Lake Ohrid: The Most Peaceful Destination in the Balkans

Church of St John at Kaneo - Lake Ohrid Macedonia

Against my night owl instincts I woke shortly after sunrise to fresh air and the murmur of small boats coming and going. The occasional splash of early morning swimmers, the smell of freshly brewed Turkish coffee, and the most idyllic view in the Balkans.

Peaceful Morning on Lake Ohrid

Ohrid’s old town is lively but chilled. Narrow streets take you past original Ottoman period architecture as well as new builds constructed in the same style. Away from the lake you can take a seat in an ancient Greek amphitheatre and make your way up to a 10th century fortress. It’s a pretty town with friendly people and typical Balkan cuisine which meat lovers will adore.

Original Ottoman Building in Ohrid Macedonia

The town is nice but the lake is incredible. Walking back to the water, a well beaten path takes you to the famous Church of St John at Kaneo. If you’ve seen photos of Macedonia before, they’ll most likely include a shot of this church with the lake and possibly a beautiful sunset in the backdrop. Everyone who’s been to Ohrid has an almost identical shot but who cares, it’s beautiful.

Church of St John at Kaneo Sunset

RELATED: Skopje: Weird or Wonderful?

It’s been a while since I’ve been to Macedonia but while re-organising my photos I came across these from Ohrid, some of which I’d completely forgotten about. These are from back when I was shooting mostly with my iPhone 4S. It seems like a lifetime ago. I’d love to go back to Macedonia, to Ohrid in particular, as well as exploring the Albanian side of the lake. But on this trip we drove south, stopping at the unique sights along the Macedonian side of Lake Ohrid.

Lake Ohrid Macedonia

Hot Pink Zastava in Macedonia

The Bay of the Bones is a kind of faux prehistoric village. It reminds a little of the faux villages I was taken to when touring Morocco, a bizarre, contrived look back in time. But this is a legit archeological and prehistoric site, a reconstruction from the Bronze age of what was once a 8,500 sqm settlement. The history is interesting but I wouldn’t miss stopping here for the perfectly clear water in jade and emerald hues.

Bay of the Bones Jade Coloured Water

Continuing past the Bay of the Bones, a massive graffiti covered bunker will eventually come into view on your right. It’s a fun stop for a photo op, both of the quirky bunker and the lake in the distance. With one person pulling me and another pushing from below I tried my best to climb onto the domed top but to no avail. Hopefully no embarrassing photos of that attempt will ever surface.

Graffiti Bunker on Lake Ohrid Macedonia

Thirty kilometres from Ohrid and directly on the Macedonian/Albanian border is the lakeside Bulgarian Empire era St Naum monastery. The monastery is one of the most popular sights in Macedonia which is why you’ll find more tourists here than elsewhere on the lake. Even so, that still equates to few tourists in the off season and serene views over the water.

Scenes from Lake Ohrid

I was once asked how Lake Ohrid compares to somewhere more popular like Lake Como in Italy. Both lakes are equally beautiful but Ohrid outshines Como in every other way. Ohrid has relatively few tourists, is significantly less developed, a quarter the price, and unlike Lake Como there is virtually no air pollution. It’s rare to come across such a tranquil destination in the Balkans.

READ NEXT: Scenes from Lake Ohrid

Pin It

Visiting Lake Ohrid in Macedonia

About Andrea

Andrea Anastasakis is the founder and author of road trip blog Rear View Mirror. She is currently driving her Fiat 500 around Europe. Follow her travel adventures on Instagram.


  1. how on earth did i miss the bay of bones and that water?! that doesnt even look real. i really need to learn how to take photos. im just going to travel with you next time 🙂 i cant wait to go back here but i am nervous ill never leave if i go again.

  2. Yep, just checked, I have a photo of you trying to climb on the bunker 🙂

  3. Christina Loke says:

    You couldn’t have said it any better. Lake Ohrid should not be missed! I would give anything to be there now because the haze hasn’t improve and I could feel a sore throat coming *cough cough* #FUIndonesia.

  4. Oh wow! That first picture is gorgeous! Looks like a stunning place!

  5. Great Article, I go there every summer, just love it

  6. Beautiful photos of Lake Ohrid! I love how crystal clear blue the water is and I would love to visit given the fact that it’s not filled with tons of people and tourists. The lake looks so endless and intriguing!

  7. I had the privilege to live in this town for 7 years. There is something which can not be explained until experienced in this place. The beauty just grabs you and never leaves you. My heart is still there 🙂

  8. Wow! This place really does look super peaceful!