If you’re spending a few days in the lakeside city of Ohrid, you cannot miss one of the most sacred places in North Macedonia: the Monastery of St. Naum.
Located 30km south from Ohrid, there’s no better way to explore the monastery than taking one of the frequent boats that leave from the port. During my visit, I took a half-day cruise from Ohrid to St. Naum not only to explore this interesting monastery and its water springs, but also to enjoy the views wonderful of Lake Ohrid on the way!
How to get to St. Naum
The most scenic option to visit St. Naum is taking one of the frequent boats that depart from the city centre of Ohrid.
There are a few different companies that do this visit, some of them including a stop on the way to visit the Bay of Bones Museum. If you have a full day, you can also take one of the longer tours that include multiple stops along the lake before reaching the monastery.
Since I had to travel back to Skopje that afternoon, I decided to take the boat that went directly to St. Naum at 10 am with the company Aleksandrija. You don’t need to purchase tickets in advance, just go to the port area a bit earlier and there will be multiple people offering you the tours. The company that I used had a later visit as well departing at 1pm, if you prefer to sleep in that day.
The journey takes approximately 1h30m each way and it includes commentary in English and Macedonian. It has a cost of 600 Macedonian denars or €10 per person (both currencies accepted).
There are a couple of stops on the way before finishing at the monastery. The views of the lake are very scenic, so there’s no better way to visit St. Naum!
For the way back, I took the boat with the same company going back to Ohrid at 3:30 pm.
If you prefer going by road, that is also an option. Local buses leave from Ohrid at 6:15am, 8:30am, 11:30am, 1:30pm, 3:30pm and 6:30pm, and for the way back you can catch the bus at 7:20am, 9:20am, 12:20pm, 2:20pm, 4:20pm or 7:20pm. The journey is a bit faster, only around 50 minutes, but the views won’t be the same!
After comparing a few different companies and going for the shorter tour due to lack of time, I boarded our boat in an already very hot morning.
The boat left on time at 10:00, and as we headed towards the monastery, the views of the city of Ohrid behind us were beautiful.
As you sail on the lake, you will be able to spot many of the holiday homes located along the shore. Ohrid is a very popular summer destination for locals, as this is the closest to a beach that they can get in North Macedonia.
There are also multiple hotel chains with big spaces near the shore where they place sunbeds that were completely crowded during my visit.
One of the stops that is include din many tours is the Bay of Bones, a museum on the water that is a reconstruction of al old settlement from the prehistoric times.
Although recreated, the museum gives a very good opportunity to learn how life was in prehistoric times. It has a total of 24 replicas of prehistoric houses and an exhibition of how people lived in this community.
I could only see the Bay of Bones from the boat, but if you have some extra time, it does seem like an interesting visit.
As you get off the boat, just at the beginning of the ramp that leads to the monastery a statue of St. Naum welcomes all visitors. Built in 905 during the Bulgarian Empire, it is named after its founder St. Naum, a medieval missionary among the Slavs.
The monastery is one of the most sacred places in North Macedonia, where many Orthodox go to pay respects to the saint, who is buried inside the church. It is believed that if you place your hear on his tomb, you can still hear his heartbeat 1100 years after his death! The interior has beautifully painted walls, but unfortunately, photography is strictly forbidden.
The monastery is surrounded by a beautiful park where the Church of St. Petka is placed. The interior is also beautifully decorated in vivid tones of blue. If you’re lucky, in the garden you will be able to see one of the many peacocks that inhabit the monastery.
One of the other attractions of St. Naum is its springs, a crystal clear water pool fed by Lake Prespa. Although not too deep, only 3.5, you can take a short motorboat trip to enjoy the beautiful scenery; the water is so clear that you will be able to spot multiple fish at the bottom!
Near the springs is where you will find a couple of restaurants where you can order lunch. They offer a great selection of fish, many of them from the lake, and although prices are higher than in Ohrid, they are still quite accessible. I order a very nice local fish for about €15 with water which was very good.
Since you’ll be seating outside surrounded by nature and water, you should expect quite a lot of bugs flying around. They freaked me out a little bit, so I had my lunch quite quickly.
In St. Naum you will also find some beaches with very nice bars blasting reggaeton music off the speakers. If you don-t need to catch a bus later as I did, don’t forget to bring your swimsuit with you if you want to go for a swim.
Before catching the boat back, don’t forget to stop by the Hotel St. Naum. They also serve lunch, if you prefer having food hear instead to he restaurants near the springs, but I went for an iced coffee running away from the heat and the terrace has some wonderful views of St. Naum.
I found the Monastery of St. Naum very similar to many of other Orthodox churches that I had already seen in North Macedonia, and even in Greece. What makes the place special is the great views of the lake, especially if you travel by boat; and the beautiful springs of water.
If you’re visiting Ohrid, I would highly recommend St. Naum at least for a half-day visit!
All opinions are my own.