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Cycling in North Macedonia and Albania

Cycling in North Macedonia and Albania

Overview

North Macedonia and Albania are some of the least explored countries in Europe, abundant in natural landscapes and steeped in history. On this unique self guided cycling itinerary, you will ride through the very best of Europe’s beautiful unknown. This is a picturesque land of snow-capped peaks, translucent lakes and pristine national parks, dotted with ancient monasteries, medieval villages and the architectural legacies of the Greco-Roman and Ottoman empires. You will take in the genuine subsistence culture of the region and enjoy an exceptionally friendly welcome by your local hosts.

This cycling trip will take you through rolling hills and beautiful lakes, among which lake Ohrid (Europe’s oldest) and Lake Prespa, connected by underground waters flowing beneath the Galichitza mountain. Apart from the amazing natural landscapes, you will be able to enjoy the delicious local food, get to know the friendly local people as well as explore the many sites related to the history of the region, from the medieval monasteries of North Macedonia to the bunkers of Enver Hoxha’ Albania

The tour is ideal for the active and curious travellers who like to combine an enjoyable and rewarding physical activity with an exciting exploration of a region full of history and authentic local culture. In case you would like to enrich your experience, you might also consider adding a guide (available upon request) who will give you valuable insights on the region’s history and culture and take care of your bikes in case of need. 

Highlights

  • The historical town of Ohrid and the Lake Ohrid, both UNESCO-listed
  • Lake Prespa, home to numerous endemic species
  • Spending an overnight at St. Naum Monastery
  • Cycling on winding roads, surrounded by amazing landscapes
  • Crossing Galichitza mountain, and enjoying the great views over the two landmark lakes

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Ohrid

Arrival in Ohrid on your own (private transfer can be booked upon request). The rental bicycles are handed over in the hotel. Depending on the time of your arrival you can spend the rest of the day enjoying the many cosy cafes and restaurants along the lake promenade.                         

Day 2: Around Mavrovo Lake

After breakfast, you will be transferred to Mavrovo National Park (transfer time 2 hours) where you will check-in at your hotel and go for your first bike ride around Lake Mavrovo. This is an easy ride with almost no elevation gain on low-traffic roads, taking you through several villages with shops and restaurants. Your Spa Wellness Hotel is located on the lake and is equipped with all comforts, such as swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and fitness room.

Day 3: Mavrovo – Debar

Today you cycle along beautiful secondary roads, mostly downhill along river Radika towards the lake of Debar. You have the option to visit the monastery of Bigorski (John the Baptist), maintained by the 20 monks (entrance fee approximately 4 Euro, not included). Your hotel is located just before entering the town of Debar, and you have various dining options within a walking distance.

  • Cycling for the day: 53 km, ↑200m
  • Accommodation: Hotel Leon or similar

Day 4: Debar – Vevcani

The first part of today’s ride goes through a hilly landscape along lakes and rivers. After about 45 km you cycle past the entrance gate of Vevcani, from where the road starts to rise again and the bike ride ends at the fountains of Vevcani. You cycle straight to the terrace of the bistro below your accommodation for the next two days. From your accommodation, you have a wonderful view of the valley with Lake Ohrid.                                                              

  • Cycling for the day: 48 km, ↑450m
  • Accommodation: Villa Alula or similar

Day 5: Around Vevcani

Vevcani is an excellent place to start a beautiful circular bike ride through the vast valley. After a short descent, the route is almost flat and you pass villages with mostly an Albanian population. Various shops and cafes can be found along the way. The route ends with an easy climb from the village of Veleste back to Vevcani.                                

  • Cycling for the day: 49 km, 150 m
  • Accommodation: Villa Alula or similar

Day 6: Vevcani – Pogradec

The first part of this ride is easy and mainly descending through small Albanian villages. The biggest challenge for the day is a climb of about 5 km before the border crossing at Kafasan. After the descent, you will cycle along the banks of Lake Ohrid on a newly constructed 20-km cycle path to the town of Pogradec, located at the southernmost tip of Lake Ohrid. The hotel is near the lake and has an indoor pool.

