Struga (Macedonian: Струга, Albanian: Strugë) is a city in Western North Macedonia on Lake Ohrid. Nicknamed the "City of Poetry", it is known for its annual international poetry festival. Unlike larger and more popular Ohrid, Struga is situated on a plain and is more ethnically diverse. Nonetheless, it contains a fair amount of places of interest both within the city and the outlying villages.
Struga has always been in the shadow of Ohrid, as Ohrid has more monuments and better preserved houses. But Struga can still be a fun daytrip from Ohrid if one combines it with a trip to the villages on the west coast of lake Ohrid where main sight, aside from the nice quiet beaches, are the cave churches.
Unlike Ohrid which is in hills, Struga is flat, spread around Drim river. It is a great place to relax with a cup of coffee by the river.
While the city of Struga has a majority ethnic Macedonian population, Struga Municipality as a whole with its 50 surrounding villages is home to an Albanian majority.
In ancient time the city was known as Enchalon, which means eel (fishing eels in Drim river used to be very popular in Struga). The Via Egnatia road that connected Rome with Thesaloniki and Constantinople passed through Struga. The name Struga was used for the first time in a document in the 11th c, but it originates from the 7th c. The Byzantine travel writer Ana Komnina visited Struga in the 11th century and named it “City of 100 bridges”.
While the nearby Ohrid was always cultural and religious centre, Struga played the role of trading centre of the region. It still does and a visit on market day can be fun.
In the 19th century Struga played important part in the national revival as it was home town of Konstantin and Dimitar Miladinovi, brothers who collected and published a collection of folk songs (named "Folk songs from Macedonia") in 1862. Konstantin Miladinov wrote Sorrow for the south (also translated as 'Longing for the South') during his studies in Saint Petersburg. Today, in his honour, the biggest poetry festivals in the world is held in Struga every year.
- The river Drim, which enters Ohrid lake in the St. Naum monastery, comes out in Struga after going through the whole lake.
- Before the Drim had been blocked by several dams downstream of Struga, Lake Ohrid was home to a large population of eels. The annual run of the eels, when they left the lake en masse every fall, to spawn in the Atlantic Ocean, was a major event in Struga, where weirs were constructed to catch the fish. The towns' eel lore is celebrated in Luan Starova's novel The Path of Eels ("Патот на јагулите").
- Vlado Maleski, a poet from Struga wrote the Macedonian national anthem "Denes nad Makedonija se raga". It was sung for the first time in Struga.
- The Vasilica carnival in Vevčani village has been held on 14th & 15th of January for over 1500 years.
- 1 Long distance bus station, ☏ .
- 2 Minibus stop. Gathering point for minibuses going to Ohrid (E 15km). Buses leave once every 20-40 minutes and cost 100 denars. There are also shared taxis to Ohrid, which cost 100 denars per person as well.
- 3 Bus companies' offices, Partizanska 15 bb, ☏ . A few kiosks selling tickets to various destinations. One of them, Euro linia, operates buses to/from Vlore in Albania (passing Elbasan, Tirana €13, Durres), and departs from Struga at 05:00 and 06:00. Coaches to Skopje (via Tetovo) leave at 05:00, 08:00, 10:00, 17:00. Bus connection with Germany.
Struga is small and easiest to get around is by walking. To visit the cave churches on the west coast of Ohrid lake take a taxi or check out the bus schedule. A 15 minutes walk along the lake will take you to Kalishta village and cave monastery.
- 1 Church of Saint George (Црква „Св. Ѓорѓи“). The oldest and most significant of the churches in the city of Struga. Dating from the 13th century, the church is most famous for the Saint George icon painted in 1267 and considered among the most important in Macedonia. It is also considered to be miraculous as it was found in the lake. The church has been renovated and expanded over the years, with the most significant occurring in 1835. A group of surviving traditional homes can be found around the church.
