If you’re not yet familiar with Lake Ohrid, Macedonia then prepare yourself, because today you’re in for a real treat. Technically, Lake Ohrid is actually on the border of Macedonia and Albania, but the majority of its mass lies within Macedonia, as does the city by the same name.
Ohrid was my next stop after a surprising few days spent in the nation’s capital city of Skopje. It had been recommended to me by friends time and time again, and especially when your travel schedule is as flexible as mine, you just don’t ignore that kind of sign.
Leaving Skopje, our bus plugged along in a southwesterly direction into a more remote region of the Balkan peninsula, just south of a mountain range referred to colloquially as the “Albanian Alps.” I could already envision myself relaxing on the shores of a pristine mountain lake before the lights of the city had even begun fading into the distance. I was ready to detach from society and sightseeing and recharge my batteries for a few weeks, and Lake Ohrid (one of the oldest, deepest, and cleanest lakes in Europe) was to be my accomplice.
My plan was to first explore the city of Ohrid itself, you know, to maintain my self-designated title of “good tourist;” then, once I’d had enough of the ancient monasteries and modern conveniences of Ohrid, I’d retreat to a hillside hostel situated about 20 minutes away by bus called Robinson Sunset House. The latter, located in the village of Lagadin, came strongly recommended from the hostel staff in Skopje, and once again I just couldn’t ignore such conviction.
The City of Ohrid
Before heading to my mountain retreat, I had to explore the cobblestone streets of Ohrid, one of the oldest human settlements in all of Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Well, at least attempt to explore them. You see–and this may come as a shock to you–at times, I find basic tasks like map reading a bit too complex for my travel-worn brain. In this particular instance, I just couldn’t
be bothered to navigate the narrow, hilly streets well enough to find all the ancient Byzantine treasures of Ohrid’s old town. I’m sure telling you this will tarnish my aforementioned self-designated title, but hey, we’re all about transparency around here.
What I did manage to stumble upon was this: the Church of St. John at Kaneo, arguably the most picturesque of all of Ohrid’s ancient buildings. I mean, just look at that view!
Map reading incompetence aside, I found plenty of ways to enjoy the city of Ohrid without putting so much strain on my noggin. Wandering along the hillside and
creeping on unsuspecting bathers people watching, strolling down the lakeside promenade–day or night–for some good old fashioned exercise, or even just popping into a local shop for a glass of wine and a personal pizza cup of tea.
At the end of three days, I was eager to move on to my next destination, and I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
Robinson Sunset House – The Gem of Lake Ohrid, Macedonia
Lake views lake views lake views! As soon as I heard of a hostel with gorgeous lake views that was slightly removed from the city, I just couldn’t get the idea out of my head. I had to have those lake views. I had to have that seclusion. I had to recharge and get work done free from distractions. And man, did Robinson Sunset House deliver.
And the name “sunset house” is no mistake. The sky over Lake Ohrid put on a nightly show that would rival some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen–and having just come from Greece, I know a thing or two about incredible sunsets.
I will admit, though–this place probably isn’t for everyone. Hell, it probably wouldn’t have been the place for me under different circumstances. But some of the quirkiest parts of Robinson Sunset House are some of the reasons I loved it so. Take, for instance, the fact that the only way to eat was to cook for yourself. Normally I’m far too lazy for this, but this particular week, it felt so necessary and comforting.
Likewise, the fact that it took a bit of time to get to the city should you want to eat at a restaurant or have a night out normally might have pushed my buttons. This time, I relished the intimate nightly dinners at the hostel drinking wine with other guests–something about this hostel attracted one kind soul after another. And the early-to-bed-early-to-rise routine I fell right into? Perfection.
Daytime recreation wasn’t hard to come by–the only thing standing between the hostel and a perfect beach for swimming and canoeing was a 5-minute downhill walk (so, basically, the will to put one foot in front of the other).
The one evening I ventured out in the canoe armed with my GoPro, a beer, and two strapping young gents from the UK, the sky decided to really show off. Couple an incredible setting sun with a lake as smooth as glass, and you get the following jealousy-inducing photos. Sorry I’m not sorry for including so many, I couldn’t exactly pick favorites.
Additionally, for the adventurous hiker types, you can always head uphill instead of down. Rumor has it there’s a (mostly) abandoned old city at the top of the hill–in addition to the insane lake views, of course. And while I make it sound like a pain getting into Ohrid from Robinson Sunset House, the local buses actually pass quite frequently (every 15-20 minutes) and only costs around 50 Macedonian denar (less than a dollar). I took the ride into town once or twice to meander down the pedestrian walking street in search of clothes I didn’t need and a shiny new addition to my face.
When all was said and done, my stay in Lake Ohrid, Macedonia stretched from 3 days into 11. I was able to accomplish so much during my 8 days at Robinson Sunset House, in large part because I had the peace of mind of knowing where I would be sleeping for a good chunk of time, whereas previously I’d been focused more on figuring out where the &$%! I was going next.
And did I mention that Robinson Sunset is family-owned? They’ll even cook you traditional Macedonian meals if you request them ahead of time (for an extra charge) but I was often offered extra food (and rakia) any time they happened to be cooking. A bed in a dorm will cost you just 10 euros per night. Now you know why it was so hard to leave!
Finally, to sum up all of this incoherent blabbering, Lake Ohrid, Macedonia deserves a spot on your travel to-do list. If you find yourself in the Balkans, this pristine natural beauty should not be missed.
Have you ever seen a lake so beautiful? Are you booking your flights yet?!