North Macedonia is definitely a European pearl which must be visited. It has so much to offer: culture, nature, breath-taking views, good food and extremely hospitable people.
Lake Ohrid and Prespa Lake with its preserved beauty
While visiting North Macedonia you definitely have to see the region of the Lake Ohrid, which is the largest and most beautiful lake of North Macedonia and one of Europe´s deepest and oldest lakes. The Lake Ohrid is over three million years old. It is about 30 kilometers (18 miles) long and around 288 meters (945 feet) deep. When you sit at the bank of the lake you have an impression that you are on the beach of the sea, so huge it is.
Lake Ohrid has a preserved aquatic ecosystem with more than 200 endemic species. Its flora and fauna which is characteristic of the tertiary period of 2-4 million years ago is amazing on the European scale. Most famous endemic species for this region are Ohrid trout called letnica and belvica, two types of eel and last but not least bleak. Bleak´s scales are used for creating famous Ohrid pearls. Lake Ohrid was declared by UNESCO in 1979 a World Heritage site.
Most of Ohrid water comes from Prespa lake, second largest lake in North Macedonia, which is located on the other site of Mountain Galicica. Prespa Lake is situated at an altitude of 855m. Its surface area equals 273 sq. km and its protected area equals 2080 Ha. This are is inhabited by 200 bird species, 104 of which are water birds. 62 species are enlisted on the List of Protected Species.
Ohrid famous for pearls being a true pearl itself
Ohrid is one of the most beautiful places we have seen situated among the hills. It has picturesque houses, breath-taking views and amazing nature.
Ohrid is one of only 28 sites that are part of UNESCO’s World Heritage that are Cultural as well as Natural sites.
‘’The part of Lake Ohrid located in Northern Macedonia and its hinterland, including the town of Ohrid, has been inscribed on the World Heritage List since 1979. With this extension, the site now encompasses the north-western, Albanian, part of Lake Ohrid, the small Lin Peninsula and the strip of land along the shoreline that connects the peninsula to the Macedonian border. The peninsula is the site of the remains of an Early Christian church founded in the middle of the 6th century. In the shallow waters near the shores of the lake, three sites testify to the presence of prehistoric pile dwellings. A superlative natural phenomenon, the lake provides a refuge for numerous endemic species of freshwater fauna and flora dating from the Tertiary period.’’
Ohrid is the largest city on Lake Ohrid and eigth-largest city in the country (42,000 inhabitants as of 2001). Ohrid has been also referred as a ‘Jerusalem of the Balkans’’ due to the fact that it used to have 365 churches and monasteries, one for each day during its Byzantine apogee.
Ohrid is one of the oldest human settlements in all of Europe. The Lake is over three million years old and the name of Ohrid was first mentioned in Greek documents from 353 B.C In antique times it was known as Λυχνίς (Lychnis) and Λυχνιδός (Lychnidos) and the Latin Lychnidus ,probably meaning “city of light”, literally “a precious stone that emits light” known as Lychnidos or “the city of light.” Only much later in 879 A.D, was it renamed Ohrid. The name probably derives from the Macedonian phrase “Vo Hrid” – roughly meaning “the town on the hill.”
The town as we know it today was built mostly between the 7th and the 19th century. In the Byzantine period Ohrid was an important economic and cultural center and it was an Episcopal center of the Orthodox Church and the site of the first Slavic university which was run by St. Naum and St. Clement at the end of the 9th century. Then, in the 11th century it became the capital of Macedonia’s greatest medieval ruler, Samuel. You can admire his fortress over the city today. It remained during Ottoman times, until 1726, the seat of the autocephalous Ohrid archiepiscopacy. During Byzantine years it was famous for its 365 churches and monasteries. You can admire more than 800 Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons in city museums.
It is pretty easy to visit major attractions in Ohrid since they are all located within a walking distance. Sightseeing is combined with spectacular views, while walking in the old narrow streets of the Old Town you can admire unique Ohrid houses.
Ancient Theater still in use
The ancient theatre in Ohrid (which is still in use today) was built in 200 BC and is only Hellenistic-type theatre in the country. It covers 4, 000 square meters and is still used nowadays during the annual Ohrid Summer Festival for performances of ancient tragedies and comedies.
