake. You’ll also find villages, resort areas, and protected natural areas. From ancient churches to beautiful nature and lakeside fun, get ready to find out about the best things to do in Ohrid, and nearby!
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- This is much to love about Ohrid, one of the largest lakes in the Balkan countries
- 1. Walk, bike, scoot or hang out along the lakefront promenade in the city center
- 2. Head to the skate park or other points of interest further along the promenade
- 3. Venture even further along this huge promenade!
- 4. Enjoy the lake front pebble beaches
- 7. Visit the Ohrid City Park (and Spielplatz playground if you have kids)
- 8. Go stand-up paddle boarding on Ohrid Lake
- 9. Dive off the old swimming court jetty
- 10. Wander through the cobbled lanes of Ohrid’s beautiful old town
- 12. Visit the National Workshop for handmade paper
- 13. Stroll along the Ohrid boardwalk to the Church of Saint John the Theologian
- 14. Hike through the forest around Samuel’s Fortress
- 15. Make your own notebook at the Knigovez workshop and gift shop
- 16. Hike to Ramne village
- 17. Hike to Velestovo village, and along the surrounding trails
- 18. Climb Magaro Peak for sweeping views across lakes and borders
- 19. Visit the Sveti Naum Monastery
- 20. Visit Divine farms next to the monastery
- 21. Enjoy a meal on a floating raft
- 22. Take a day trip to Struga
- In summary | Things to do in Ohrid
This is much to love about Ohrid, one of the largest lakes in the Balkan countries
The main towns on the North Macedonia side of the lake are Ohrid and Struga. Pogradec is the main town on the Albanian side. We are excited to share tips with you about things to do in and around Ohrid Town, North Macedonia.
The water in Lake Ohrid is crystal clear. We rarely saw rubbish in the water, or in the town. This was a pleasant surprise after the drive from the Bulgarian border to Lake Ohrid, where pretty much the entire beautiful countryside was littered with rubbish 😔.
The old town in Ohrid is still intact. It’s full of charm and character and there are plenty of sites to see there.
Like Bansko in Bulgaria, Ohrid is very much an outdoorsy type of town and nature enthusiasts will love it. Hikes in the surrounding hills are not far away and, of course, Ohrid Lake itself has so much to offer. Here are some of our favorite things to do in Ohrid, based on the 2.5 months we spent there in the spring of 2021.
1. Walk, bike, scoot or hang out along the lakefront promenade in the city center
The Ohrid promenade is perfect for safe, fun, and active days. It’s super long and there’s plenty of beautiful and interesting scenery.
It’s a great place for a walk, jog, scoot, bike ride, skate, or rollerblade! At the beginning of the promenade (town end), there are bikes available for rent. We bought scooters for the girls from local stores which were about 20 euros for the little one, and 40 for the big one.
The section right beside the water is cobblestoned and slightly bumpy, but is still rideable, even for little people on scooters.
Part of the road near the town is blocked off from cars, and there’s also a bike lane if you prefer a smoother surface.
The town end of the promenade also has plenty of cafes and restaurants where you can grab a meal or a drink.
2. Head to the skate park or other points of interest further along the promenade
About 15 minutes walk (grown-up pace) along from the town end of the promenade in Ohrid you’ll come to some different points of interest that are all just a minute’s walk from each other.
First, there’s a fitness equipment area with some bars and a few other things.
Another minute along on the other side of the road is a small fenced playground with a little food hut next to it.
Continue for another minute and you’ll come to a fun bridge to speed down on a skateboard or scooter. There are some lovely views there as well.
Just after the bridge, you’ll reach the skate park, which is perfect for the big and little kids to practice their tricks! There’s also a nice restaurant next to the skate park and some lush grassy areas around. They’re perfect for picnicking, kicking a ball around, or just enjoying the lakeside.
3. Venture even further along this huge promenade!
The Ohrid promenade continues well beyond the skate park. We didn’t go further than this on foot with the kids.
We’d definitely recommend exploring further along, either on foot, rollerblades or by bike.
