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10 Best Places to Visit in Macedonia
Last updated on October 3, 2023 by Alex Schultz - 1 Comment
A fascinating country to explore that is still very much off the beaten path, Macedonia is blessed with incredible natural beauty and an intoxicating mix of cultures that draws on both Balkan and Mediterranean influences. Ruled at various times by the Romans, Ottomans, Serbs, and Soviets, there are a wealth of historic sites dotted around the country.
Among the best places to visit in Macedonia are old monasteries and hilltop fortresses. Mosques, Orthodox churches, and amazing archaeological ruins are also prevalent, and many of its cities have delightful Old Bazaars at their heart which date back to Ottoman times.
Map of the best places in Macedonia
Its mountainous landscape is home to glittering lakes and tinkling waterfalls and its three national parks are full of beautiful hiking trails that weave their way amongst the verdant hills and valleys. With its often turbulent past now behind it, Macedonia’s wealth of stunning tourist attractions makes it a fantastic, little-known destination that has a plethora of amazing things to see and do.
10. Strumica [SEE MAP]
Famed for the beautiful Byzantine monasteries lying just outside of the city, Strumica is located in the east of Macedonia. The surrounding countryside is full of magical waterfalls and mountains.
A quiet and relaxed city, Strumica is home to some lovely ruins and archaeological sites, such as the Roman Therma and the Carevi Kuli Fortress dates back to the 5th century.
While many people simply stop by on their way to the nearby border crossing into Bulgaria , the stunning countryside, historic sights, and the glittering Kolesino and Smolare waterfalls certainly warrant a longer stay. The best time of year to visit is during the Strumica Carnival, when the whole city comes together to celebrate, with various parades, music and traditional events taking place.
9. Prilep [SEE MAP]
Located beneath a bare hill adorned with the ruins of an old fortress, Prilep is full of history. It was once the ruling seat of a medieval kingdom; as such, there are lots of fantastic churches and monasteries scattered around.
Hiking up to the 10th-century fortress is a must when in Prilep for the breathtaking views it offers of the city down below. On the way, you’ll pass lots of strange and marvelous rock formations, such as the intriguing Stone Elephant.
A peaceful, laidback place, strolling around Prilep’s Old Bazaar is a lovely way to spend the day. The city’s numerous churches all have their own characteristics and distinctive features. The Sv. Blagoveshstenie Church is the undoubted highlight with its delightful galleries and woodcarvings.
8. Mavrovo National Park [SEE MAP]
The largest national park in the country, Mavrovo has loads to offer outdoor aficionados. Over the course of the year, you can explore its splendid scenery by horseback, kayak or skis, as well as on foot or via mountain bike.
Named after the scenic village located in the park, Mavrovo is home to the country’s largest artificial lake. While taking a boat trip on its tranquil waters, you’ll get to see the half-submerged St. Nicholas Church, a truly breathtaking sight.
With its wonderful natural beauty, Mavrovo is a lovely park to visit. Because it is home to the country’s highest peaks, there is plenty of great rock climbing and skiing to be had in winter, and the views on offer are spectacular.
7. Tikves Wine Region [SEE MAP]
Renowned for the fabulous wine it produces, Tikves’ undulating hills and valleys are home to fertile soils and the warm climate makes it perfect for cultivating grapes.
Wine has been produced here since the 4th century BC. The peaceful scenery is charming to tour around while stopping off at picturesque, quaint wineries and vineyards to taste the local produce.
In addition to the fabulous wine and scenery, Tikves Wine Region also has a number of churches, lakes and dramatic gorges for you to stop off at on the way to your next winery.
6. Pelister National Park [SEE MAP]
Established in 1948, Pelister National Park is a mountainous area which covers the Baba Mountain massif. The reserve is home to a host of endemic animals, among which are bears, wolves, and soaring eagles.
The oldest national park in the country, Pelister is home to two stunning glacial lakes which are nestled away amidst its towering peaks. These are delightfully known as Pelister’s Eyes.
