Scenes from Lake Ohrid: Macedonia’s Summer Beauty

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Sveti Jovan

If you’re familiar with Lake Ohrid, one image probably comes to your mind: a tiny red-brick church overlooking the vast expanse of blue lake, faint mountains in the distance.

This church is Sveti Jovan, and it’s probably the most famous image in all of Macedonia. As soon as you arrive, you’ll want to photograph it from every angle.

Sveti Jovan, Ohrid

Every evening, I made the 20-minute trek to Sveti Jovan from central Ohrid, crossing over docks on the way there and climbing hills through the town on the way back.

With a west-facing view over the lake, it’s a wonderful place to watch the sunset.

Ohrid Sunsets

Still, Sveti Jovan is just one tiny corner of the Ohrid region, and you could stay here for weeks just photographing the beauty around this part of Macedonia.

Sunset Swim, Ohrid

My plan had been to spend my two weeks in Eastern Europe traveling incognito — no comps, no special treatment, no fielding endless questions about how I make money. I would be just another anonymous backpacker for the first time in years.

That plan was foiled a few hours into the trip when I walked into my Ohrid dorm and saw a girl sprawled out on one of the beds.

“I know you!” she exclaimed. “You were shipwrecked.”


That girl was Gloria, a native Californian who has spent the past few years jaunting around the world at an impressive rate, from Nepal to Ukraine. She turned out to be a very cool girl — not least because she used my posts to plan her time in Southeast Asia!

Our hostel owner suggested we see more of the region and take the boat trip to Sveti Naum the next day. Perfect.


The boat trip to Sveti Naum is one of the most popular activities in Ohrid. Sveti Naum is a monastery further down the lake, a stone’s throw from the Albanian border.

(And yes, that’s Sveti Jovan once more on the far left, growing smaller as we sailed down the coastline.)

Ohrid Boat

After a 90-minute journey past hidden beaches, campgrounds, and the president’s summer residence, we arrived at Sveti Naum. Our unlikely welcome brigade: several peacocks!

Peacock, Sveti Naum

As I had learned a few months ago in Emilia-Romagna, peacocks make noises like strangled cats. You don’t want to make them angry. But are they ever beautiful…

Sveti Naum

Sveti Naum was much smaller than I expected it to be and very similar in style to Sveti Jovan — but the inside of the monastery was stupefying.

Sveti Naum

Incredible, isn’t it? I’ve never seen a church like this.

Sveti Naum Interior

Not an inch is uncovered with frescos.

Sveti Naum, Black and White

Better in black and white, or in color? I like them both.

Sveti Naum is next to one of the nicer beaches on Lake Ohrid, and people were camped out for the day with chairs, coolers and boom boxes. Groups of teenagers held court alongside families with small children.

Mother and Child, Ohrid

Just off the beach is a verdant lagoon illuminated by thousands of shades of green.

Ohrid Lagoon

One of the stranger yet sweeter encounters we had was by the dock. Gloria and I came across a group of local guys with a watermelon. Without speaking a word of the other’s language, one of them promptly sliced us some watermelon with what looked like a pirate’s cutlass. Or maybe a machete. I kept waiting for the inevitable scream and blood splatter.

Watermelon Guy

Like all the produce I sampled in Macedonia, this watermelon was fresh and delicious. Our slices were enormous, and it took the two of us a good 20 minutes to finish them off!

Sveti Naum

Soon, it was time to get back on the boat and head back to Ohrid. Sveti Naum rose up in the distance one last time as we sailed away.

Sveti Naum Boat

It was a perfect sunny day in Macedonia’s summertime paradise. While the Balkans are certainly not lacking when it comes to natural beauty, Ohrid is one of the most surprisingly beautiful regions I’ve visited in the Balkans so far.

Essential Info: The round-trip boat ride to Sveti Naum costs โ‚ฌ5 or 300 Macedonian dinars ($7) each way. The boat trip takes about 90 minutes each way. It sets sail from Ohrid’s dock each morning at 10:00 AM and departs Sveti Naum at 3:00 PM.