Colin and I organized a date swap day with another family to explore a little further. In the morning we went biking along the promenade whilst our friends looked after the kids. Then we looked after the kids in the afternoon.
There are bikes for hire at the town end of the promenade. However, we used a company called Free Pass Ohrid located near the beginning of the old town. We hired city bikes for 24 hours (10 euros each) and shared them with our friends.
With three hours to explore, we spent half of that cruising along the promenade and small lakeside roads.
Then we spent the other half of our time drinking coffee and having brunch at one of the lakefront restaurants on the way back. We love the al fresco dining available at these places and chose the restaurant right next to the skate park.
4. Enjoy the lake front pebble beaches
There are several lovely pebble beaches around Ohrid, which are perfect for hanging out for a few hours or longer.
We’re going to share a few of our favorites with you. Firstly, the Kadmo Beach and Club has a lovely setup.
There’s a nice grass area next to the restaurant, a playground for the kids, and enough shade to be able to spend a good chunk of time there.
We went there to paint pebbles, have a picnic, and supplement with a few drinks from the restaurant.
There’s a little jetty that one of the older kids enjoyed jumping off, and the little ones loved splashing around in the shallows.
Kadmo beach and club is just a bit further along from the skate park and Cuba Libre Restaurant. This area also offers a lovely waterfront experience, although there’s a sign up saying no swimming. It’s about 20 minutes walk (grown-up pace) from the central waterfront playground in town.
5. Hang out at Kaneo beach
Another favorite beach for us is Kaneo beach, right next to the restaurant of the same name.
It’s just perfect for the kids with a shallow little inlet for splashing around, and a stone wall to chill on.
The kids found frogs, little sea snakes, and plenty of fish in the little inlet. Happy playing for hours!
You can also grab food or a drink from one of our favorite restaurants in Ohrid, Kaneo. It’s right next door.
The beach is in the opposite direction to the skate park from town. Wander through the old town cobblestone streets near the waterfront and you’ll find it. There are signs for the restaurant as you get closer.
6. Venture over the hill to Labino beach
Labino beach is another spectacular beach spot near Ohrid Town. It’s further from the masses than the other beaches we’ve mentioned, which makes it quieter, and more appealing for us!
It’s a small pebble beach area. But there’s so much magic in this small space. The shallow, calm waters are perfect for the kids to swim in. As well, there are trees, rocks, and caves, which make it a super interesting spot.
You need to put in a little more effort to get to Labino beach, which is one aspect that makes it so special. It’s about 45 minutes walk from the new town over the hills or around the side of the hill. There are so many tracks you can choose to take, ranging from concrete and cobblestone paved tracks to narrow dirt trails.
Enjoy the amazing views!
Once you reach the cliffside above Labino beach, the views you can enjoy stunning views over the lake. From here you can also see “city beach” and could add to your walk by heading over that way after visiting Labino beach.
From the cliffside, you can follow the paved path down to Labino beach. There are no amenities here so be prepared to pee in the wild, bring your own food and drink, and of course pack out any rubbish.
We’d highly recommend visiting Labino beach as part of your things to do in Ohrid itinerary if you like quiet spots and a bit of adventure.
P. S. If you get stuck in a storm or some heavy rain just build yourself a fire in one of the fire pits in the caves 🙂
7. Visit the Ohrid City Park (and Spielplatz playground if you have kids)
The Spielplatz playground /Ohrid City Park is a central meeting point for many families in the area.
The play area is great, aside from a few broken parts. There are plenty of lush grass areas, and benches to sit on, and of course, you also get amazing lake views.
There’s a lot going on here in the springtime. you’ll find gardens filled with flowers of all colors, and each plant /bush had been shaped into something (e.g. teddy bears and all sorts of animals).
There are little ride-on cars and bikes to rent for little kids, and sometimes a wee train that runs up and down the road.
Ayla thinks the tree is perfect for climbing, although a few onlookers were a bit concerned for her.
The playground is located at the start of the promenade so you can start your strolling and scooting from here.