It has been cleverly built, right in the center of the city where two hills Gorni Saraj and Deboj take care of its acoustics by protecting it from wind. During Roman times, the theater was also used for gladiator fights and as a site of executions of Christians by the Romans.
St. Sophia Church
St. Sofia church is located next to the Ancient Theater. It is one of the biggest medieval churches in North Macedonia. It used to be the cathedral church of the Ohrid Archiepiscopate. The date of the construction of the church is not clear and today’s church was either built or restored between 1035-1056. In the church you can admire amazing medieval fresco paintings.
Church “St. John at Kaneo”
To get there you walk through a picturesque wooden bridge and then a narrow path up offering you both amazing views on the Lake Ohrid.
St. John Church is truly one of the most magnificent churches in all of Macedonia. It is situated above, on a cliff and it offers breath-taking views over the lake Ohrid.
St. John Church is a combination of Byzantine and Armenian architectural styles. It was consecrated at the end of the 13th century and it was built on a rectangular stone base. Its outer surface is decorated with ceramic decorative sculptures and stone carvings. You can admire there frescos such as the Communion of the Apostles and the portraits of St. Clement, St. Erasmus and Constantine Kavasilas.
Bay of Bones
Bay of Bones is situated just outside Ohrid. It is an authentic reconstruction of a pile-dwelling settlement dating back between 1200 and 700 BC. Its name stems from the fact that during the archaeological excavations archaeologists discovered there many animal bones. You can visit also there the water museum giving you a glimpse on the history of this place.
Additionally a Roman military fortification has been reconstructed on the hill above the Bay of Bones at the same time as the settlement.
Monastery St. Naum
Eastern Orthodox Monastery St. Naum is located 29 km (18 m) from the town of Ohrid and only 1 kilometer (0.6 m) from the Albanian border. It is beautifully located on a high rock where the river Crn Dim joins lake Ohrid and you can admire there also beautiful peacocks.
The monastery complex and church of St. Naum were built at the turn of the tenth century by St Naum of Ohrid himself. St Naum is also buried in the church.
St Naum was a writer, one of the seven Apostles of the First Bulgarian Empire (medieval Bulgarian state), missionary, disciple of Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius. He is associated with the creation of the Cyrillic and Glagolitic scripts and he worked at the Ohrid Literary School. He was also among the first saints declared by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. His activity denoted the foundation of the Slavic church in Macedonia
Macedonians believe you can still hear the saint’s heartbeat by pressing an ear to his stone coffin inside the church.
- How to plan your holidays?
We were supported professionally by a young tourist organization: Travelling Albania which specializes in Albania and can support you as well in North Macedonia.
2. How to get there: You can fly direct to Ohrid, there is an airport there.
You can also fly to Tirana and hire a car if you want to visit both North Macedonia and Albania as we did.
Rent a Car: There are many companies renting a car. We rented ours by Tisa Tours& Rent a Car, highly professional and experienced company offering tailored solutions.
They can also take care of arranging the Macedonian green car card for you.
3. Where to stay?
Hotel: Villa & Winery Mal Sveti Kliment
Located centrally in the old town, Vila Sveti Kliment Villa & Winery Mal Sveti Kliment, is an exclusive and privately owned Bed & Breakfast and boutique winery located in an authentic Ohrid house. They can organize for you extra boat, winery trips. You will be welcomed with a glass of delicious wine of their own production and you will be served delicious buffet breakfasts consisting also of local delicacies.
Parking is allowed outside the old town.
General info about North Macedonia
North Macedonia is located in the Balkan Peninsula, in Southeast Europe bordering with Kosovo to the northwest, Serbia to the northeast, Bulgaria to the east, Greece to the south, and Albania to the west. Its area covers 25,713 km2 and population equals 2,103,721 ( 2017). The capital city is Skopje. Macedonia is a unitary parliamentary republic. Official languages are Macedonian and Albanian and official regional languages are Turkish, Romani. Serbian, Bosnian and Aromanian. Currency is Macedonian Dinar. (MKD)
Sources: local leaflets, Wikipedia, exploringmacedonia.com, http://muzejohrid.mk/en/
Photos: Communications-Unlimited.nl. © Copyright www.communications-unlimited.nl, 2019. All rights reserved.