Along with Titicaca in South America and Baikal in Russia, Lake Ohrid is among the oldest lakes in the world. And it's become a popular destination with scuba divers thanks to both its history, and the stunning clarity of its water. We ventured underwater with Amfora Diving Center to visit the Bay of Bones: an archaeological site from the Bronze Age.
Departing from the park which protects Vevčani's natural springs, a path of eight kilometers meanders through the hills to Gorna Belica. It's a strenuous, non-stop ascent, but reaching this remote mountain village is worth the effort.
Independence was all the rage during the swift, painful breakup of Yugoslavia. But it's hard to imagine that the citizens of the village of Vevčani weren't just having a laugh, when they held a referendum in 2002 to establish their own micro-country. The Vevčani Republic has never been recognized by anyone, but after buying passports in the gift shop, I suppose we're honorary citizens.
On the western coast of Lake Ohrid, not far from the border with Albania, is the town of Radožda. On a normal weekday, this must be a sleepy village on the shore. But when we visited on a weekend toward the end of summer, "sleep" was the last thing on Radožda's mind. Radožda was ready to party.
Frequently visible in the skies above Lake Ohrid are paragliders who have jumped from the mountains of the Galičica National Park. It's an activity we've always wanted to try... why not in Macedonia? So we gave the guys at Vertigo Paragliding Club a ring. A couple days later, were bouncing up the mountain in a jeep, nerves beginning to tickle our stomachs. This was a good idea, right?
While in Ohrid, an excursion to the southern tip of the lake and the monastery of Sveti Naum should be considered essential. This is where the natural springs which feed Lake Ohrid come bubbling up from the underground, into a lagoon of startling clarity.
Today, Lake Prespa is a place of almost perplexing tranquility, with nothing of the tourism that reaches the shores of nearby Lake Ohrid. But this hasn't always been the case. The abandoned Hotel Evropa, on Prespa's western shore, is proof that this was once a major tourist destination.
The only island in landlocked Macedonia is uninhabited... at least by humans. Located in the south of Lake Prespa, near the Albanian border, Golem Grad is frequently referred to as "Snake Island."
A scenic drive through the Galičica National Park connects Macedonia's two largest lakes, Ohrid and Prespa. For those willing to hike, it's possible to see both lakes from one mountaintop view.
We dedicated one of the days we spent on Lake Prespa to the nearby Pelister National Park. Extending roughly from Prespa to Bitola and down to the border with Greece, this park was established in 1948 to protect 170 square kilometers of southern Macedonia's pristine mountain land.