8. Go stand-up paddle boarding on Ohrid Lake
Stand-up paddleboarding (or kneeling paddleboarding 🤣) is one of the many activities for tourists you can enjoy on the waters of Lake Ohrid.
Miss 7 had her first-ever try at paddleboarding here. Although she’s a confident swimmer she wasn’t too sure about the wobbly feeling on the water, to begin with. So she sat down and enjoyed the ride around to Labino beach and back.
After tentatively going from sitting to kneeling, and then also standing, she felt pretty proud of herself. She was especially excited when I explained how her balance on the paddleboard could help her with her balance and control in other activities she loves, such as dance and gymnastics.
By the end of our hour on the water, she was doing the paddling on her knees and even steered us back to shore!
Where to hire paddle boards and kayaks in Ohrid
You can hire stand-up paddleboards next to Kaneo restaurant. If there is no one there, just ask in the restaurant and they’ll call the people in charge. They live very close by and will be down in a minute to help you set off on your adventure.
Paddleboard hire is just 300 denar per hour and they also offer two-hour guided tours where you can visit different areas around the lake.
If you prefer kayaking, check out Potpesh beach, before you reach Kaneo beach. It’s a trendy spot where you can enjoy a lakeside meal, and hire kayaks by the hour.
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9. Dive off the old swimming court jetty
We highly recommend swimming around the “old swimming court” as it is called on Google maps. Once we realized that the inside of the rocky area at the end of the pier has been manufactured to be super shallow it became our favorite place to swim in Ohrid.
It’s also the most central place we went swimming so it’s super easy to get to with the kids on the really hot days. It’s kind of sandy underfoot, so a bit nicer for bare feet than the other pebble beaches. The lake was very cool throughout most of the spring, and it warms up during the summer months.
And for deep water swimming, you can just dive straight off the outside of the pier. There are loads of fish around, especially very close to the pier where all the algae is.
It’s also easy to climb back up with a few logs to step on and rocks to hold onto.
10. Wander through the cobbled lanes of Ohrid’s beautiful old town
Set on the hillside right beside the new town, the Old Town in Ohrid is absolutely charming and full of character.
The narrow laneways and cobblestone streets are gorgeous, and are a great location for a little “huffy puffy” exercise! Just watch out for cars. It’s easy to think that cars don’t drive along these streets, but they do, and often too fast.
Spend a couple of hours wandering the streets, getting “lost” and soaking up the charm. There are plenty of restaurants in the lower part of the old town too.
On your first visit to the old town, you could check out the ancient theatre of Ohrid, a classic and spectacular ancient amphitheater, where you can imagine the gladiator fights that once took place on site. Apparently, they still hold summer performances here.
11. Spot tortoises at the Church of St. Sophia and try your hand at geocaching!
After checking out Ohrid Amphitheater, stop in at the Saint Sophia Orthodox Church. You can go inside for a tour around if you wish, or just enjoy the beautiful grassy area around the church. There are benches and it’s a nice spot to just sit and chill.
There are actually quite a few tortoises living in the bushes and grass here. You’ll see them moving around and munching on the grass. There are also lots of tortoises further up the hill in the forest, and our friends even rescued a baby one from under the slide in the playground in town!
If you’re up for some geocaching, both the amphitheater and the Church of Saint Sophia have caches hidden (which you’ll see on the free version of the app), so you can do some treasure hunting while you’re there too 🙂
12. Visit the National Workshop for handmade paper
The National Workshop for Handmade Paper is a neat little place to visit in the old town of Ohrid.
Entry is completely free and there’s a very friendly man who will happily give you a demonstration of the paper-making process.
The paper is made the old-fashioned way, much like the process I used to make my own as a teenager. Only the paper here comes out a lot thinner and less bumpy.
We learned that the wood, cotton, or whatever else they use is soaked for a minimum of 23 days. I think I used to make mine over the course of one day, so that may have been my problem 🤣.
The process is completely natural. The pink paper is colored with cherry, green paper from leaves, yellow from the juniper tree, and blue from minerals.
