I was super excited to visit Ohrid, a tiny city on the hilly shores of Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia.
I’d heard enchanting tales of swimming in the lake in the summer sun, relaxing on boats and having picnics on the shore.
I’d been holding on to a giant rubber ring from my time in Himara, Albania, eager to while away the last of the summer sun drinking cold beers and floating around Lake Ohrid without a care in the world.
However, as with all the best laid plans of mice and men, unfortunately that was not to be.
I arrived in Ohrid in October, and while it was still sunny, it was far too cold to do most of the things that tourists do when they visit Lake Ohrid, such as go swimming in the water or enjoy a boat trip.
This meant that I missed out on two of the main reasons people choose to visit this magnificent lake, which is one of Europe’s oldest and deepest.
That said, I still managed to make the most of my time in Ohrid, and while it was a shame that I didn’t get to enjoy Lake Ohrid to its full extent, visiting the town of Ohrid in October was still fun.
So, if you’re considering visiting Ohrid in October and are unsure about whether it’s worth it, just keep reading, because I’m going to go into everything you can expect.
Let’s get into it.
Is Visiting Lake Ohrid in October Worth It?
North Macedonia – Know before you go
The currency in Macedonia is Macedonian Denars. 1 EUR is the equivalent of around 61 MKD.
North Macedonia is not part of the EU or Schengen Area but if you are entering North Macedonia from anywhere in Europe then you can stay visa-free for up to 90 days.
Most people in North Macedonia speak basic English.
North Macedonia is safe. As with anywhere, keep your wits about you, but North Macedonia (and the Balkans in general) are extremely safe for tourists.
You must pay a tourist tax of 70 euro cents a day in North Macedonia. Sometimes this will be included in the cost of the accommodation and sometimes it will be extra – this is not a scam!
Tap water is safe to drink in North Macedonia.
The only international airport in North Macedonia is in the capital city, Skopje, and the cheapest carrier is Wizz Air.
The best way of travelling in North Macedonia is by bus or train, with buses being slightly cheaper. My go-to bus travel in Europe is always FlixBus. Flixbus is the most extensive bus network worldwide and all Flix buses have Wi-Fi, extra legroom, charging ports and the ability to modify your booking just 15 minutes before departure! Click here to book your Flixbus to Ohrid.
Hitchhiking in Macedonia is incredibly common and safe.
Fun fact: Mother Theresa was born in Skopje, North Macedonia, in 1910!
Getting to Ohrid, North Macedonia
How to get to Ohrid from Skopje
The distance from Skopje to Ohrid is around 180 km if you take the route via A2 and continue the trip via E65. This is the shortest and the most common way to reach Ohrid.
There is a regular bus line from Skopje to Ohrid that runs once an hour, with the first bus at 5:30 am and the last at 7.30 pm. The trip takes about 3 hours, and at the time of writing, a ticket was 9 EUR, with a return working out cheaper at 14 EUR.
You could also hire a car and drive.
There are no trains from Skopje to Ohrid.
How to get to Lake Ohrid from Albania
Many people visiting Lake Ohrid come from Albania, which is exactly what I did.
From Tirana, I took a bus to Struga (a 20 minute drive from Ohrid) and paid about 15 EUR.
The journey was supposed to take 4 hours, but it actually ended up taking about 6 and a half because, uh, Balkans.
When we reached the border, we all had to get off the bus and have our hand luggage AND luggage examined by the border police. This was a painstakingly slow process even though it was around 9 pm and we were the only bus at the border (I have heard that travel out of Albania is often like this due to the large amount of drugs that get smuggled out of the country).
When we eventually reached Struga, the bus stopped at a random place at the side of the road and kicked us off, rather than going to any kind of central bus station.
There was one lone taxi waiting nearby, which I luckily managed to get into, but I’m not sure what I’d have done if I hadn’t – my suggestion if you find yourself in this situation is to phone your accommodation to call you a taxi. Either that, or take an earlier bus to avoid arriving after dark (I caught the 4 pm bus).
What to expect from Ohrid in October
Below you’ll find some of my impressions and experiences of visiting Ohrid in October.
Some relevant info:
- I was backpacking and stayed at a hostel, which made it easier to meet people than it would have been if I’d been staying in another kind of accommodation.
- I visited Ohrid pre-pandemic (2018), and so I don’t have first-hand experience of how well tourism has recovered in the area since 2020.
Weather in Ohrid in October
When I visited Ohrid, it was fairly warm, but dull.
The skies were full of clouds, and a light jacket was necessary. At night, it got cold, and none of us could face sitting out on the hostel balcony in the evening.
Expect highs of 16°C (60.08F), and lows of around 6°C (42.8F).
