Elšani is a picturesque village located just by Lake Ohrid in North Macedonia. Roughly 10 kilometers south of the City of Ohrid, the village is on the western slopes of Galičica Mountain within the lush Galičica National Park. Here, a visitor can find rich forests and vegetation within the National Park, beautiful views along the quaint beaches of Lake Ohrid and the mountains of Albania, and historic architecture accompanied by unique North Macedonian culture and food.
While Elšani doesn't have a great amount of history, it still does provide a bounty of sites to visit and shouldn't be overlooked by visitors to Albania and North Macedonia. In addition, it has a variety of year-round activities, from mountain hiking to glimpsing the vibrant culture to swimming in the clear waters of Lake Ohrid.
Elšani is a small village only over half a kilometer from the shores of Lake Ohrid and roughly 6 kilometers (20 minute drive) south from the city of Ohrid, the seat of the Ohrid Municipality which the village sits in. Tucked in the southeast corner of the country, which is vibrant with mountains and nature, it is also about 10 kilometers (40 minute drive) north from the border of Albania.
The history of Elšani dates back to the early 1200s, when the first written records were found under the Byzantine Empire. It remained a fairly quiet village throughout its history. It came under rule by the Ottoman Empire in 1395, and perhaps the town's most signature location, the Church of St. Elijah, was built in 1408. It switched sovereignty often, being flipped between Serbia after the Balkans' independence from the Ottomans, after which it was occupied by Bulgaria during World War I and came under the rule of the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (better known as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia) until World War II. It was then occupied by Italy in 1941 until Bulgarian occupation in 1943. After its rocky history which unfortunately saw some loss of the area's culture and people, it came under rule of Yugoslavia once again, this time under the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, and a range of modern-day infrastructure including cell service, electricity, roads, and running water were all introduced, progressing the area massively. This has extended to this day, and the 21st century has seen major tourism boosts in the village.
Demographics and economics
As of 2019, the year-round population of Elšani is only around 590, but it can reach 1,000 during the summer due to many North Macedonians coming to their holiday homes. All of Elšani's inhabitants are ethnic Macedonians that speak Macedonian. As with many other areas in the Balkans, Orthodox Christianity is the village's main religion, with the oldest church – the Cathedral Church of Saint Elijah – dating back to 1408. There are also two other chapels.
Most of the economy is based on tourism, with many of the inhabitants working in the dozens of hotels scattering the area. Many also work in animal husbandry, gardening, or the traditional production of brandy (rakija) and wine. Some others commute to Ohrid.
Ohrid's St. Paul the Apostle Airport (OHD IATA) is the nearest airport. It has flights to many locations around Europe and is no more than a 30-minute drive (around 21.5 kilometers) away, via the A2 highway that leads into the A3 and R1208, the latter of which then turns into the P1301 that leads into Elšani. You can also rent a car or catch a taxi from the airport. No public transportation to the village is available.
The exclusive way of entering by car is via the P501/P1301 highway, from which a road close to Lagadin diverges. From here, it's only a 4-minute drive or 40-minute walk up the hill along a fairly peaceful road. To the north, the highway travels along the coast and into the center of Ohrid, where you can access the area through multiple roads. The A2 highway travels in the western half of the country until it finally leads into Tetovo and eventually the nation's capital, Skopje. The A2 is also just off of Ohrid St. Paul the Apostle Airport. After entering Ohrid, the A2 then travels southwest roughly parallel to the smaller R1208 road just on Lake Ohrid's coast. From here, both roads lead into eastern Albania. The E-65 highway also leads from farther north into the country from Skopje until Ohrid, where you can either find yourself driving deeper into the country from areas such as Bitola; along the shores of the nearby Lake Prespa; or farther south to the Macedonia region of northern Greece. As for travel from the south, along with the previously mentioned E-65, the P501/P1301 travel directly along Lake Ohrid, where you can find yourself in Albania. From here, you can drive from anywhere in the nation, most notably the capital, Tirana.
By car hire or taxi
As for taxis, Ohrid's airport they're available based on the times of flight arrivals. A fare from the airport to Peštani, just next to Elšani, or the area nearby costs 922 Macedonian denars (€15).
Of course, with such a large and significant lake at the foot of the town, boats and ferries are abundant. The ferry route from St. Naum, a town at the border with Albania, to the Port of Ohrid, stops at 4 other towns along the coast. The closest ones to Elšani are just at of Dolno Konjsko farther north or at the Bay of Bones Museum farther south; a 50 minute and 1 and a half a hour but beautiful walk, respectively. At Ohrid, you can also find a ferry from Kalishta in Albania on the northwest coast of the lake. These ferries allow you to quickly visit many small but rich places along the lake full of culture, with Elšani being no exception.
Walking is the best way since it is a smaller place. A walk from one side of town to another should take no more than 15 minutes, and there's no need to take a car around especially with the bounty of beautiful cultural sites and natural scenery to marvel at.
- St. Elijah - an old church made in 1408.
- Lake Ohrid
- Galičica National Park
Elšani is a base for mountain walks and rock climbing in the Galičica National Park. On the other hand, the wide network of paths, narrow village streets and local low traffic roads are ideal for use as walking, jogging or cycling trails by all levels of ability and age groups. Elšani is also great for fishing, swimming, and other beach activities since it is on Ohrid Lake.
Accommodation can be found in 30 family homes with nearly 200 beds in total, all through the year and at different locations, down by the lake or up in the mountain. Also by the lakeside is the Elešec Camping Site, which is well structured, but operating during the summer period only. There are several village shops to provide food, drinks and other most needed things for a pleasant stay between the green heights of Mount Galičica and the blue waters of Lake Ohrid.