Hiking Galičica National Park: Visiting Velestovo, Konjsko & Shipokno from Ohrid

Last Updated on: 13th June 2022, 10:28 am

Nestled between the tourism hotspot of Lake Ohrid and the tranquil Lake Prespa, scenic Galičica is one of North Macedonia’s three national parks. The park’s main highlight is Magoro Peak, which offers views of both lakes simultaneously. But you’ll either need to hire an expensive trekking guide or a long taxi ride to get you there and back. Fortunately, however, there are indeed options for hiking Galičica National Park independently and without paying a single denar.

While information about navigating Galičica independently is scarce, there are numerous villages within the park that you can simply walk to from central Ohrid. The following trekking guide includes three of them – some of which are abandoned –  that you can visit in around 6 hours round-trip. 

While the following hike lacks views of Lake Prespa, you’ll still get to enjoy stunning views of Lake Ohrid. What’s more, is that the journey culminates in a visit to the mysterious cave church of Sveti Stefan.

About this Hike

Galičica National Park Map
An image of the downloadable GPX file of the journey

THE BASICS: This hike will take you from central Ohrid to three peaceful villages situated within Galičica National Park. You’ll also get to enjoy multiple viewpoints overlooking Lake Ohrid.

Past the initial climb, the hike is largely flat. As such, this could be considered an ‘easy’ hike. But considering the total length of over 20 km, it should probably be ranked as ‘moderate.’

However, if you’re not willing to hike for so long, you can simply cut out the village of Konjsko, shaving around 7 km from the total journey.

Following a visit to the abandoned village of Shipokno, the hike will end at the ancient cave church of Sveti Stefan. After that, you’ll pass by plenty of beaches that are ideal for swimming.

The downside of this hike is that it can be a rather long and tedious walk back to central Ohrid. Therefore, you may want to take a bus or taxi back to town.

RECOMMENDED APPS: You can download a GPX file of this route here. It can be viewed in Android apps like GPX Viewer or iPhone apps like Open GPX Tracker. (Please leave a comment if you’re having trouble viewing it.)

If you’re not able to open the GPX file for whatever reason, you can still navigate pretty easily using the Maps.me app. Simply input the next village or landmark and the app will tell you the best way to walk there.

WHAT TO BRING: As this is an easy to moderate hike, sturdy hiking boots aren’t essential. A decent pair of sneakers will do.

Be sure to bring a water bottle which you’ll be able to refill in some of the villages. It’s also a good idea to bring snacks, though you’ll pass by a few restaurants throughout the hike.

You should also consider bringing swimwear if you want to cool off at the beach at the end of the journey.

From Ohrid to Mala Bogorodica Church

The route outlined in the GPX map begins at the Ramstore Supermarket  in central Ohrid, which is a good place to stock up on water and snacks before your hike. 

But as mentioned, you’ll encounter restaurants in some of the villages. Furthermore, many of the villages in North Macedonia have public springs where you can freely fill up your water bottle.

Hiking Galičica National Park

One of the most pleasant parts of the journey is simply walking along the Lake Ohrid boardwalk. As you get further away, you can look back and take in the entirety of the Old Town behind you.

Hiking Galičica National Park

Continuing along the lake, you’ll eventually walk over a bridge just before  the small Voena Beach. It’s now time to leave the lake behind. 

Make a left (east) down the pathway in the direction of the mountains, which will ultimately lead you to the busy highway, P501. You’ll have to walk along it for a bit, but no more than a few minutes.  

After turning right onto the highway, carefully head south and then cross to the other side when you can. Next, find the uphill street which takes you through the small village of Racha.

Hiking Galičica National Park
Hiking Galičica National Park

Passing by the ‘Interlogistik’ company, take a right, continuing further uphill. Believe it or not, this steep hike through Racha is pretty much the most challenging part of the entire day.

Finally reaching the top, you can rest for a while to enjoy the stunning views of Lake Ohrid down below. 

You’ll then need to make a sharp right turn along the road that will have you heading south. And after several minutes of walking, you’ll finally reach the start of the nature trail.

Hiking Galičica National Park

You’ll find a larger bilingual sign with some general info about Galičica National Park, along with a smaller sign pointing you to the ‘Church St Rodeztvo na Presveta Mala Bogorodica.’ The sign is all is Macedonian, but you’ll see that it’s a 1.7 km walk down the trail.

Hiking Galičica National Park

The nature trail offers a nice change of pace from the pavement you’ve been walking on up to this point. It’s well-shaded and you’re unlikely to encounter other hikers here.

Hiking Galičica National Park
Hiking Galičica National Park
Hiking Galičica National Park

Eventually, you’ll catch a glimpse of the church over in the distance on your right. It’s not a destination in its own right, and you’ll likely find it locked. Nevertheless, it serves as a convenient landmark to keep track of your progress while hiking Galičica National Park.

Somewhat confusingly, there are several different trails branching off in all directions from the church, but they’re at least well signed. You’ll find a sign pointing you to the abandoned village of Shipokno, but let’s save that for later.