- 2 Nikola Nezlobinski Nature Museum (Никола Незлобински Музејот на природата), Niko Nestor Street, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. The museum was founded in 1928 by Nikola Nezlobinski, a Russian doctor who lived and worked in Struga after the October Revolution. Nezlobinski arrived in 1924 with the task of eradicating malaria. He implemented major health and hygiene improvements to the area and is still honored for his work. The museum, which is a national institution, contains departments on biology, ethnology, archaeology, history, and fine arts. Among the archaeological exhibitions are the mosaic floors found at early Christian sites in the Struga-area villages of Oktisi and Radolišta.
- 3 Bridge of Poetry (Мост на поезијата). This bridge crosses the Black Drim River just before it lets out into Lake Ohrid. It is best-known for hosting the closing event of the Struga Poetry Evenings, where the poets read their works in their own languages from the bridge, in late August.
- 4 Halveti Tekje (Халвети Теќе). This is one of the most representative examples of Ottoman architecture in Struga. The tekje, a Sufi Islam monastery, was established by Hasan Baba in the beginning of the 18th century and consists of five rooms in a T-shape. It features a minaret, a balcony, and a dome.
- 5 Old Bazaar (City Market, Градски пазар). Struga's small bazaar is a straight street, named after Josip Broz Tito, and today has more cafes than shops. It ends with a lively market.
- 6 Miladinovci House (Куќа на браќата Миладиновци). interesting examples of traditional architecture. The brothers were born and lived in this building, and today it serves as a museum dedicated to them.
- 7 Vangel Kodžoman Gallery (Галерија Вангел Коџоман) (Opposite the Miladinovci House). One of the most famous Macedonian painters of the 20th century was this Struga native. This gallery exhibits his work.
West coast of Lake Ohrid
Going west from Struga along the lake are the villages of Kališta and Radožda, followed by the Kjafasan border crossing to Albania.
- 8 Kališta Monastery (Калишки манастир). This scenic lakeside monastery offers much to explore. It is home to multiple churches, including two medieval cave churches. The Church of the Virgin Mary is the oldest and contains significant fresco work. The Church of Saint Athanasius, built into a rock outside the main monastery complex, is from the late 14th century. It also features interesting frescoes. The main church of the monastery was built in the 18th century, though most of its present appearance dates from 1977. It contains a unique icon found at the cave Church of the Virgin Mary that depicts the Holy Mother with baby Jesus in black. Under the small Church of Saint Peter flow waters purported to have healing powers. Just outside of the complex at its main entrance is the popular Hotel Biser and a beach.
- 9 Cave Church of Saint Michael the Archangel (Црква „Св. Архангел Михаил“), village of Radožda. Radožda features mutliple churches, a preserved stretch of the ancient Via Egnatia road, and a 22 m (72 ft) tall illuminated cross. Its most significant landmark, however, is the medieval cave church dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel. Built in the 13th century, it is situated at one of the most beautiful spots of the west coast of Lake Ohrid. Most of its frescoes date from the 14th century, with the oldest sections dating from the 13th.
Away from the lake
- 10 Gorna Belica village (Горна Белица) (11 km NW). Picturesque mountain village 1,600 m above sea level on Jablanica Mountain. Settled by Vlachs (Aromanians) around 1730, the village in the present-day has few year-round residents. Nonetheless, many people maintain weekend homes in Gorna Belica. The village has a mountain lodge with capacity for 30 people. East of the village is a monastery church dedicated to Saint Clement of Ohrid. It is an old monastery but most of it was destroyed in World War II; eight icons and the cross survived. The church and its bell tower have been rebuilt.
- 11 Church of the Introduction of the Virgin Mary (Црква „Воведение на Пресвета Богородица“), village of Vranište. In this large village sits a church dating from the 10th or 11th century. It is a small building built of stone but it features some interesting architectural features. It is surrounded by graves.