Day 7: Pogradec – Otesevo

Today is the most challenging day with some tough climbs. Exiting Pogradec you get on the first short climb. The route then continues through a vast valley with numerous farming villages. The second part of this ride is over hilly terrain with several climbs towards Lake Prespa. After crossing the border with North Macedonia, you will cycle along orchards to the hotel in Otesevo. The hotel is located on the banks of Prespa Lake with its own sandy beach. Built in the 1950s by political prisoners, this hotel is a special place where the North Macedonia-Greece Agreement has recently been sealed over the future name change of the Republic of North Macedonia.

Day 8: Otesevo – Sveti Naum

Take a walk along the lake before breakfast, with a little luck you can spot pelicans. Today’s ride will be the highlight of this cycling holiday. You will cycle from Lake Prespa through the National Park Galichitza to Lake Ohrid. These two lakes are connected through underground waters and separated by Mount Galicica. The top of this mountain is 1,600 metres, the climb is long but not steep. The road runs for 15 km at 5% incline on average over a small paved road, through a sea of ​​greenery. Along the way, a spectacular view unfolds over the bay where you started today. After a long descent with stunning views at Lake Ohrid, you will reach your hotel at Sveti Naum. Mount Galicica is also part of a protected natural area with unique flora and fauna. At the top, you will be rewarded with a fantastic view of mountain ranges and Lake Ohrid. Your overnight location on Lake Ohrid is the beautiful 9th-century monastery of Sveti Naum, which now operates also as a hotel.

Day 9: Sveti Naum – Ohrid

Today the last ride of your holiday brings you back to Ohrid along the eastern shores of the lake. After about 15 km you will pass the Bay of Bones: a replica of a settlement on the water from the Bronze Age, definitely worth a visit. At the end of the ride you will cycle through the fertile hinterland of Ohrid with its wide variety of fruit orchards. You will reach the hotel in Ohrid via narrow back roads, located directly near the lake.

  • Cycling for the day: 48 km, ↑400 m
  • Accommodation: Hotel Lebed

Day 10: Ohrid

You have the whole day to explore the cultural riches of Ohrid. A must-see is the old town of Ohrid, a true open-air museum with beautiful ancient churches, such as the magnificent Sveti Jovan Kaneo built on an overhanging cliff above the lake and Sveti Clement at Plaosnik with its frescoes and icons. At the top of the hill above the town, you will find the remains of the medieval castle of the Bulgarian Tsar Samuil, which was built around 1018 AD. From the castle, you have a magnificent view of Ohrid and the lake. You also can get on a fantastic boat trip, enjoying the tranquillity of the lake. Our recommendation for the evening is tasting the local trout in some of the cosy restaurants on the lake promenade.

Day 11: Departure

Breakfast and then departure on your own. Upon request we can offer you various extension options.

Hotels

Accommodation is in welcoming 3-star hotels and country inns, some of them with pools and spa facilities. All places have been carefully hand-picked by us and their quality is regularly monitored. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour.

Sample hotels*: Hotel Lebed, Bistra Hotel, Hotel Leon, Villa Alula, Hotel Enkelana, Hotel and Resort Lakeview, Hotel Saint Naum

*Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will give you exact accommodation details upon booking confirmation.

Meals

Breakfast is included on each day. For lunch and dinner, you will have many choices of restaurants and grocery stores all along the way. Once you arrive at your accommodation, best would be to ask the local hosts for the best places to eat around.

Travel

Up-to-date FCO travel advice on North Macedonia is available here, and on Albania here.

Fly

Recommended arrival and departure airport: Ohrid Airport. Alternative airport: Skopje Airport.

