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Macedonia on Wheels 19

Macedonia on Wheels: From Ohrid to Meteora

Overview

Located at the heart of the Balkans, the ancient region of Macedonia is full of breathtaking sceneries and historical sites. The first part of the trip starts from the town of Ohrid, passing by the 700-year old monastery of Sveti Naum, across the Galichitza Mountain to Lake Prespa and the historic city of Bitola. Entering Greece, you cycle through the wine region and lake district of Agios Panteleimon, the town of Kastoria, the valley of the Pinios river and finally to the giant pinnacles of Meteora topped with ancient monasteries.  

This itinerary will take you through the mountains, valleys and lakes of North Macedonia and Greece on scenic secondary roads with limited traffic. Some of the daily rides are rather challenging, however each climb is quite rewarding as it will reveal you a magnificent view of the surrounding landscapes.

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 this complex region and take care of your bikes in case of need.

Highlights

  • The historical town of Ohrid and the lake Ohrid, both listed in UNESCO
  • The historic city of Bitola 
  • Exploring the lakes of North Macedonia and Greece, home to a vast number of endemic species
  • The exquisite wine region of Agios Panteleimon
  • The spectacular Meteora monasteries on top of granite pinnacles

Itinerary

 

Day 1: Arrival 

Arrive on your own to the town of Ohrid, your base for the next 2 days. Depending on your arrival time you can schedule your welcome meeting with our local representative who will hand you your bikes, do all the necessary personal adjustments and give you a briefing on the tour. You can also do this on the next day in case you arrive late or prefer to just relax for the rest of the day.

Day 2: Explore 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 tranquility of the lake. Our recommendation for the evening is tasting the local trout in some of the cosy restaurants on the lake promenade.

Day 3: Ohrid – Sveti Naum

The trip today begins with cycling north through a valley known for its fertile soil and many orchards. Cherries, apricots, grapes, apples will surround you all the way and you will also see a lot of plums used for the production of the national alcoholic drink: Rakia. Narrow roads, countryside and sleepy farming villages characterise this area. You cycle along an old volcano and continue along the east banks of the Ohrid lake to the Bay of Bones: a reconstruction of an ancient village on the lake, dated to be 6000 years old.

  • Cycling for the day: 45 km, ↑­­­­360m ↓350m
  • Accommodation: Hotel St. Naum

Day 4: Sveti Naum – Otesevo 

You cycle from lake Ohrid to lake Prespa through the Galichitza mountain, separating the two. The route starts with a long (14km) gradual climb to an altitude of 1550 metres revealing a lot of stunning views. After a long descent you finish at the Prespa lake. The hotel is located directly on the lake which is known for its rare birdlife. 

  • Cycling for the day: 38 km, ↑­­­­890m ↓740m
  • Accommodation: Hotel Lakeview or similar

Day 5: Otesevo – Bitola

Wake up early in the morning to spot the pelicans at the lake before heading on your bike ride. You cycle along the lake through orchards and small villages, starting to ascend on a partly cobblestone road until the pass at 1200 metres. After the descent, you peddle through the rural landscape scattered with ancient and forgotten villages. Your trip today ends in Bitola, a vibrant city with a long history as a major trading centre of the Balkans. The Ottoman rule of the past can still be seen in the streets: Ottoman architecture, the cobblestone streets and the bazaar of Bitola. 

  • Cycling for the day: 50 km, ↑­­­­480m ↓710m
  • Accommodation: Hotel Teatar or similar

Day 6: Bitola – Florina 

Today you cross the border with Greece. Florina is the  capital of the Florina prefecture and is situated at an altitude of 700 metres along the river Sakoulevas, surrounded by forests and mountains.  Today you have a choice between two routes, the first 35km are the same for both of them and you cycle on the lower slopes of the mountains of the Pelister National Park. The easier option continues in southern direction and after 8km you reach Florina. The long route makes a 30km loop through unspoiled nature with a steep climb. You will reach the summit at an altitude of 1300 metres with a descent of 600 meters over 10 km. After a beautiful descent through the valley, you reach Florina.

  • Cycling for the day (option 1): 45 km, ↑100m ↓120m
  • Cycling for the day (option 2): 65 km, ↑­­­­760m ↓780m
  • Accommodation: Hotel Lingos or similar

Day 7: Florina – Agios Panteleimon 

Today you will cycle north towards a cluster of lakes, the largest one being Vegoritas lake. The lakes are interconnected with each other through a variety of channels and tunnels. The Vegoritas lake is a haven for rare birds and is a protected area. The first 25 km are almost flat through a wide valley with farmland and small villages. After that the road gradually ascends to an altitude of 950 metres. For the last part of today’s ride you will cycle along the lake to the final destination Agios Panteleimon. You can make an optional visit to the winery Alpha Estates, one of the best in Greece.

