North Macedonia, Travel Guide
Glittering Lake Ohrid and its historic town have etched out a place for North Macedonia on the tourist map, but there is a wealth of natural beauty in this small country.
Dramatic mountains have blissfully quiet walking trails, lakes and riding opportunities. The national parks of Mavrovo, Galičica and Pelister are cultivating some excellent cultural and culinary tourism initiatives; these gorgeous regions are as yet little explored, so if you want to get off the beaten track in Europe – this is the place. Tourist infrastructure is scant, but locals are unfailingly helpful.
Skopje’s centre has suffered from a building spree of grotesque faux-neoclassical monuments, buildings and fountains, funded by the previous government. Luckily, its Ottoman old town and buzzing modern areas are untouched and remain charming and authentic.
Back in the Middle Ages there were some 365 churches, monasteries and religious sites lining the banks of Lake Ohrid in the southwest corner of North Macedonia, which earned it the sobriquet ‘the Balkan Jerusalem’. At 34km long, 14km wide, over 300m deep and almost entirely encircled by mountains, the lake is a renowned cultural and spiritual centre, and a key destination on North Macedonia holidays. The wider region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the town of Ohrid on the lake’s northeast shore reckoned to be one of the oldest human settlements in the world. So yeah, it’s kind of a big deal.
Around a 3.5 hour drive from the capital, Skopje, the lake straddles the border with Albania at Struga. It’s also close enough to Galicica National Park for day trips, a popular place for mountain biking and watersports. Bubbling springs feed the lake in the village of Vevchani, while lake trout is the local speciality, but we recommend giving it a miss if you see it on the menu, as overfishing is a major problem here. Whether you’re holidaying solely in North Macedonia, or taking a longer multi-country tour through the Balkans, your itinerary is bound to feature at least a day in Lake Ohrid. Here’s why.