Hiking Galičica National Park
Hiking Galičica National Park

For now, let’s head to the village of Velestovo. After checking out the church, backtrack a bit to the end of the trail on which you took to get here. You’ll find that it forks into two, with the righthand path leading uphill. 

Visiting Velestovo

Hiking Galičica National Park
Head toward Velestovo
Hiking Galičica National Park

It’s only a 15-minute walk to Velestovo from here. And while it is an uphill path, it’s not nearly as steep or tiring as the initial uphill climb through Racha.

Before long, you’ll arrive at the quiet village of Velestovo, home to no more than 50 permanent residents.

Hiking Galičica National Park

At 1000 meters high, the village provides excellent views over Lake Ohrid and other sections of Galičica National Park.

Interestingly, there are quite a few guesthouses situated in the village, largely thanks to its scenic setting. But there were hardly any signs of life during my short walk through town.

As you explore the tranquil village, be sure to seek out the public spring where you can fill up your water bottle.

Hiking Galičica National Park
Hiking Galičica National Park

When finished in Velestovo, take the trail heading south out of the village (situated further east than the uphill trail that led you here). Just outside the village, you’ll find what’s arguably the most breathtaking viewpoint of the entire day.

Sure, it’s more or less the same vantage point of the lake you’ve seen several times by now, but it never gets old!

Hiking Galičica National Park
Hiking Galičica National Park

Continue heading slightly downhill and you’ll reach a point where various paths converge. Now you’ll have to make a decision. 

If you’re hoping for a shorter hike, you can take a westward trail that will bring you back to the ‘Church St Rodeztvo na Presveta Mala Bogorodica’ mentioned above. And back at the church, you can easily walk down to the abandoned village of Shipokno.

Or, you can continue heading south, further away from central Ohrid, to the village of Konjsko. While you’ll still be able to visit Shipokno eventually, the detour to Konjsko will add a couple of hours and around 7 km onto your total journey.

Hiking Galičica National Park
Hiking Galičica National Park

While I hadn’t initially been planning to visit Konjsko during my hike, I was making good time and still feeling energized, largely thanks to the flatness of the trails. And so I made the spontaneous decision to extend my hike.

While I enjoyed the extra exercise and found Konjsko to be an interesting village, the walk there isn’t particularly thrilling. If you’re feeling a bit hungry, however, you can reward yourself with a stop at Konjsko’s modern restaurant which overlooks the lake.

The Walk to Konjsko

As mentioned, the hour-long walk from Velestovo to Konjsko is largely uneventful. It is, however, quite relaxing, and I had the entire trail to myself.

You’ll largely find yourself traversing through grassy meadow after grassy meadow. The trees obscure the views of the lake for much of the walk, though there are a few sections where it opens up.

While the walk is pretty straightforward overall, the trail disappears at some points. But as long as you keep heading in the same general direction, it’s difficult to get lost.

Hiking Galičica National Park

Finally, after the easy but monotonous walk, the village of Konjsko will come into view in the distance. While information about the place is hard to come by, it’s a rather interesting village to explore. It seems to be half-abandoned, half-inhabited.

Hiking Galičica National Park

Descending into the village, you’ll pass by a series of haunting abandoned structures, some of which must’ve been rather impressive and charming just a few decades ago.

If you’re hiking Galičica National Park in summer, you’ll be relieved to find yet another public tap where you can refill your water bottle.

Hiking Galičica National Park
Hiking Galičica National Park

Descending deeper into the village, you’ll eventually need to make a U-turn. This is the farthest point from central Ohrid you’ll reach on this trek.

Start heading back north along the town’s main road. In addition to some more interesting buildings, you’ll pass by a modern restaurant called ‘Minami’ on your left. 

Not anticipating this, I’d bought plenty of snacks with me and wasn’t feeling hungry, but this would’ve been a nice place to break up the journey.

Hiking Galičica National Park
Another abandoned building
Hiking Galičica National Park
Konjsko's local church

Onward to Shipokno

Continue north along the road for a while, which fortunately hardly sees much traffic. By now, the lake will have come back into view, and you can take in the scenery on the gentle downhill walk to Shipokno.

Hiking Galičica National Park
Hiking Galičica National Park
Hiking Galičica National Park

Before long, the road will have turned into a trail again and you’ll be able to see some of Ohrid’s modern resort complexes at the bottom of the hill. But it’s not quite time to head down there.

You’ll soon reach a crossroads where the trail splits into two. To visit the abandoned village of Shipokno, take the trail on the right and you’ll reach it in several minutes. After exploring the village, you’ll need to come back to this point later.

Shipokno is rather small, but well worth the slight detour – especially if you’re interested in abandoned buildings. There are around 10 or so abandoned structures in the area, but it’s not clear just how or why they met their fate.

Considering the beauty of the area, it wouldn’t be surprising to find modern developments taking their place sometime in the near future.

Hiking Galičica National Park

After walking through the entire village, turn around and walk back to the point where the trail forks into two. It’s now finally time to start making your way down the mountain.