  • Cycling for the day: 65 km, ↑­­­­450m ↓565m
  • Accommodation: Hotel limni or similar

Day 8: Agios Panteleimon – Kastoria

The route to Kastoria is one of the longest rides of the trip. You cycle along vineyards to the pretty village of Amindeo where you may have a break for a refreshing ice coffee before continuing along Chimaditida Lake, known to be a haven for many birds species. An elevation gain of 500 metres over 10 km is challenging, but once reaching the top you will be rewarded with stunning views over the valley with lake Kastoria on the horizon. After a long and smooth descent you will reach the ancient town of Kastoria. The hotel for the next 2 days is situated near the lake.

  • Cycling for the day: 80 km, ↑­­­­820m ↓735m
  • Accommodation:  Hotel Kastoria or similar

Day 9: Rest day or short bike ride around the lake

Kastoria is a nice old town with lots of things to see. It lies partly on a peninsula surrounded by a large lake which is surrounded by plane trees. If you get on a bike trip across the peninsula, you will pass the caves of the “dragon” (tou Spileo Drakou). This 300 meters deep cave with several lakes, is a must-see. Remnants of bears that lived here 10.000 years ago were found in the cave. Kastoria is characterized by many beautiful mansions and Byzantine monuments indicating how wealthy this city has been seen in the past. On the promenade along the water, you will find great terraces and restaurants.

  • Cycling for the day: optional around the town, approx. 35 km
  • Accommodation: Hotel Kastoria or similar

Day 10: Kastoria – Grevena

You cycle south today and after about 20 km arrive at the ancient town of Argos Orestiko
with its narrow streets, squares and neoclassical buildings indicating that this area has experienced great prosperity in the past centuries by trade in furs and carpets. The special composition of the soil in this area is ideal for the cultivation of vegetables, such as
lentils and beans. 25 km further the landscape becomes hillier and the route continues
through one of the most important natural habitats of Greece. The route continues through an undulating landscape along streams and villages and several short climbs emerging rapidly on the horizon, before reaching the town of Grevena, located on the banks of the river Doxaniti Greveniti. This lively city with numerous bistros and restaurants played an important strategic role during the ancient Byzantine period and was also known as the trade centre in the region.

  • Cycling for the day: 64 km, ↑­­­­635m ↓880m
  • Accommodation: Hotel Metropolis or similar

Day 11: Grevena – Kastraki 

After leaving Grevena you are immediately riding through a vast natural landscape. The views are stunning with birds circling for prey in the distance. The toughest section of the day is right at the starts of the ride. After 10 km the road gradually ascends for the next 15 km. You will reach the highest point of route and then enjoy a long descent into the wide valley of the river Pinios. Once this ‘plain of Thessaly’ was an inland sea. Now you see huge rock formations shaped by wind and water erosion, millions of years ago. On the top of these huge granite pillars, monks built impressive monasteries, Megalo Meteoron being the most famous.  Your overnight location for the next two days is next to the rock formations and waking up to this view is a feast for the eyes! 

  • Cycling for the day: 58 km, ↑­­­­475m ↓475m
  • Accommodation:  Hotel Kastraki or similar

Day 12: Meteora

Enjoy your last bike ride with a beautiful tour along these gigantic limestone rock formations with the impressive monasteries built on top. Monks began building these monasteries in the 11th century, using ropes and ladders for lifting up the building materials. Nowadays, there are six monasteries that are all on display and are true works of art. The second part of the ride goes through the wide river valley with beautiful views of Meteora. If you don’t fancy cycling today, you may prefer to choose one of the great walks in this area and walk on old cobbled foot paths that once were the only way to reach the monasteries.

  • Cycling for the day: 58 km, ↑­­­­475m ↓475m
  • Accommodation: Hotel Kastraki or similar

Day 13: Departure 

After breakfast you officially finish the trip leaving your bikes at the hotel in Kastraki.
You may travel to Thessaloniki or to Athens or any other destination in Greece. You can also book additional nights in one of our preferred city hotels in Thessaloniki or Athens.

Hotels

Accommodation is in welcoming 3-star hotels and country inns. 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, Hotel St. Naum, Hotel Lakeview, Hotel Teatar, Hotel Lingos, Hotel limni, Hotel Kastoria, Hotel Metropolis

*Note that hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel (from the ones pictured above) is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal or higher value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.