Please note that flight information can change rapidly, and not all flights run daily. Please do check directly with the airlines’ websites or Skyscanner before finalising any booking with us. Please do not book your flights before we have confirmed your booking.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance WorldNomads

We strongly recommend protecting the cost of your trip and other non-refundable travel expenses with travel insurance. Our Signature Travel Insurance allows you to insure all of your expenses. While a Signature Travel Insurance policy can be purchased at any time, purchasing a policy within 20 days of making your initial trip deposit gives you the widest range of policy options, including a Cancel for Any Reason coverage. For complete peace of mind, we also recommend enrolling with Global Rescue, the worldwide leader in field rescue, evacuation and security extraction services.

Read more and get a quote online

Trip Info

Difficulty Grade: Moderate

The cycling is not too demanding, still, in order to enjoy the trip to the maximum, it is recommendable to have some cycling experience and be in good physical shape (read more about difficulty grades). The routes go on secondary asphalt roads, mostly undulating with some occasional steeper ascents (look in the day-to-day itinerary for exact details on the terrain).

Route Navigation

Your package includes maps and GPS tracks for all the routes, which you can load on your smartphone or another GPS device (you can rent one with us as well upon request). The road signage is good so navigating between the towns is quite easy.

When to Go

We can organise this cycling tour between March and October. Weather is best in the spring and the autumn, but it is also ok to cycle in the summer months as well, just do not forget to take enough water. The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your holiday on any date in the season.

Weather

Winter temperatures are quite mild, with average highs around 15 °C (59 °F), while in summer the maximum temperatures are high, ranging between 30 and 35 °C (86 and 95 °F). Rainfall is concentrated from mid-October to mid-April, when it can be abundant, and sometimes torrential, particularly on the slopes facing west and southwest.

OHRID WEATHER

What to Bring

Main luggage is limited to 25 kg. On the cycling days when changing hotels, your main luggage is transported to the next accommodation. For your daily essentials, you should bring a comfortable rucksack or panniers which you can mount on your bike rack.

Below is a non-exclusive list of what you should bring to this trip. If you need further advice, please contact a reputable outdoor retailer or us.

  • Several t-shirts (synthetic or preferably breathable/fast drying);
  • Packable waterproof and windproof jacket with hood;
  • Synthetic mid layer or warm fleece;
  • Trainers and/or sandals – to relax and wear inside accommodation;
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip salve;
  • Helmet;
  • Personal First Aid kit (wet wipes, flu remedies, stomach remedies).

Included

  • Overnight stays with breakfast in nice hotels based on an en-suite double/twin room
  • Map of the area and GPX tracks that can be loaded on your smartphone or GPS device
  • Luggage transport to next hotel and private transfers (as listed in the itinerary)
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative

Supplements

  • Where individual members of a group require a single room, a single room supplement is applicable
  • This holiday is NOT available for solo travellers as the cost of accommodation and transfers would be prohibitive

Options and Extras

  • Bike rental (standard trekking bike or E-Bike)
  • Helmet rental
  • GPS device rental
  • Additional night along the way

Self-Guided+

  • On request, we can provide a private guide.

Excluded

  • Flights
  • Airport transfers
  • Lunches and dinners
  • Travel insurance
  • Personal expenses such as drinks, phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
  • Any items not explicitly mentioned as ‘included’ in the programme

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Cycling in North Macedonia and Albania
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by Chester on King Ludwig Way

Delightful moderate walk building up slowly to an interesting climax over the days. Varied and friendly hotels. Kirchberger in Wildsteig deseerves... Read full review

We are a retired couple of 73 and 70 years old. We enjoyed the trip very much. The trip was well organised; all went smooth, the accommodation... Read full review

This holiday not only had erupting volcanoes, fabulous hospitality and a plethora of dramatic landscapes to walk in, it also featured gorgeous... Read full review

We had a really great holiday and appreciated the good organisation from your company. Everything went to plan, very well organised and good... Read full review

We just completed the Catalan Coast and Mountain week-long self-guided walking tour. February was perfect in the off-season! [The] itinerary... Read full review

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