With loads of diverse nature on show and a plethora of hiking trails twisting their way amongst the valleys and forests, Pelister is a joy to explore. The views from atop of Mount Pelister will take your breath away – if the hike hasn’t already. In addition to all of this, you can camp in the park or go skiing, depending on the time of year.
5. Bitola [SEE MAP]
Located not far from the border with Greece in the south of Macedonia, Bitola is the second largest city in the country. It is full of beautiful old buildings, delightful art galleries and a plethora of welcoming and friendly cafes.
Very much off the beaten path, Bitola is located amongst three different mountain ranges. As such, there is lovely scenery on show, as well as scenic walks amongst the verdant hills and mountains surrounding the city.
In town, visitors will find elegant, pastel-colored townhouses alongside beautiful mosques and churches, while the Old Bazaar dating to Ottoman times is a delightful place to grab a coffee and people watch. With a lively cultural scene, lots of festivals take place here over the year. Among the museums, the Museum of Bitola is particularly worth checking out; it provides a fascinating look at the city’s history and culture.
Founded in the 4th century BC, Bitola is one of the best places to visit in Macedonia. Just out of town are the amazing archaeological ruins of Heraclea Lyncestis, which are not to be missed. The Roman site is home to some splendid floor mosaics and the ruins of Roman baths.
4. Galicica National Park [SEE MAP]
Located between Lakes Ohrid and Prespa, the stunning Galicica National Park is a wild and wonderful place to visit. Hiking amongst the unspoiled and untouched valleys, forests and mountains will certainly delight nature lovers.
Dominated by the Galicica limestone massif that lies between the two lakes, the national park is home to a number of lofty peaks. From their summits are some breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.
With picturesque little mountain villages, an abundance of fantastic fauna and flora, and a diverse landscape that encompasses lakes, mountains and valleys, Galicica National Park’s natural beauty is well worth checking out when in Macedonia.
3. Skopje [SEE MAP]
Macedonia’s capital is an intriguing and interesting place to visit, in large part due to its eclectic architectural collection that includes beautiful Ottoman-era mosques, enormous Neoclassical buildings, and a huge array of gleaming, modern statues.
Inhabited for over six thousand years and ruled by countless empires and kingdoms, Skopje certainly has its fair share of historic sights. Among the most popular are the impressive 6th century Kale Fortress and the Stone Bridge, which both feature on the city’s coat of arms. Wandering around the Skopje’s atmospheric Old Bazaar will make you feel like you’re in the souks of old Istanbul.
Alongside its wealth of restaurants, shops, museums, and cafes, Skopje also has some great nightlife to offer, which revolves around the city’s main square. The square is home to the Porta Macedonia, a huge triumphal arch that celebrates twenty years of Macedonian independence. Lovely views and scenery are also on hand from the top of Mount Vodno that looms over Skopje to its southwest; it is adorned by the towering Millennium Cross, which is now a popular tourist attraction.
Located on the banks of the Vardar River, Skopje is certainly worth visiting when in Macedonia. While critics say it now has a theme park feel to it due to the recent proliferation of nationalistic and, at times, tacky monuments and statues, there is much to see and do of interest in this unique city.
2. Ohrid [SEE MAP]
Sometimes known as ‘the Jerusalem of the Balkans,’ as it was once home to 365 churches, Ohrid is a very historic town that is among the most beautiful and atmospheric in Macedonia.
Wandering around its old cobbled streets is a treat; you will pass by some delightful architecture and its quaint little restaurants and cafes make for a perfect stop when you feel like taking a break to watch the world go by. Among its most popular attractions is the captivating Samuil’s Fortress which overlooks the town, and the Church of Saints Clement and Panteleimon – one of the most impressive of the numerous churches in Ohrid.
What really sets Ohrid apart, however, is its beautiful location on the shores of Lake Ohrid. The town is blessed with numerous breathtaking views out over the turquoise waters. As well as taking a scenic stroll along the town’s shoreside boardwalk, visitors should not miss out on Saint John at Kaneo Church for the incredible panoramas it has out over the lake.
