It's a deep and ancient lake, perhaps as old as five million years. Few lakes are as old as that. It's the deepest in the Balkans, and if you placed the Eiffel Tower at its deepest point, once the world's tallest structure, its tallest point would just poke out above the water. The lake is so big, deep and isolated that it has its own weather system. Storms come in and sit above the lake, trapped in by the mountains that surround it, and rumble back and forth across the dark blue wine.
The lake serves three major settlements, the Macedonian towns of Ohrid and Struga, and the Albanian town of Pogradec. You can see the Albanian town across the water from the castle. There used to be a ferry between the two towns, but that's currently been discontinued. You can, however, take all kinds of boat rides out onto the water. Just walk along the lake front in Ohrid and barter with the many captains waiting to take you for a trip. Options include a small boat to St John at Kaneo or a bigger boat all the way to Sveti Naum.
During our stay in Ohrid in March 2012 we took a couple of boat trips on Lake Ohrid.
The first of these was purely for pleasure purposes; we didn't need to get anywhere, we just wanted a short round trip which would give us the opportunity to see the town from out on the lake.
While sitting by the harbour eating burek for breakfast, the captain of a small, pale blue, wooden boat approached us and offered to take us on a short trip for 350 MKD (£5). We had previously been quoted double that price, so we accepted and allowed him to take us on a 15-20 minute cruise past the old town, Kaneo fishing village and the stunningly located Sveti Jovan Kaneo Monastery.
As he pointed out the various sights (including spectacular views of the town and Samuil's Fortress standing above it) our captain swigged homemade red wine from a plastic bottle.
Short boat trips on Lake Ohrid are a great way to appreciate the layout of the town and to take photos of Samuil's Fortress and Sveti Jovan Kaneo Monastery.
A new wooden boardwalk connects Sveti Jovan to the old town's harbour, passing beaches, waterfront cafes and guesthouses along the way. Yes, this means you don't have to climb back up (or take an expensive "water taxi") to get home! Look in the shallow water and spot some fish, or go for a swim yourself!
Don't miss out on the chance to go for a swim while you're in Ohrid. There are beaches all around the lake, some "official", others not, and they're all great for swimming. The water is calm and clear, and in most areas the bottom is sandy (though if you visit a less-popular area you may find some plant life along the shore). I went for a swim near Sveti Naum and found the water very refreshing. I also felt comfortable leaving my things on the sore when I went out in the water. You may not be able to find a place to change out of your swimsuit, so bring a towel and prepare to dry in the sun before getting dressed again!
There are a number of tour operators who cruise Lake Ohrid, departing from the town's main harbour. Many tours make a stop at Sveti Naum so tourists can spend an afternoon exploring this little monastery and beach. Expect to spend about six or seven euros for a return trip aboard one of these vessels. Seating on the outer deck is often on folding wooden chairs and could be a bit more comfortable, but really, the views can't be beat. On the way to Sveti Naum your boat will go at a leisurely pace along the coast, allowing you to take photos for about an hour, while on the way back you'll go directly across the lake in little more than thirty minutes. Although in 2009 one of these tourist boats sank, resulting in fifteen casualties (mostly senior citizens who couldn't swim), I felt that my boat was safe and would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone.
As well as the ubiquitous water taxis there are several larger boats offering a variety of lake excursions which include short cruises and longer trips such as down to the monastery at St Naum. These boats leave from the main harbour and details of available trips are posted on a day-to-day basis.
As well as the scheduled excursions boats can be hired for private parties and the larger ones even have bars!
At least twice a day, Hans and I would WALK ALONG OHRID'S WONDERFUL PROMENADE. Usually in the morning and in the late afternoon, when we went looking for a place to have dinner.
In the early morning, the promenade is quiet with a few pedestrians. Of course the small boat operators are there (pic # 4), trying to catch some business of bringing you to Kaneo.
In the late afternoon and especially the weekends, the promenade is quite busy, with families bringing their children to enjoy the weather and the views of Lake Ohrid.
You will also see vendors along the promenade selling jewellery and snacks such as nuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.
Another fun thing you will see are the bicycles which you can rent (pic # 5). There are bicycles for two, four and six and folks have a fun time riding them along the promenade.