It was also amazing to see that beautiful prints could be made within a matter of seconds.
A short and worthwhile outing in Ohrid’s old town
We’d definitely recommend the short but very worthwhile visit to the National Workshop for Handmade Paper as part of your itinerary of things to do in Ohrid. The demonstration only takes about 20 minutes.
There are gift areas in the workshop where you can purchase beautiful cards, prints, and other artwork and handmade items.
13. Stroll along the Ohrid boardwalk to the Church of Saint John the Theologian
For one of the easiest and most gorgeous walks in Ohrid, take a stroll to the Church of St. John the Theologian (circa 13th century). This is one of the most beautiful churches in Ohrid, in part due to its epic position on the cliffside where you can enjoy stunning views over the lake. It’s just a 15-20 minute walk from town and it may even be the most popular tourist attraction in Ohrid.
Make sure you take in the beautiful boardwalk, which is one very picturesque way of getting there. The beginning of the boardwalk is located just behind the Church of Saint Sophia.
If you’re into geocaching, there’s also a cache not far before you’ll reach St. John the Theologian Church. It takes a little scramble up the hillside so you’ll be able to have a little extra mini adventure if you’re up for it.
The boardwalk route to the church will take you past a couple of lovely quiet and tiny little pebble beaches. These are also great spots to swim close to the town center, and with few people around.
Take the same route back, or head up through the forest trails and then back through the cobbled streets of the old town.
14. Hike through the forest around Samuel’s Fortress
There are plenty of hiking trails around Tsar Samuil’s Fortress (circa 10th century/11th century) in Ohrid. Up above the old town, you can choose from well-maintained stone paths or small dirt tracks.
Circle around the top of the Tsar Samuel Fortress or head down to some of the beaches and back up again. Best of all, you can find yourself in the middle of the forest within 20 minutes walk from the town center.
Pop down to one of the amazing restaurants such as Kaneo (one of our favorites), hang out in the woods, and head down to one of the beaches.
Use a trail map if you have one but don’t worry too much if not. There are a lot of little extra trails you might not even find on your trail map. And you can’t get too lost because the hill isn’t huge. If you head back down you’ll be somewhere near the old or new town
15. Make your own notebook at the Knigovez workshop and gift shop
The Knigovez Workshop and Gift Shop is a neat little place to visit in Ohrid Town.
It’s a small workshop that offers sessions on notebook making. You’ll make and take away three little notebooks. The session is free, with donations appreciated. You can book in for a notebook-making session on a day and time to suit you.
The owners are very friendly and welcoming. They seemed to really enjoy having the kids there.
As well, they also manage to fit plenty of lovely little handmade gifts (available for purchase) into their small space. You may even find the tiniest notebooks you’ve ever seen there!
16. Hike to Ramne village
If you want to hike a little further and higher than the old town hills in Ohrid, there are plenty of other hills surrounding the town.
Enjoy a small piece of the Galičica National Park with a hike to Ramne village. It only takes just over an hour to walk there from the center of town, or maybe perhaps two hours if you’re walking with a large group of kids 🤣.
A great starting point for hikes in the hills, including Ramne Village is near the sports stadium. Begin at the steps behind the petrol station before the main road heads South towards Sveti Naum.
There are well-maintained steps, paths, and trails on route to Ramne. If you end up on the road for any part of it, just be careful. Some people choose to drive very fast and the roads are narrow.
You won’t find amenities as such in the village. However, there is a gorgeous water fountain, where you can refill your water bottles, and cool down after a sweaty walk up.
Some of our crew took a walk through the village and were invited into a local person’s house for coffee. Some others purchased beer, presumably from someone’s personal stash🍻.
Bilijana springs is a really lovely restaurant where you can go for a delicious meal at the end of your hike. It’s located on the other side of the stadium to the starting point for the hike.
17. Hike to Velestovo village, and along the surrounding trails
Velestovo is a lovely little hillside village near Ohrid Town. From the town center, it’s about 1 hour and 20 minutes to walk to the top, or 1 hour from the bottom of the hill. So you’re looking at three hours for a round trip walk from town with time to look around the village, meander, and take photos.