1. Lake Ohrid [SEE MAP]
Lying on the border between Macedonia and Albania, Lake Ohrid is spectacular; its beautiful clear blue waters glisten in the sun surrounded by mountains. Tourists are only now slowly returning to its shores after the break-up of Yugoslavia in the ‘90s.
One of the deepest and oldest lakes in Europe, Lake Ohrid is a very important and biodiverse ecosystem. It is home to a vast array of species that are endemic to the area, such as predatory fish and freshwater snails.
Its weaving shoreline is just as picturesque as its mirror-like waters; quaint villages and towns such as Ohrid and Struga are tucked away amongst glorious forests and alongside peaceful beaches. With loads of watersports, boat trips and swimming spots on offer to complement the incredible scenery, Lake Ohrid is one of the Balkans and Macedonia’s hidden gems.
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September 8, 2019 at 12:53 am
I went to skopje and it was wonderful in August, going back in November.
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Explore 10 of Macedonia's Top Natural and Historic Treasures
A crossroads between East and West, this tiny country is a treasure chest of historical monuments, natural wonders, and vibrant culture.
Macedonia might be one the world's most fascinating, and underpublicized, places. A former Yugoslavian republic, this tiny country—barely bigger than Vermont—is tucked between Greece, Albania, and Bulgaria on the Balkan Peninsula.
Modern-day Macedonia is a melting pot of Persian, Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Serbian, and Soviet flavors. Friends linger over coffee in outdoor cafes as throaty Slavic chatter drifts amid curls of cigarette smoke and clinking glasses of rakija . Rounded domes of Orthodox Christian churches share the skyline with towers of Muslim mosques, limestone-crusted mountains rise over quiet villages, and glittering lakes punctuate the wild countryside.
Whether you’re a city-dweller or outdoor adventurer, here are 10 reasons to plan a trip to Macedonia:
Hike Mount Ljuboten
The Shar Mountains rise to the clouds for 994 miles along northwestern Macedonia, reaching upwards of 8,000 feet. Mount Ljuboten’s prominent pointy peak (8,196 feet) demands attention. The five-hour hike to the top can be completed in a day. Villa Ljuboten Mountain Resort , a simple guesthouse perched at the treeline, at an elevation of 5,500 feet, is a great base. From there, follow soft, wildflower-dotted meadows to the windy summit. Soak in fantastic views of Macedonia and Kosovo before returning to the villa, where a warm fire and the hearty aroma of a home-cooked feast greet weary hikers.
Home to more than half a million people, Macedonia’s capital is a quirky blend of old and new. The first landmark to catch your eye is the 217-foot-high Millennium Cross , which crowns Vodno Mountain. A cable car whisks sightseers to the summit for easy viewing.
Also commanding attention is Kale Fortress , which has been presiding over the city since the sixth century A.D. Amble up the hill to venture inside the walls, partially built with stones from Scupi, a nearby ancient Roman city that has been crumbling into red poppy fields since an earthquake in A.D. 518.
A short stroll brings you to Skopje ’s downtown square, a unique medley of architectural styles. The scene is a product of Skopje 2014, a $700 million government project intended to spruce up the city. Instead, it earned kudos for being kitsch. Looming statues—including a huge Alexander the Great—are juxtaposed against baroque and neoclassical buildings and an Arc de Triomphe. Spouting fountains and colored lights add to the pizazz.
Cross the Stone Bridge and explore the Old Bazaar, where narrow, cobblestone streets have been alive with commerce since the 12th century.
Slither through a cave
Macedonia's limestone karst landscape is like Swiss cheese, riddled with more than 300 caves. Don a spelunking suit and squeeze through a small hole in the rocks to enter the underworld at Gorna Slatinska , a quarter-mile labyrinth that lets you through only if you’re willing to slither. By light of a headlamp, duck under eerie stalactites and dodge tiny bats that dangle from the ceiling. The local caving society, Ursus Speleos , researches caves in the area and can show you what they’ve found.