Two boat companies do this trip: they are parked on either side of the dock and have the same exact route, pricing, and schedule. I chose the boat that had couch-style seating rather than chairs, and they also had mattresses on deck for stretching out in the sun.

There’s also a bus that travels from Ohrid to Sveti Naum, taking two hours each way for about a third of the price. Personally, I thought the boat trip, though pricier, was an exceedingly pleasant way to travel between the two towns.

I used World Nomads travel insurance during this trip and I always recommend getting it before you travel, no matter where you go.

Which photo of Lake Ohrid is your favorite?

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37 thoughts on “Scenes from Lake Ohrid: Macedonia’s Summer Beauty”

  1. really happy you posted this because after reading your last article, Lake Ohrid is definitely the place I wanted to learn more about. Definitely bookmarking Macedonia for a future visit.

    How much is accommodation in the area? Any hidden gems I should know about?

    Thanks for the post!

    1. I stayed at Di Angolo Hostel. It was cheap (around 8 USD) but I wouldn’t stay there again for two reasons: 1) the wifi constantly went out and I would have to go downstairs and ask the waitresses in the restaurant to reset the router and even then it would only occasionally work 2) I was in an eight-bed dorm and there was one ensuite bathroom and no other public bathroom in the hostel. People were constantly waiting in line to use it, especially in the morning.

    2. This is a rather late reply but I have to recommend the hidden gem I found in Ohrid. It’s simply called Villa Ohrid and is extremely cheap. We paid around 8 euros a night each (travelling as a couple) for a double room with its own bathroom and kitchen. The owners are incredibly helpful and friendly. Can’t recommend it more highly!

  2. After having just explored all the other countries of the former Yugoslavia except for Macedonia, I only have one thought: I must go back and get to Macedonia! A really great idea to travel there, I was glad to read your thoughts on Macedonia and what it’s like to travel there. Did you find that it’s not very well connected by transport? I’ve heard that traveling there and in Albania can be tough for that reason.

  3. Those churches are so cute! I saw some similar ones in Greece, but not with that interior. It’s almost like a miniature St.Mark’s Basilica. Both are Byzantine churches, I believe.

  4. Kate! Please stop making me so jealous!

    I can’t believe how cheap the boat ride was. Sveti Jovan and Sveti Naum look great, I do love a nice fresco.

    Quick question, how straightforward are the border crossings in that area?

  5. Kate, I think your pictures paint an incredible picture of this area. It looks beautiful, serene and a perfect spot to spend longer than just a few hours. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  6. The lagoon with incredible shades of green are the springs of lake Ohrid with water lillies on the bottom of the lake which are blooming in late May and can bee seen through the transparent waters of the lake . Tip: take a boat trip through the springs! Its an incredibly refreshing experience especially at +40C

  7. Wow, Macedonia! Yet another place to add to the list… I’ve been thinking about your comment from the last post regarding small towns you could live in. I would love to do a tour of Europe going after just the small-sized cities and even smaller towns. Walkable villages in friendly countries are the best. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Wow, that church looks amazing! Macedonia was never particular high on my list, but I have a thing for beautiful places of worship (churches, temples, mosque, etc.), so those pictures of the church sold me. What’s the most unique church you’ve ever seen? I’m really enjoying Quito’s churches at the moment, but there’s always room for more.

  9. I’m happy for you guys because you enjoyed in Ohrid. Visit some other places in MK, you’ll be surprised how beautiful it is. Just don’t look the garbage on the streets and by the roads :).
    p.s. Macedonian currency is denar, not dinar.

  10. I’ve always wanted to go to Macedonia, and now i want too even more. So thank you! Im also wondering what camera you used to take all these beautiful pictures?

  11. I travel there from the uk tomorrow, despite the problems on the border with Greece . I’m really looking forward to it.. More so after reading this – thank you

  12. Inflation has taken hold it seems as I did the same boat trip last week and it was โ‚ฌ10 or 600 Den. Still a bargain though, Love the pictures

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