Hiking Galičica National Park
Hiking Galičica National Park
Hiking Galičica National Park

Sveti Stefan and the Walk Back to Ohrid

After taking the lefthand path, there should be yet another trail branching off to the left that will take you further west. As evidence by the GPX route, I missed this other trail and ended up walking north before making a sharp U-turn back southwest. 

All in all, the detour only probably cost me about ten minutes, and it’s around here that I spotted yet another modern restaurant complex.

Hiking Galičica National Park

In any case, you’ll briefly return to a road before making a sharp turn on a path that will take you downhill and west toward the lake. As you get closer to the church, you’ll encounter a few staircases, making this a very easy descent.

While the churches encountered on the hike thus far have largely been unremarkable, the unique cave church of Sveti Stefan is a major exception.

Hiking Galičica National Park

Arriving at the monastery, Sveti Stefan may not look especially unique at first glance. But notice how the structure seems to have been partially swallowed by the rockface behind it. Stepping inside, it only gets more interesting.

While the church is tiny overall, cave churches (and temples) have a special atmosphere that can never be replicated by manmade structures.

The church was first established in the 14th century, but the outer structure has clearly been renovated quite recently. Fortunately, the interior retains its shadowy atmosphere and mystical feel. And it makes for an interesting finale to the long, hot hike.

Hiking Galičica National Park
Hiking Galičica National Park

Leaving the cave church and making your way toward the lake, the transition between the two environments couldn’t be more jarring. This particular portion of southern Ohrid happens to be home to the area’s most crowded and noisiest beach resorts.

With that being said, this would be a great opportunity to take a dip in the lake and cool off after the long hike. There’s a very long stretch of beach here which goes on and on as you make your way back to the city center. 

Not having anticipated this, I deeply regretted not having swimwear with me!

Hiking Galičica National Park

But whether you swim or not, you’ll eventually have to find a way back to central Ohrid. And if you’re traveling on foot, the walk can get rather boring and tedious.

If you’d prefer to get back onto a secluded nature trail, you could try heading back up to the mountain following your visit to Sveti Stefan. There, you can find a mountain trail taking you north toward central Ohrid for a couple of kilometers. You will, however, eventually find yourself back on the highway.

While I’m not familiar with the public transport system around here, it may be possible to find some kind of bus from the crowded resort area. A taxi would probably be pretty cheap from this point as well. 

Hiking Galičica National Park
A long, sunny pedestrian and cycling path on the way back to town
Hiking Galičica National Park
Back at Voena beach

For those making the long return on foot, you’ll eventually find yourself walking down a long pedestrian pathway, which sadly lacks any shade whatsoever. 

After returning to Voena beach, Ohrid’s Old Town will come into view, after which it’s a relatively short and scenic walk back to town.

Additional Info

Ohrid is arguably North Macedonia’s number one tourism destination. Accordingly, you’ll find direct connections with most Macedonian cities.

You can take a direct bus from Skopje or nearby Bitola. Just be sure to check the schedules at the bus station in advance. Buses were running on a reduced schedule due to the pandemic during my visit, and for some routes there were only a few buses per day.

If you’re coming from Bitola and no bus is about to depart, you can take a shared taxi from outside the bus station which will cost the same (around 200 MKD).

You can also take direct buses to Ohrid from neighboring countries, with buses coming in from as far away as Belgrade.

If you’re coming from southern Albania, figuring out the bus routes can be a bit tricky. There’s no direct bus from Korçë, despite its proximity to the border. Instead, you’ll need to take a bus to Porgradec (just across from Sveti Naum) and then another bus to the border.

After that, you’ll need to walk across the border and then find another bus or taxi for Ohrid on the other side. If you don’t have much luggage, you can even stop at Sveti Naum on the way.

While I’d planned to enter Ohrid from Korçë/Pogradec, I ended up needing to go pick up a package in Vlorë, where I’d previously been living. Fortunately, there was a direct bus from Vlorë to Ohrid that also made stops in Durrës and Elbasan.

I went with a company called Senad Tours, which took us through the border crossing to the north of the lake rather than the one near Sveti Naum. It was one of the easiest border crossings of my life, with none of us even needing to exit the minibus.

Ohrid’s bus station is a few kilometers out of town, and you’ll need to take a taxi to your hotel if they’re not willing to come and pick you up.

For those coming from farther away, Ohrid’s St. Paul the Apostle International Airport has direct connections with various cities throughout Europe.

Ohrid consists of the Old City area and the modern city just southeast of it. Ideally, you’ll want to stay within or as close to the Old City as possible. As Ohrid isn’t very large, staying somewhere in the modern city near the lake should be fine, as long as you’re within walking distance of the main attractions.

I stayed within the Old City in a place called Surban, situated just next to the ancient theater. For around €10 a night I had a private room with a shared bathroom. But as I was the only guest for the first few nights, this wasn’t a big deal.

While the room was rather small and simple, the host was incredibly helpful and kind. She even picked me up and dropped me off at the bus station for no extra charge.


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