Rock climb or kayak in Matka Canyon
Less than 10 miles from Skopje is Matka Canyon , where the Treska River weaves past limestone cliffs before pooling in the emerald Matka Lake. Drive to the end of the road and nab a table on a stone terrace at the Canyon Matka Hotel’s lakefront restaurant . Rent a kayak and paddle upriver to Vrelo Cave , a deep chasm with lit pathways and wooden steps that leads to underground lakes. For those with less pep, motorboat tours are available.
Matka Canyon is also a magnet for rock climbers. A 40-minute hike leads to popular routes, many near the tiny Monastery of St. Nicholas Shishovski. If you’re not up for scaling rock walls, take a seat on the cliffhanger deck and watch. Macedonia Experience can show you around.
Hike the hills of Mavrovo National Park
Mavrovo is Macedonia’s largest national park, cradling the country’s highest peak: the 9,068-foot Mount Korab. Bears, lynx, wolves, deer, and 129 bird species roam the rolling forest and highlands of the park. Base yourself at Hotel Tutto , which is tucked into a hillside in the Radika River Valley. From there you can explore the park by foot, horse, mountain bike, or kayak. Winter is also a good time to visit—with your skis in tow.
Dive into history in Ohrid
Click your heels in Ohrid and you might think you’ve been transported to the Mediterranean. The crystal clear waters of Ohrid—one of the world’s oldest lakes—date back more than a million years. Tucked along the lush, hilly shore is the city of Ohrid, home to 56,000 people and one of the oldest settlements in Europe. The entire region is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage property.
Ohrid’s importance in religious history is evident in dozens of historic churches and monasteries, such as the Church of Saint John at Kaneo , which occupies a prominent perch on the edge of the lake. While stunning, it might be outdone by St. Panteleimon, the world’s oldest Slav monastery, where the intricate rockwork has been meticulously restored.
Wander the bustling streets of the Old Bazaar before venturing farther afield. To the south, Galicica National Park straddles a big hump between Ohrid and Prespa Lakes, which can be viewed from the 7,395-foot peak of Magaro Peak. Afterward, hop on a boat at Prespa Lake to Golem Grad, also called Snake Island. Yes, there are snakes, and more than 200 species of birds, including pelicans. Also check out the beautiful frescoes in the 14th-century St. Peter’s Church.
Paraglide Krusevo’s thermals
Krusevo , Macedonia’s highest city at an elevation of more than 4,400 feet, is nestled along a ridge that rises from the broad Pelagonia Valley, a geography that creates steady updrafts perfect for paragliding. Colorful wings paint the sky like brushstrokes—swirling, climbing, and gliding. Conditions are so prime that the World Air Sports Federation held the European Paragliding Championship here in 2016. If you’re looking to learn or give it a whirl, Heli XC can assist.
Visit the Painted Mosque
Every other religious monument in Macedonia might pale in comparison to the Painted Mosque , a 15th-century masterpiece in Tetovo. The exterior’s vibrant pattern of rectangular paintings framing lattice windows is just a hint of the grandeur within. Slip off your shoes and step inside. Your jaw might drop at the sight of the swirling geometric artwork that covers every inch of the walls and balconies.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Indulge in food and drink
One thing is for certain in Macedonia: You won’t go hungry. Forget about the clock at mealtime and prepare for a feast. Macedonian cuisine blends Turkish, Mediterranean, and Balkan themes. Burek , or “salty pie,” is a mainstay— a warm, doughy treat filled with spinach or cheese. It often starts a meal, along with ajvar (a red pepper and garlic sauce) and shopska salad of tomato, onion, cucumber, and green pepper topped with tangy sheep cheese.
Don’t be fooled into thinking the starters are the whole meal. The main course might be a hearty bean stew, peppers stuffed with ground meat, grilled lamb, or perhaps all three. Pair it with fine wine from one of the country’s 84 wineries—or your host’s home brew.
The national drink is rakija —a fiery brandy that burns your throat. You might have one too many, as Macedonians seem to find many reasons to say cheers.
