Skopje and Lake Ohrid Discovered

Sep 26, 2011 2 Comments by

Back from my Skopje and Lake Ohrid travels, and it is difficult writing this to know where to start. The Republic of Macedonia, often still referred to as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia see wikipedia, has left me feeling intrigued and eager to share some of the delights of the capital, Skopje, and Lake Ohrid.

Bansko, Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia are places intertwined in history. Depending on where you’re standing, and how far you go back, Macedonia was a part of Bulgaria and a good slice of Bulgaria was part of Macedonia — see wikipedia link above for the history. But Macedonian skiers and snowboarders are coming to Bansko. I was surprised at the number of Macedonians reading this blog, contacting me by email, and are now ski package customers.  It was time to  join the 600,000+ annual tourists to Macedonia, and to see why others are choosing to visit our close neighbours. Paraglider packed, car loaded — join me on my travels to Lake Ohrid via Skopje..

The Long Drive To Ohrid

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Whilst the route to Skopje is easy to find, the roads are less good. The border crossing took around twenty minutes, no hassle  — just time. As we dropped down from the high border pass, I started to realise how mountainous this country is. Deep ravines and mountains covered thick in oak trees. It’s all still a lush vibrant green, before the autumn browns arrive in less than a week.

The roads are mainly single file, but generally fine. The highways are in good repair — and we’re glad to have some Macedonian Dinars at the ready. The road tolls outside Skopje typically requiring 30 Dinars a time. (€1 = 61 MKD).

Surprising Skopje

Skopje centre: picture taken 22.09.11

How many capital cities can you enjoy decent plate of pasta and a beer for around 5 euros per person? Here you can and we are. Good food, smiling service and a generally relaxed, almost Mediterranean vibe, made me want to explore this city some more. The massive investment in the new buildings, bridges and infrastructure of this traffic free city centre will place Skopje much more seriously on the weekend city break map.

The central statue of Alexander the Great with its modern water fountain show and lights is the landmark. But this city has both a river and a mountain. Even the mountain is made for paragliding. I must return and spend time here and fly. It should feel nice — just like I my flying above Sofia from Vitosha last week.

After three more hours driving through windy mountain passes, lake Ohrid came into view. Lake Ohrid looks like a cross between Annecy (France) and Lake Bled (Slovenia). The lake runs north to south; Albania’s borders passing through its middle.

Ohrid Old Town

Villa Kale

The old town keeps a balance between tourism and a real lived in feel exceptionally well. Slightly out of season, this is a good time to visit. We find Villa Kale, an attractive new building. down a small street high up in the old town. A large and clean room, with both lake view and old town view.

The warm welcome from Gordana and her daughter completes the picture. Villa Kale prices vary, we payed €105 for three nights.

Walking down the steep steps between the villas in the old centre to the lakeside is just a few minutes away. Harder walking back up!

Eating out here proved to be one of the nicest things to do in Ohrid. Macedonian cuisine, like the language, are similar to Bulgarian. I tried pork in honey, salads and simple chicken. For the price paid, I thought we were doing better here in Ohrid than, generally speaking, one finds in Bulgaria on the coast. Big generalisation — but I think there was some reluctant agreement with the Bulgarians amongst us.

Mendo: The Acro Star

Before setting out to Ohrid, I contacted Mendo — a legendary and world class competitive acro paraglider pilot. Originally a hang glider pilot from 1982, he was instrumental in starting structured paragliding courses in Bulgaria.

Flying above Lake Ohrid: Picture taken 24.09.11

Mendo welcomed me and helpfully explained the landing and the take off. With still plenty of tourists up the mountain I had rather a bigger audience than I would have liked — but soon I was spending a pleasant afternoon flying (see video). Landing and then chilling at the landing strip. (please note: this landing site is closed between 15th July and 30th August — use field adjacent). The camp site right by the lake’s edge in Ljubanoshta means a fly and an apres flight swim are a real possibility in summer. The water is crystal clear and amongst the most unpolluted in Europe.

If you get a chance to stop by on a fine summer’s day, I guarantee you’ll have fun watching Mendo perform tumbles, loop the loops, helicopters and other stunts over the lake. A trip down the eastern shores of the lakeside to visit the Saint Naum Monastery takes around 30 minutes from Ohrid. From the monastery, the camp site is just a few kilometres back up the road towards Ohrid.

Summer sees many more pilots assemble here — but with just around one hundred Macedonian pilots there are more flying sites than pilots. Also note that Ohrid is not a beginners flying site. I hope to explore other places and flying sites over the next twelve months. A longer thermic flying season than Bulgaria; here the climate benefits from the proximity to the warming influences of the Adriatic Sea.


At this time of year, many Bulgarians take their holidays, but I think Lake Ohrid in September offers a very affordable alternative.  Ohrid delivers culture, cuisine and reinvigorating air and nature. More on this soon.

Expect to pay anything between 10 euros and 50 euros a night for a hotel / apartment. Eating out sees prices drop in September. But restaurants onr lake’s water edge are reasonable value. Expect to pay the equivalent of €4 to €12 per person, including wine or beer.

My Macedonia

I will be back, very hospitable people, some stunning flying, consistently good food and lots to do. We’ll return to this very beautiful, and still relatively unknown, country. Thank you to Nikolai for driving us all this way.

Tip Of The Day

click here for prices and booking of transfers, ski and snow board hire, lessons and lift passes early for a bonus discount.

need a car to hire? Philip from — sponsors of video: Sofia to Bansko In 8 Minutes


About the author

I enjoy tech, apps, entrepreneurship, podcasting and collaboration with others. I love travelling as well as skiing, hiking, MTB, paragliding, cooking and good food.

2 Responses to “Skopje and Lake Ohrid Discovered”

  1. Kire says:

    Hope you'll visit Macedonia again. Next time try to go at the biggest ski resort Popova Shapka, you can glide there also

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