Abra Dunsby explores Lake Ohrid’s abundance of historical sights, spots of natural beauty and affordable dining options.
The Italian Lakes are being given a run for their money by lesser-known Lake Ohrid, a beautiful Unesco World Heritage site complete with cobbled old town, ancient amphitheatre and numerous Orthodox churches.
Located in the Republic of North Macedonia, Ohrid is one of Europe’s oldest and deepest lakes, and while loved as a summer spot by Eastern European tourists, it’s less well known by Brits.
Its popularity is on the up, though, says Chris Rand, head of trade sales at Balkan Holidays.
“More and more holidaymakers are turning to North Macedonia, particularly Lake Ohrid, as the atmosphere is similar to Croatia but with cheaper prices.”
I spent a long weekend in Ohrid in 2017 as part of a trip around the Western Balkans with Intrepid Travel, and I was wowed by the transparent lake dotted with boats, pretty pebble beaches and surrounded by mountains.
Its old town is just as pretty thanks to an amphitheatre dating back to the Hellenistic period and its Orthodox churches, many of which have amazing frescoes. According to legend, Ohrid was once home to 365 churches – one for each day of the year.
The most striking of the bunch is the photogenic Church of Saint John Kaneo, which is perched on the edge of a cliff, looking out across the lake.
If Ohrid impresses in the beauty stakes, it also delivers on value. A three-course meal with excellent Macedonian wine costs around £15, at least half the cost of a meal in the Italian Lakes.
“The food in Ohrid is a real highlight,” says Stefan Hellmuth, product manager for Eastern Europe at Intrepid. “Clients should try the traditional fish stew in a light, lemony broth, best enjoyed while taking in the view from one of the lakeside cafes.”
While Italy’s lakes will be familiar to many, Ohrid’s appeal also lies in its uniqueness, thanks to a blend of European flavours, Ottoman architecture and a Yugoslavian past. Recommend your clients book their lakeside trip before others start cottoning on to Ohrid’s charms.
Currency: Macedonian denar
Best time to visit: The Ohrid Summer Festival takes place from 12 July to 20 August. For a quieter visit, suggest clients travel in June or September.
Flights: Wizz Air flies from Luton to Ohrid all year round. Flight time is 3 hours 10 minutes.