Meet for coffee
“Meet for coffee” in Macedonia is actually code for coffee, beer, dinner, or even just hanging out. Macedonians love to socialize. Meet someone new, and you might make a friend for life.
Avery Stonich is a freelance writer based in Boulder, Colorado. She has traveled to more than 50 countries in search of adventure. Visit her website at averystonich.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram .
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Home » Travel Guides » Macedonia » 15 Best Places to Visit in Macedonia
15 Best Places to Visit in Macedonia
Although it’s easily accessible and comes complete with all the comforts of the Western world, the Republic of Macedonia is Europe’s best hidden treasure. The county is part Balkan, part Mediterranean and has been heavily influenced by Roman, Greek, Albanian, and Ottoman culture. It’s a stunning natural paradise with grand historic sites and ruins tucked into idyllic villages that haven’t seemed to change in centuries.
The surprising part is that you get all that, plus fully modern cities and luxuries right at your finger tips. It doesn’t seem that you could fit all that into one country, and maybe it’s because of its size that it gets overlooked. Macedonia is a wonderful representation of the Balkans with a wide variety of influences and ethnicities, modern cities and beautiful countryside, where life moves at its own unique pace. Let’s have a look at the best places to visit in Macedonia !
Skopje is most definitely Europe’s most eclectic capital city. Efforts have been made, rather successfully, to bring infuse new culture in the form of museums, fountains, bridges, and statuary throughout the city. The result is something grand that has come to symbolize a new national identity for all Macedonians.
The history still remains in places like Kameni Most (Stone Bridge), Sveti Spas Church, Tvrdina Kale Fortress, and the old Turkish bazaar Caršija. Be sure to check out the giant statue of Alexander the Great, commissioned to celebrate Macedonia’s 20th year of independence. The shopping and nightlife in Skopje are also something to experience – if this is what you’re looking for, head straight to Makedonija Street.
Bitola is an old Ottoman town once known as the “City of Consuls” because it served as a diplomatic centre for the region. Elegant and sophisticated are the best worlds to describe it. You’ll see colourful townhouses from the 18th century and Turkish mosques throughout.
The not-to-be missed and certainly often repeated experience is to sit along the Širok Sokak (Wide Street), sipping espresso, and watching everyone come and go. Bitola is the second largest city and is a favourite among Macedonians for its café culture and European atmosphere. Discover the Deboj Amam Turkish Bath (17th century), the Old Bazaar, Jeni Mosque, and Isak Beg Mosque (both 16th century).
Prilep is famous for a few unique things. First, agriculturally speaking, it’s Macedonia’s tobacco capital. Second, became known as “the city under Marko’s towers,” from when it was the medieval capital for Kings Marko and Volkasin – who populated the town with churches and monasteries.
Located in Western Macedonia Prilep has a distinctive landscape of huge rocks sparsely scattered at the base of a small hill. At the top of the hill are the ruins of a medieval fortress. The locals have a distinct flavour as well – which you can see in their humour and their dedication to preserving their traditions.
Though it only has 10,000 citizens, Kruševo was once its own republic. Macedonians equate the town with the centuries-long struggle to win independence from the Ottoman Empire. During the last revolution, as it looked like Macedonia might be successful, Kruševo experienced ten days of freedom before a massive Ottoman army burned the town and martyred national heroes like Pitu Guli and Nikola Karev, who led the revolution.
You can visit Mechkin Kaman and Makedonim, two monuments built to commemorate the uprising. As you explore the town you’ll learn the many reasons why August 2 is an important date throughout the country and such an intense point of pride. Nestled in the Baba Mountains, Kruševo features incredible architecture and several monasteries and churches worth visiting.
5. National Park Mavrovo
The perfect place for skiing, National Park Mavrovo is Macedonia’s biggest winter resort, covering over 730 sq km of forests, gorges, waterfalls, and karst fields. You can also see the country’s highest peak, Mt Korab, which stands at 2764m. No matter what time of year you visit, the high-altitude fresh air and the staggering vistas are more than worth the trip.