- 12 Church of Saint Nicholas (Црква „Св. Никола“), village of Vranište. This main church of Vranište was built prior to the 19th century with funds donated by an Ottoman official. The church features a dominant bell tower. In 2014, a museum was opened within the church complex that houses archaeological pieces, medieval icons, and more.
- 13 Church of the Ascension of Christ (Црква „Вознесение Христово“), village of Višni. This is a significant cave church just outside Višni, along a river canyon. It requires a decent uphill hike through woods and rocks but the pathway features railing for security. The date of construction isn't known but it is several centuries old; the frescoes date from the 14th century based on characteristics of the painting style. Unfortunately, due to high levels of moisture at this location, the frescoes are not well-preserved.
- 14 Church of Saint Athanasius (Црква „Св. Атанасиј“), village of Višni. Višni is an old village situated on the border with Albania. It is home to multiple churches and its main one was built in the 19th century, dedicated to Saint Athanasius. It was built of stone and features a dark wooden cupola. The village cemetery is in the church's courtyard. Just outside the village are natural springs worth a visit.
- 15 Globočica (Глобочица). This village is home to the man-made lake of the same name, which was established in 1965. The creation of the lake, which sits on the Black Drim River, sunk the 15th century Church of Saint Elijah. It can still be seen through the water when clear and the top can be seen if the lake level is low. All of the movable items within the church were taken to Saint George in Struga prior to the damming of the river. A new church dedicated to Saint Elijah was built in 2014 at the lake's shore. The lake is popular for fishing and other recreational boating.
- 16 Church of the Assumption (Црква „Успение на Пресвета Богородица“), village of Zbaždi. The main church of this mountainside village is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. It was built in the 19th century of stone. It has a detached bell tower and the village cemetery sits above it.
- 17 Jablanica village (Јабланица). Situated on the mountain of the same name, Jablanica is a picturesque village populated by ethnic Macedonians of the Orthodox and Islamic faiths. The village has several churches including Saint Elijah, built in 1886, and the Introduction of the Virgin Mary, the main church.
- 18 Labuništa lakes (Лабунишки Езера), village of Labuništa. Above the village of Labuništa on Jablanica Mountain are two small glacial lakes. Despite being small, they are set in beautiful mountain scenery. One is the upper lake and the other is the lower lake. Labuništa itself is a large village populated by Macedonian Muslims.
- 19 Church of the Dormition (Црква „Успение на Пресвета Богородица“), village of Modrič. Built in 1884, this church was notable for its icon collection which has been transferred to museums to prevent theft. The church features a tall, detached bell tower and the village's cemetery in its courtyard. Modrič is an old village on Jablanica Mountain with traditional architecture.
- 20 Podgorci Lake (Подгоречко Езеро). Jablanica Mountain's largest glacial lake. It has a maximum depth of 10 m (33 ft) and sits at an elevation of 2,000 m (6,560 ft) above sea live, near the village of Podgorci below.
- 21 Church of Saint Athanasius and Church of Saint Nicholas (Црква „Св. Атанасиј“ и Црква „Св. Никола“), village of Selci. Both of these churches in this old village date from the 19th century. Saint Nicholas features a large, dominant cupola capped by a cross. Saint Athanasius is smaller, but both churches have significant icons.
- Vevčani, 14 km northwest of Struga, is an independent village known for its ancient carnival and natural scenery.
- Struga Poetry Evenings (Струшки вечери на поезијата (СВП)). The international poetry festival held in the summer (usually, in the second half of August) every year since 1966. There are two rewards given, one for lifetime achievement, and one for a young poet (if you have just published your first book of poetry, send it to UNESCO as they decide who gets this award). There has been a wide number of notable recipients over the years.
- 1 Guided hikes by Mountaineering Club Struga (KAB Struga). They often organize hiking tours in region. They usually charge a small amount for transportation and 2-4 € for participation.