Meals

Breakfast is included on all days. For lunch you can choose between shopping at a local grocery store or ordering a lunch pack from your accommodation. In the evenings you can visit some of the local restaurants where you stay for the overnights, the locals are used to foreign visitors so do not be worried about the language barrier.    

Travel

Arrival

Our recommended arrival airport for this holiday is Ohrid. There are direct flights to Ohrid from selected European countries. You may want to check the website of the airport for up to date information. An alternative airport is Skopje. Please insert your preferred airport in the “To” field below to see the available flights from your location.

 

You can book an optional transfer from the airport to the first hotel in Ohrid, or you can take a taxi on the spot which is much cheaper than a pre-booked taxi.

Departure

The airports that we recommend for departure are the ones at Thessaloniki and Athens. From Kastraki you can take a train to Thessaloniki (stop-over in Paleofarsalos) or to Athens (direct or with stop-over). You can pre-book train tickets with us when submitting your booking. There are limited connections to Thessaloniki and to Athens and we recommend to book a hotel and book outbound flight for the next day.

Baggage Transfers

All hotel to hotel luggage transfers on cycling days are included.

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

Country Info

  • Timezone: GMT +1 in North Macedonia and GMT +2 in Greece
  • Language: Macedonian in North Macedonia and Greek in Greece. In the bigger cities, many people speak English, but in remote areas, this might not be the case. However, most of the hotel personnel where you stay speak English and are ready to help you. 
  • Electric supply and plugs: 220V, 50Hz, two-pin round plugs.
  • Currency: Macedonian Denar in North Macedonia (MKD) and Euro (€) in Greece. We strongly advise taking adequate cash for your daily requirements. Banks and ATMs are available at Ohrid, Bitola, Florina, Kastoria, Grevena and Kalambaka.
  • Up-to-date travel advice on North Macedonia is available here, and on Greece here

Trip Info

Difficulty Grade: Moderate to Strenuous

This holiday is appropriate for experienced cyclists and requires a very good level of fitness for getting the maximum of the experience. There are some demanding areas where steep and extended climbs cannot be avoided up to 750m of elevation. The daily distances range from 40 up to 80 (read more about difficulty grades). 

Bike Rental

In case you would like to rent bike from us (upon request), we can offer you our standard hybrid bikes: 24-speed, with alu frame and 28″ wheels and Hydraulic disk brakes (various sizes available). In case the daily distances look too long for you, you can also consider renting an E-bike as well. The rental also includes a pump, puncture repair kit including spare inner tube, luggage rack rear with panniers, bottle holder (with bottle). 

 

Route Navigation

Once you log in our specifically designed application, you will have an easy access to the GPS tracks of the route and you just have to follow them. In case you prefer to install the tracks on another device, it is not a problem for us to send you the GPS files prior your departure.  During the trip you can also call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. 

When to Go

This trip is available between mid March and late October. During summer months it can get too hot for cycling. The best months to travel are May, June and September and October. The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your trip on any date in the season – so please indicate desired beginning date when booking.

Weather

The climate is Mediterranean continental with an average of 100 days of sunshine in the May-September period. It is influenced by the mountain range of Pindos and spring and autumn are pleasant with cool nights and occasional rain. Depending on location and altitude, temperatures vary, but generally, in the May-September period, the daily averages are 15 –25C. High summer daytime temperatures are rarely too hot as even though temperatures can occasionally reach 30C. Summer nights are quite cool and pleasant.

What to Bring

We recommend that you travel as light as possible – airlines might charge you an extra fee, and during ground transfers, the place might be limited. Ideally, you should bring one piece of luggage weighing no more than 25 kg (to be checked in) and a daily pack (15 – 20 l rucksack) for your everyday essentials (snacks, drinking water, camera, etc.).  Our rental bikes are equipped with a pannier (saddle bag), so you can also keep your belongings there.

Included

  • Accommodation for 12 overnights, including breakfast
  • Luggage transfers during the cycling days
  • Digital information pack
  • GPS tracks to use via our app
  • 24/7 phone support by our local office/representative

Single Supplement

  • Where individual members of a group require a single room, a single room supplement is applicable.

Solo Supplement

  • This tour is not available for solo travellers.

Excluded

  • Flights and airport transfers
  • Travel insurance
  • Lunches and dinners
  • Local tourism taxes (EUR 0.5 – 1.5 per room per night), payable on site
  • Personal expenses such as snacks, drinks, phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
  • Any items not specifically mentioned as ‘included’ in the program

Extensions and Optional Extras

  • Private airport transfers
  • Extra nights
  • Bike rental
  • E-bike rental

Gallery

 

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Macedonia on Wheels: From Ohrid to Meteora
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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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