Nature lovers can wander among the diverse fauna and flora and take a hike around Mavrovo Lake. Galichnik and Janche are two quaint villages nearby, as is St. Jovan Bigorski Monastery.
6. Pelister National Park
The oldest of the three great national parks is Pelister, located in western Macedonia near Bitola. With nearby Mount Pelister (2600m), and eight other peaks that top 2000m, the vistas are a magnificent natural escape from daily life. The park is home to the five-needle pine molica – found on only a few mountains in the Balkan Peninsula – something all nature enthusiasts will love to see. There’s also roe deer, wolves, bears, chamois, eagles, partridges, and red billed jackdaws.
Pelister also has two wonderful mountain lakes, which the locals call Pelisterski Oci or Pelister’s Eyes, that offer great hiking opportunities like the Stone River – crushed rocks that form a path heading up the mountain slopes.
One of the most important archaeological sites in the country is found in Stobi. First founded in the 7th century by the King of Paeonia, the city changed hands several times, from the Macedonians, to the Romans and Byzantines.
Strategically located along an old Roman trading route, Stobi quickly became a hub for traders travelling from the Danube in Serbia to the Aegean Sea in Greece. The dig site is open every day and the town itself is just an hour drive from Skopje.
Most likely the top tourist spot in all of Macedonia, sunny Gevgelija has a reputation for fun and big times. It’s called the “Macedonian Las Vegas” because of the casinos, five star hotels, nightclubs, galleries, and concert venues. There are lots of opportunities for exclusive entertainment here but the fun is meant for all.
If you need to step away from the black jack table or the buffet, Gevgelija offers Smrdliva Voda, a spa with sulphur baths and over 400 villas to choose from. Nature is also on full display here with a sublime climate and a pine and deciduous forest, there is a rich biodiversity here that makes the region special for all of India.
There are well over 24,000 hectares of vineyards in Macedonia, as well as an incredible 2000 year history of viticulture. Deep in the fertile Vardar River Valley lies Povardarie, whose wines are well known throughout the world. The most popular varieties are Vranec and Smederevka – so be sure to sample them when you visit.
In Povardarie there are three wineries that you must discover for yourself: Winery Tikves, Stobi Winery, and Popova Kula. Popova Kula Winery is regularly ranked at the finest winery in the country. They produce over 20 wines and offer cooking lessons, accommodation, and folklore shows.
Strumica lies in Eastern Macedonia with a number of great attractions worth exploring. Enjoy hiking on Mt Belasica or head out to Smolare and Kolesino, two nearby waterfalls.
There are also some stunning monasteries, including tranquil Veljusa and Vodoca. Both are Byzantine and still occupied by both monks and nuns. Be sure to check out the incredible frescos at both. From there, head to St. Bogorodica Eleusa, built in the 11th century, the healing spa of the Roman Therma, as well as St Leontuis.
The largest town on Lake Ohrid, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ohrid has a remarkable history and heritage to share. At the top of the list are the frescoes inside Saint Sophia Church, the Ancient Theatre, St. Clement Church (13th century), and Tsar Samuel’s fortress – which has an unbelievable view over the city and lake.
The surrounding mountains reach upwards of 2800m, which means that Ohrid is not only culturally significant, but naturally breath-taking. It’s no stretch at all to say that Ohrid showcases the best of Macedonia. It’s a good idea to use the town as base camp to explore the lake as well as its many surrounding towns and monasteries. Just 30km away is St. Naum’s, one of the richest and oldest monasteries in the country.
A visit to Struga makes a great day trip from Ohrid. Nicknamed the “City of Poetry,” the town is relaxing and beautiful to stroll through. The national anthem, “Denes nad Makedonija se raga,” was written by Vlado Maleski, a poet born in Struga. In fact, the first time the anthem was publically sung was in the town itself.
You’ll enjoy the lively market at the Old Bazaar, St. George Church, the Halveti Teke, and a walk down Goce Delcev Street where you can see some well-preserved traditional houses.
