People are always in search of beautiful places around the world. Typically, we think of the iconic European cities like Paris, Rome, Barcelona, and maybe London. For exotic locations, we might think of Thailand, Brazil, or Tahiti. These grand locations are some of the first places that come to mind when thinking of “travel.” Don't get me wrong, they do it for good reason, but sometimes it's important to venture away from the touristy cities. If you're in the Balkan region, consider an off-the-beaten-path experience by visiting the beautiful town of Ohrid in Macedonia (FYROM).
Many people in the United States are likely unaware of its existence and maybe even some Europeans. According to Wikipedia, Turkey supplies Macedonia with the greatest number of tourists, followed by Greece and Serbia. The Netherlands is a surprise visitor, comprising the countries largest non-Balkan tourist population.
I had heard about Ohrid, Macedonia and the famous Ohrid Lake about a year ago and immediately added it to the list of places I wanted to visit (that list, as you can imagine, is quite long). Not so long ago, I was able to visit Ohrid after entering from the Albanian border. EuroCar Albania allowed us to take the car into Macedonia, which proved to be no issue.
Crossing the border was easy, but keep in mind you need a “Green Card” or, in other words, separate car insurance (also needed for Bosnia & Herzegovina or Serbia, for example). The drive from the border of Albania to Ohrid took about 30 minutes. As we approached Ohrid, we saw signs denoting its UNESCO World Heritage status.
The entire Old Town of Ohrid is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and for good reason. The city is completely walled-in and fortified. Amazingly enough, there are still plenty of people living inside the walled section, where all of the desired tourist sites are to be found. We rented a room from a lovely family in an adorable little stone house called Grebnos Stone House Apartments. It was a bit tricky to find, but we found it! Keep a look out for a sign if you too are looking for Grebnos. A long stone stairway leading to what looks like someone's house is where you want to go (Yeah, I know. You’re probably thinking “Well Sarah, those are everywhere!” Just keep your eyes peeled).
Interestingly enough, we spotted an American flag hanging outside the home, with the Lake Ohrid in the background. We later inquired about this and the owners said they wanted to pay respects to the day of September 11, 2001, and to make Americans feel welcome. This was an extremely pleasant thing to see considering I have never really seen an American flag on display in a foreign country. Grebnos Stone House Apartments won my admiration immediately.
The home was charming and had an old cobbled, European feel inside; similar to the feel of the town that is accessed by driving through the gate of the castle wall. We had our own room with large balcony at the end of the hall complete with private bathroom.
5FT Tip: Their bathroom had a heat lamp for shower time to keep you warm after you shut off the hot water! Be sure to use it, you can thank me later. Our balcony looked out over part of the town and onto the beautiful Lake Ohrid. You can't find much better than that. For those of you that also don't want to eat out every night, Grebnos Stone House Apartments also offers you access to their kitchen.
Check out this view from our balcony!
Food in Macedonia, for any Western traveler, will be extremely reasonable. A full course meal may only cost you as much as 5-6 euro. This is taking into consideration we ate in the Old Town, the area that is most susceptible to “tourist prices.” Grebnos is extremely centrally located in the Old Town. Walking up the street, you will find the ancient theater of Ohrid.
Another 10 minute walk from there, you will find Samuel's Fortress at the top of the castle wall. The views offered from the fortress over Ohrid are amazing and definitely worth the visit.
Slightly down hill from the fortress is the Church of St. Sophia, which is nice but not the main attraction.
Another 10 minutes downhill is the Church of St John at Kaneo; this is an iconic view of Ohrid. The little church sits perched atop a hill above a small fishing village with Lake Ohrid behind it. This will be one of the prettiest churches with view you will ever come across.
You will be able to see all the important sites in Ohrid in one day. You can easily make the trip into several days, however, to enjoy the water of Lake Ohrid, as it is crystal clear and gloriously blue-green. A beach some 10-15 minutes walking from Grebnos Stone House Apartments will be where you want to go.
Ohrid and Lake Ohrid were quite beautiful. The whole town charmed me and the lake wowed me. If you are in the area of Greece or the Adriatic Sea, I highly recommend a trip to Ohrid, Macedonia.
**Special thanks to Grebnos Stonehouse Apartments for kindly offering me a complimentary stay. As always, all opinions are my own.