I spent four hours hiking to Velestovo, around some surrounding trails, and back. I left at 5:25 am and got back just as Colin was serving breakfast 😂.
It’s a beautiful time of the morning to walk to Velestovo. You’ll beat the crowds and the heat of the day. Importantly, the road to Velestovo can get busier later in the day with cars that are driving a little too fast around the corners.
If you’re walking from town, Lake Ohrid is usually stunningly calm at this time in the morning. And in June, it’s getting light before 5 am. You might not get the full sunshine until you’re on your way back down the hill because it reaches the Velestovo hillside a little later. But in my opinion, it’s a great little energy saver when you’re not getting drained by the heat of the day.
For me, as a mum, it’s also a great time of the day for “me time” because it doesn’t disrupt family time or anyone else’s plans.
The village and trails beyond
There’s a fountain in the village center where you can fill your water. I also saw several accommodation places, some with restaurants attached I think. So perhaps later in the day, you could get food and drinks there if you wanted to.
After arriving at the village I then spent about an hour wandering some of the surrounding trails. A proper paved road leads to Velestovo so you could just drive there if you had a car. This would take 2.5 hours off your hiking trip if coming from town! Taxis in Ohrid are also pretty cheap. We’ve just opted to walk everywhere because that’s also possible!
If you do drive you’ll be on the doorstep for many trails through Galičica National Park when you arrive. With a few hours to spare you could even climb right up to the ridgeline.
18. Climb Magaro Peak for sweeping views across lakes and borders
Magaro Peak is a really great hike to check out near Ohrid. The starting point (Lipova Livada) is a little under an hour by bus from Central Ohrid. From the top, you can see Lake Prespa, as well as Ohrid Lake. On a clear day, you’ll be able to enjoy panoramic views of Albania and also Greece!
I was lucky enough to find out about the second (free) annual event to climb Magaro Peak. It’s run by “Mountain Maddness”. With little information about the event, I managed to buy the Guides coffee a few days prior to find out the few things I’d need to know. When I translated the info it said I’d need mountaineering gear, so I really just wanted to find out a little more about what this hike would entail!
It turns out that the hike is suitable for anyone with a decent level of fitness. I went up there with trail shoes, 2.5 liters of water, and food. And I was good to go! I didn’t see anywhere to top up water, and you do need to pack out any trash.
I probably could have taken Ayla (age 7) too. But I left the family at home as I was unsure whether other kids would join the event. It was a relatively steep and consistent climb, but nothing too technical.
Tips for hiking Magaro Peak in Galičica National Park
Lipova Livada (the start point for the hike) is about 1500m above sea level, and Magaro Peak is around 2600m. It took me 1 hour and 35 minutes to walk up and around the same to walk down.
I spent about 1 hour and 20 minutes enjoying the beautiful views at the top. As we waited for others in the group to reach the peak I realized there were quite a few kids on the hike, probably from about age 7 or 8 and up.
Even though we’d had a couple of weeks of hot temperatures (30 degrees + in mid-June) there were still patches of snow near the top. And it’s also important to bring something warm to wear because the wind can be cold as you climb higher.
If you plan to hike Magaro Peak you’ll either need to have your own transport or arrange a driver. We had special buses arranged for the event.
And if you’re climbing in summer… definitely go early! Many of the people who began the hike late in the morning were looking very hot when we were on our way down. We started the hike at 8 am.
19. Visit the Sveti Naum Monastery
The Monastery of Saint Naum is a beautiful Eastern Orthodox monastery that you can easily visit from Ohrid Town. It’s one of the most popular day trips from Ohrid town. Whether you’re driving there or going by boat, you could also make stopovers at Trpejca Beach and Bay of the Bones Museum along the way.
After about 35 minutes of driving along the beautifully lush, green, and winding lakeside roads you’ll reach Sveti Naum. There is even a local bus from Ohrid that takes this route about every two hours. Alternatively, with a higher budget, you can take a round-trip ferry, or any of the boats from Ohrid will take you there.