13. The Monastery of St. Naum
A 30 minute drive from Ohrid will take you to Sveti Naum, an impressive 10th century monastery which sits on a high outcropping over the lake. Most popular for its excellent frescos, it’s also a relaxing and rejuvenating place. Some of the best religious paintings in all of the Balkans can be found here.
You’ll love the panoramic views of the lake and if you have time, the rowboat tour down the Drim River is highly recommended. Wrap up the day by popping over to one of the islands for dinner. Because it encompasses so much of what is phenomenal about Macedonia, this is the perfect place to end your tour.
14. Tikves Lake
Built in 1968, Tikves Lake is both the largest and oldest man-made lake in the country. It’s close to Kavadarci and makes the perfect Sunday afternoon family picnic spot. Scuba diving, sailing, kayaking, and canoeing are all on offer – plus you can paraglide or mountain bike in the summer and ski and snow board in the winter.
If you like fishing, spend a morning trying to land the sheat-fish, which can grow to be over two metres long. The valley itself is so fertile that many orchards and vineyards dot the landscape.
Outside of Skopje is Kumanovo. It’s one of the larger cities in the country and has a fantastic blend of Macedonian and Serbian culture. The Kumanovci are a feisty group and the town and outlying villages highlight the colourful multi-ethnic blend of Roman, Serbian, Albanian, and Turkish minorities.
Check out Kostoperka Karpa, a unique rock formation, the Church of St George, the monument to Batko Gjorgjija – a local , legendary, and much loved bohemian.
15 Best Places to Visit in Macedonia:
- National Park Mavrovo
- Pelister National Park
- The Monastery of St. Naum
- Tikves Lake
The 10 Most Beautiful Travel Destinations In Macedonia
Due to its lack of coastline and inland location, Macedonia is often overlooked as a holiday destination and is widely unvisited even by the most seasoned travelers of Europe . Yet with its UNESCO world heritage national parks, dramatic mountain ranges and the captivating Lake Ohrid, the country is home to some of the continent’s most jaw-dropping scenery, as well as a host of hidden, gorgeous destinations. Here’s our guide to the top ten most beautiful spots to wonder at, and wander around, whilst in Macedonia.
1. Mavrovo National Park
Church, Park, Ski Resort
Mavrovo National Park
The largest of Macedonia’s national parks, Mavrovo boasts some of the best scenery in the country and is an ideal travel destination for nature lovers. The Mavrovo Mountain peak is the highest in the region, thus the park is also a popular destination for climbers, and it operates as a winter ski resort too, bustling with snowy adventures. Lake Mavrovo stretches out over an expanse of 10 kilometers and makes for some of the country’s best trout fishing, whilst also being a wonderful place to swim, sail and walk. Visitors to the lake should be sure to take some time to marvel at the half-submerged Church of St Nicolas, once left completely underwater by floods in the 1950s before gradually re-emerging to form the mystical sight that it is today. Explorers should bring a tent and spend a few peaceful days enjoying the tranquility of the park’s lush expanse of forests, lake, and craggy mountains. For those who don’t want to rough it, the neighboring village of Mavrova offers a small selection of cozy hotels and restaurants.
Mavrovo National Park, Mavrovo, Macedonia .
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Another of Macedonia’s beautiful cities, Bitola, lies nestled within the Baba, Nitze, and Kajmakčalan mountain ranges. Thus ensuring some dramatic, eye-popping scenery. Largely untouched by the tourist industry, this town is Macedonia’s secret cultural hub, with its refined galleries, museums, restaurants and thriving coffee shop culture making it one of the best places to socialize in Macedonia. From its rock monument Veluška Tumba dating back to prehistoric times, to its neoclassical buildings not unlike the quirky streets of New Orleans, Bitola is a gorgeous melange of architectural styles and is the perfect place to take some great photographs. Home to The Bitola Museum and various beautiful churches and mosques, notably including the elegant Yeni mosque, there is simply no reason not to visit Bitola.