Organized boat tour from Ohrid to St. Naum monastery was a great experience! This was in 2006, with the organizers and participants of the Struga Poetry Evenings festival. I was in a fantastic company of eloquent and chatty people, but during this boat ride, they became silent, mesmerized by the beauty of the lake and its surroundings.
On our way back, the weather was not so generous, so we decided to spend the journey in the interior of the boat. I have no idea where the drums, guitars etc came from - everybody was singing and those who couldn't were clapping hands and even dancing! Do not worry about getting thirsty - these boats are usually loaded with soft and sharp drinks!
Located approximately 14 km from the town towards the south, it's possible to approach the Museum on Water at the Bay of the Bones (right after the Gradiste campsite) both by car or even much better by boat sailing along the eastern shore of the lake and enjoying the spectacular view during the journey.
It's a partially reconstructed prehistoric pile dwelling settlement erected above the water on a wooden platform reclining on adequately lined wooden piles attached at the bottom of the lake.
Take a trip by guided rowing boat to the springs that supply Lake Ohrid with water from Lake Prespa, which lies higher on the other site of Galicica National Park. The water is very clear and cold. There are 45 springs that bubble up from the bottom of the stream bed.
The boats to the springs can be found over the bridge where the water from the springs flows into Lake Ohrid. They usually charge 100 Denars per person, about 1.60 euros.
The springs are adjacent to St Naum, which can be reached by boat or road from Ohrid. Afterwards, you can visit St Naum, or Lake Prespa, see my other tips.
Lake Ohrid is the deepest lake in the Balkans and probably the oldest lake in Europe . This alone makes it a must visit destination, and it is not surprising that it is a UNESCO listed site. Besides its age, what makes the lake so special for UNESCO is the fact that it has endemic species living in it that go over the whole food chain. However, what makes it so special for me is it's colours, it's changing moods which capture the imagination and sets the mind to wondering at all the things that this lake has seen....
On the Macedonian side of the lake there is about 50 km of shore length, so this gives you plenty of space for contemplation, be it on the promenade with crowds swarming (especially July and August), or on a quite stretch outside the city on your own.
If you don't like crowds, go in September. Perfect weather, perfect ambiance, perfect break.
If you´re walking along the shore in Ohrid, several boats with captain are offered as water-taxi, that can bring you to one of the beaches, or just let you enjoy a relaxing view from the water. With unique photo opportunities at Ohrid and St Jovan Church for instance.
Ohrid lake is deepest and second largest lake at Balcans and one of the oldest lake of its kind on earth. It is very rich and famous for its fishes. The nature around the lake is lovely so varios activities such as walking or bykeing can be very enjoyble. The less energetic can take the boat ride and admire the nature from the lake itself.
During the summer monts one can find a various beaches to swim and sunbathe.
If you are simply a bird lover or you are an eager ornithologist you would probably enjoy watching the swan family swimming around the Ohrid lake. I saw it in the evening close to the pier in the center of Ohrid and I took a couple of pictures then (the first two pictures attached to this tip). I also started talking with a local guy about the swans and he told me a story, I do not know if it is true but here it is:
The mother swan swam quite far away and could not come back to the rest of the family, she could not fly back because where she was the shores of the lake were too steep for her start flying and she could not swim back because there was a strong draft. So, there was a Bulgarian vet group in Ohrid helping castrating the stray dogs in the town. The local people asked them to help saving the mother swan and bringing it back to the rest of the family. The team tried for a whole day but with no success. On the second day the story came to a happy end when the Bulgarian vets finally caught the swan with help of a local guy and brought it back to the rest of the family.
On the next morning my traveling fellows saw them close to our hotel which is a couple of kilometers away from where I saw them the night before. One of the girls even fed them. (See the third and the forth pictures - taken by them).
The water is great, kinda warm.... I particularly like the fact there is sand beach and sand in the water as far as I went....
But take heed, don't try to take a bath on the spot where river water mix with lake water.... The water is soooooo cold that I got convulsions in legs when just trying to pass over.... But I did pass, and I thought it would be cool if I jump in there and swim down the stream.... Actually it was stupid 'cause I almost got heart-attack.... Anyway, it was great to swim in the lake, maybe it's because I prefer lake water over salty sea water....