There are usually 11 days of rain, on average, in Ohrid in October.
Ohrid accommodation in October
I stayed at one of Ohrid’s most popular hostels, Sunny Lake Hostel, and despite it being the off-season, it was still pretty busy, and I arrived to lots of fellow travellers drinking beer and hanging out.
One of the biggest downsides of solo travelling during low-season is that it can be difficult to make friends (I was the only person in my hostel in Sighisoara, for example), but there were still plenty of backpackers around in October in Ohrid.
Another great thing about the accommodation was that it was cheaper than it would be during the summer months – win win!
They also had Netflix and a PlayStation in the common room, making it the perfect place to be on a rainy day.
Ohrid Old Town
Ohrid Old Town is charming, and there are lots of restaurants along the waterfront with outdoor seating – luckily, in October it was still warm enough to sit outside and enjoy the views over Lake Ohrid, and the restaurants weren’t too busy, meaning good service.
There were a few tourists on the streets (mainly domestic), but not too many, which was kind of a relief – I’ve heard Ohrid in the summer is manic.
In fact, stray dogs actually outnumbered people on the streets during my visit (which was a definitely bonus for me!).
There are a lot of stray dogs in North Macedonia, but the locals keep them well-fed and the government tags all strays with a yellow tag on their ear to show that they have been vaccinated and spayed/neutered. The dogs also receive regular check-ups by the vet, sponsored by the North Macedonian government.
As the locals feed the dogs, they are tame and very friendly – don’t be surprised if you make a few furry friends on your visit!
Another spot worth checking out in Ohrid is Cuba Libre Beach Club on the waterfront, which has fancy Ibiza vibes without the price tag.
If you’re hungover when you visit (as I was), then you’ll be very pleased to learn that they make a mean Bloody Mary, and serve huge slabs of breaded fried cheese – I promise you that there is no better hangover cure than that.
Sightseeing in Ohrid in October
One of the main benefits of visiting Ohrid in October is that you get to see the main Ohrid attractions totally free from the summer crowds!
First, there’s Ohrid’s most famous and photographed church – Sveti Johan Kaneo (or the Church of St. John at Kaneo).
The Sveti Johan Kaneo church isn’t very far from the main promenade and the 15 minute walk up to it is stunning, with Lake Ohrid on one side and the old houses of Ohrid Old Town on the other.
We had the path completely to ourselves, and so it was a nice relaxing walk.
En route, we stopped at the Crkva Sveta Sofija (the Church of St. Sophia), another of the main things to see in Ohrid.
When we reached Sveti Johan Kaneo, there was one large tour group there, but they left before long and so we walked up to the viewing point and took in the breathtaking views of Lake Ohrid and the church.
As the area surrounding the church is so small, I can imagine it getting way too crowded in high-season, which made me very grateful that I’d decided to visit Ohrid in October.
Ohrid nightlife in October
Ohrid is a mega party destination in the summer, especially for young Macedonians, and after seeing how quiet the town was during the daytime, I figured that everything would be most likely closed at night, as is usually the case in resort towns in the off-seeason.
However, if I was after a quiet night, I was about to be disappointed!
Some of my new friends and I began our night at Jazz Inn, a dive bar with low lighting, dark red walls and cold beer – just my kind of place!
For the most part, the bars were pretty quiet. We found one busy place called Cuba Libre Night Club (the sister business of Cuba Libre Beach Club) but according to Google Maps, Cuba Libre has since closed its doors.
Ohrid in off-season | Final thoughts
Overall, I have mixed feelings about visiting Ohrid in October.
Although I really enjoyed my time in this charming lakeside city, I was disappointed that I didn’t get to swim in the lake or go on a boat trip.
It was also cloudy when we went to the beach club, and y’know, beach clubs just aren’t the same when the sun isn’t shining.
With that being said, the city of Ohrid is a lovely place to just wander around, visit churches, and relax. The crowds were much smaller than they would have been in high-season, but yet there were still enough people in the bars and restaurants to stop Ohrid feeling like a ghost town.
The lack of crowds also allowed us to appreciate the scenery a lot more (especially from the viewpoint at Sveti Johan Kaneo) and get to know Ohrid as the laid back, sleepy city that the locals know it as.
So, it all depends on your travel style!
If you’re a sun worshipper who loves to be on the water or sunning yourself in a beach club, you may prefer Ohrid in the warmer months. However, if you’re not that bothered about the sun and are on the hunt for beautiful scenery and a laid back atmosphere, you will love visiting Ohrid in October.
That’s just about it for today, but as always, if you have any questions then leave them in the comments section and I will get back to you.
Until next time,
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