- Vodici (Водици). The Christian holiday of Epiphany (Vodici in Macedonian) is celebrated among Orthodox Christians by leaping into a lake, river, or other body of water to retrieve a cross thrown by a priest - in the middle of January. Struga has a particularly popular throwing of the cross, which is thrown into Lake Ohrid.
A dish native to Struga and Ohrid is gjomzele. It is made of flour, water, salt, and some oil.
- Klimetica, ☏ .
- T'ga Za Jug, ☏ .
- Dardania, ☏ .
- Sv.Nikola, Goce Delcev 88, ☏ . Macedonian national restaurant where you can find the most amazing national food. The location of this restaurant is very good, next to the river Drim, where you can enjoy food and relaxing music.
- 1 Restaurant Aquarius, Vlado Malevski, 6330 Ustrugha, Struga, Republic of North Macedonia, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 10:00-00:00.
- 2 Versus Beach Bar, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Daily 09:00-01:00.
- 3 Fish restaurant Aleksandrija, s. Radozhda, ☏ .
- 4 Restaurant Galija, s.Kalishta, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 5 Fish Restaurant Ezerski Raj, s.Radozda, ☏ .
- 6 Restaurant Letnica, s.Radozhda, ☏ .
Same as in Ohrid, accommodation is easy in Struga as many people rent rooms starting from €15 per person per night. Here is a list of some hotels in Struga:
- 1 [dead link] Inex Drim, Kej Boris Kidric 51, ☏ . This is a four-star hotel that is perfectly matching with the old architecture of this town and the old bazaar around it. It is on the bank of the Drim River. There are 50 rooms inside, a few restaurants, a night club, a casino, an automatic bowling room, indoor and outdoor pools, a congress centre, and a tennis court.
- [dead link] Royal, Marshal Tito Road, ☏ . This new hotel is one of the finest in Struga. It is located within 5 minutes walk from the town center and the town market. The hotel disposes to its guests 31 rooms (single, double and triple), equipped with everything necessary to make your stay complete, a restaurant and a summer terrace-garden.
- Montenegro, Dimce Kovaceski 20, ☏ . New family-run hotel on a great location. Sgl/dbl/tpl €19/30/45 (2014).
- 2 [dead link] Motel Venecia (Apartments Venecia), Marsal Tito bb (100 m away from central promenade), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Decent, big (60 m²) apartments. Good location. Fantastic owners. Wi-Fi. 2 big shops right underneath the building. Fully equipped kitchen. Long term rent is also possible. There is no lake view from apartments and bedroom lacks sunlight. €15 - 20 per apartment.
- Vila "Bakraceski ", Elen Kamen, Radozhda, ☏ .
- Villa Eros, s.Elen Kamen, ☏ .
- 3 Villa Radozda, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 4 Hotel Makpetrol, Elen Kamen, ☏ .
- 5 Villa Marija Blazh, s. Radozhda, ☏ .
- 6 Fish restaurant "Dva Bisera", s.Radozda, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- 7 Vila Ignatija, s.Radozda, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 8 Camping Rino Rooms, s.Kalishta, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- 9 Inn Galija, village of Kalishta, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 10 Hotel Izgrev, village of Kalishta, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- 11 Hotel Biser, village of Kalishta, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 12 Hotel Princ, village of Kalista, ☏ .
- 13 Hostel Free Flow, village of Radozda, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- 14 Villa Egnatia, village of Radozda, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Villa Egnatia offers free parking and a yard with patio. There are 4 apartments: 60 m² for 4+2 people, 55 m² for 2+1 people, 40 m² for 2+2 people and 35 m² for 2+1 people, with an option for extra beds. All apartments have fully equipped kitchens and bathrooms.
- 15 Villa Panorama, Elen Kamen, ☏ . The villa features 2 bedrooms, a TV with cable channels, an equipped kitchen with a fridge and an oven, a washing machine, and 1 bathroom with a shower. Free private parking is available at the villa.