Founded in 905 and rebuilt in the 16th century, one of the main reasons the Saint Naum Monastery is so stunning and unique is the surrounding landscape. You’ll enjoy spectacular lake and river views, as well as beautifully landscaped gardens. There are also some gorgeous peacocks around. Just don’t get too close as they like their space.
If you wish, you can also take a boat trip to Sveti Naum springs while you’re there. There are also a couple of restaurants, and the food looks delicious.
20. Visit Divine farms next to the monastery
Divine Farms is a very special place in Saint Naum, right next to the monastery. It’s a beautiful, extensive Orchard with an amazingly welcoming and friendly team on board.
Their private beach was in need of some TLC so a group of us headed there for a beach clean-up. The Divine Farms team organized everything for us including transport and lunch.
I was pretty shocked at the number of layers of rubbish that we worked our way through. After just a few hours of teamwork, we had 220 bags of rubbish (no typo there).
I talked to the team about tackling the root of the problem. It’s all very well to pick up rubbish but conversations about prevention and future actions also need to be had. They’re a savvy young group of entrepreneurs who I believe will help make a big difference to the future of Saint Naum and beautiful Lake Ohrid.
With the beach in a much better state now and a team that is committed to long-term change, you can now visit their clean private beach (with crystal clear water) and even arrange to camp there. They organize other events as well. These include fruit picking, yoga classes, and retreats.
Get in touch with Divine Farms to find out more about visiting, contributing, or any upcoming events.
21. Enjoy a meal on a floating raft
For a different type of Macedonian food experience, you can have your meal on a floating raft in Saint Naum!
The raft is tied up and then released when you’re ready to take a float around. A small rowboat is called over to take anyone back to the main restaurant for a bathroom break if they need it.
Similarly, if you want to order more food or drinks while you’re floating around, the man with the rowboat will deliver them back to the raft. We had a rowboat full of people go back to use the bathroom and then a few of us carried dessert orders on our laps as we headed back to the raft!
22. Take a day trip to Struga
Another fun thing to do if you’re staying in Ohrid Town is to take a day trip to Struga, the other main town on the Macedonian side of the lake.
We had a really lovely time in Struga. It was similar to Ohrid in many ways. It even has many of the same shops and restaurants. Ohrid is perhaps more of a tourist destination because of the charm of the old town. It’s also closer to the hills.
Struga also had plenty going for it. There are longer, less rocky beaches (and loungers for those who want them!). The river is beautiful, clear, and swimmable. You can even jump off the bridge into the water.
There are a couple of good little funfairs on the waterfront in Struga, which are cheaper than the few activities you’ll find of this nature in Ohrid.
23. Stay at the campground, or visit the nearby village of Vevchani
Struga also has a nicely set up little campground. You can hire a cabin on stilts, or a tent. It’s enclosed and very family-friendly. Some of our friends stayed there and they really enjoyed it. You don’t need your own camping gear because you can hire it from them and use their facilities.
In our opinion, Struga is a little underrated and is well worth a day trip or a longer visit. We caught the bus there for 50 denars per adult (kids free), and it takes about 25 minutes to drive there from Ohrid. The buses leave every 30 minutes from the bus stop just along from hotel Montenegro.
From Struga, you can also catch minibusses to the village of Vevchani, which is another 20 minutes away and is highly rated as a charming little place to visit. We didn’t make it there this time. The easiest option would be to drive straight to Vevchani from Ohrid if you have your own car or want to take a taxi.
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In summary | Things to do in Ohrid
We loved our time at Lake Ohrid and hope that you’ll love it too! There is plenty to do, and we hope you’ve found our suggestions useful. Please feel free to join the conversation and leave any questions or comments about things to do in Ohrid in the comment box below.
If you’re heading to the Balkans and nearby, you might also be interested in some of our other posts. Check out our favorite things to do in Tirana, Albania with kids, the top tourist attractions in Serbia, and these fun and interesting things to do in the city of Belgrade.
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