Take a trip around Orhid, a UNESCO heritage site

Once home to 365 churches , Macedonia’s hidden gem of Ohrid is uncovered by Thomas Griffiths.

Thomas Griffiths
22nd October 2018
Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Macedonia may not be the first place on everyone’s list for a quick break but it is definitely worth considering. The country offers amazing food and drinks strongly influenced by the Mediterranean and Turkish kitchen. It further has stunning landscapes and is very hospitable. The area around the city of Ohrid, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers something for everyone.

The city of Ohrid itself is home to countless historic buildings with a Greek Amphitheatre, Medieval citadel, abundant churches and mosques and atmospheric warren of winding cobbled streets. Not many cities reflect a country’s past so visibly. It is fascinating to see the different layers of Macedonia’s long history.

[pullquote]My personal highlight there was undoubtedly the day I was followed by a Macedonian sheepdog called Max.[/pullquote]

However, Ohrid has more on display. The city lies on the banks of Lake Ohrid, one of the oldest lakes in the world. The waterfront is lined with affordable bars and restaurants offering a taste of Balkan cuisine. I can’t imagine a more beautiful place to spend your evening that enjoying the stunning views over the lake’s bright blue water and the mountains surrounding it. Especially on hot days, the lake along with its beaches, the variety of available water sports, the secluded cloves and archaeological sites make a welcoming retreat from the summer heat.

Galičica National Park is a great place for a day trip with well-marked paths that offer panoramic views over the lake as well as hosting several endemic species and a healthy wolf population. My personal highlight there was undoubtedly the day I was followed by a Macedonian sheepdog called Max.

I was pleasantly surprised by the kindness of locas. For example, I got a free three course meal in Trpejca just because a local hotel was celebrating its founding anniversary. Hospitality is known to be a key part for the Macedonian’s national pride and I’m inclined to believe it, especially in the rural areas.

A day-trip to the thousand-year old monastery of Saint Naum is definitely a must-see. Even if a trip to an ancient church sounds more than boring, the boat trip from Ohrid is magnificent and the thermal springs around the monastery are perfect for a beautiful walk. If you can’t make it to Sveti Naum, other churches like Sveti Jovan Kaneo, Sveta Sofija or the Plaošnik ruins in Ohrid are definitely worth a visit. At one point the city was referred to as the ‘Jerusalem of the Balkans’ and it is not hard to see why.

So, if you’re planning a trip to Southern Europe and you are still struggling to come up with ideas where to go I hope this convinced you to explore Ohrid. And the fact that this place is a little less well known makes it even more special.

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