It would be a travesty not to visit the nation’s capital whilst in Macedonia, and Skopje does not disappoint in terms of urban beauty. Situated on the Vardar river, the city is an important European trade center exporting chemicals and machinery worldwide, and it is also beginning to make a name for itself as an international travel destination. Having at one time or another been ruled by the Romans, the Serbians, and the Ottomans, the city’s layout and architecture exude a vibrant, diversified feel which reflects its colorful past. With a landscape incorporating Ottoman-era mosques and the imposing structures of the communist era, visitors can be ensured a lively and compelling tour around the city. Take a wander to the Porta Macedonia , the city’s main square, which is home to the famous Independence Day celebrations every year on September 8th. During this time Skopje comes alive with fireworks, parades, and musical performances.
This charming village is situated in the crater of an extinct volcano on the slopes of Mount Osogovo. Known for its bridges and towers built in the Middle Ages, Kratovo is a postcard scene of winding lanes, cobbled streets, and rustic stone buildings. Separated by the Tavacka river, Kratovo was once an important mining town before it became largely modernized, and thus there is a real feeling of nostalgia evoked when exploring the streets here. With some of the friendliest locals in the country, visitors can expect an abundance of helpful historical advice and information, that is if they can understand the unique Kumanovo-Kratovo dialect spoken here.
4. Pelister National Park
Park, Ski Resort
Pelister National Park
Renowned for its diverse ecology and hiking trails, a visit to Pelister National Park makes for a great walking holiday. Here hikers can view a diversified range of flora and fauna, and will perhaps be lucky enough to spot a roe deer, a wild boar or a red-billed chough. A celebrated ski resort alongside Mavrovo, Pelister is an intimate destination and a great spot in which to take advantage of 1172 meters of vertical descent void of the crowds of other popular ski resorts. As well as gorgeous natural camping grounds, there are a number of hotels dotted around the park and Bitola is only 30 km away, meaning that visitors can split their time between the urban buzz of the city and the refreshing natural beauty of the park.
Pelister National Park, Macedonia.
Lying on Lake Ohrid, but without the hustle and bustle of its main town, Struga enjoys the picturesque lakeside scenery without the crowds. With its mild climate and relatively quiet beaches, holidaying in Struga feels magically like a seaside retreat within a country that doesn’t have a coastline. With a number of lake watersports on offer as well as a good choice of inexpensive hotels in the pleasant town center, this is a place in which to sit back, relax and enjoy the surrounding forest and mountain scenery within the comfort of a typical Macedonian town. The Black Drin river divides the city and thus provides the perfect setting for a number of little cafes and restaurants which border its banks.
6. Heraclea Lynkestis
The ruined town of Heraclea Lynkestis has a fascinating past and is thus a must-visit for history lovers. Founded by the Macedonian King Phillip II in the fourth century BC, this ancient ruined town was conquered by the Greeks and soon became an important Hellenistic stronghold. The town was then named after the Greek mythological hero Hercules, son of Zeus, before being taken over by the Romans in the second century BC. The empire split the country of Macedonia into four parts, and one of the main Roman roads connecting the sections ran through Heraclea. It thus became an important center of trade and commerce, and many Roman buildings were erected here by emperor Hadrian. The town then went on to be ruled by the Byzantine empire before falling into disrepair and becoming ruined. Nowadays tourists can wander around an ancient Roman theater used during the rule of Antoninus Pius, and can explore intricate Byzantine mosaics. A trip to this town makes for a riveting day out steeped in Macedonian history.
Heraclea Lynkestis, Bitola, Macedonia.
7. Matka Canyon
For adventurers and nature enthusiasts, the Matka canyons stretch over 5,000 hectares of land and provide some of the best canyoning adventures in Europe. Not only does the complex include 10 natural caves ideal for exploring by foot or by climbing, it is also the site of a number of Medieval buildings, including ruined monasteries as well as the remains of the ancient town of Matka. With its glass-like turquoise waters and craggy gorges, the Matka Canyon offers easily some of the best scenery in the country and beyond, and with the rustic, chalet-style Canyon Matka Hotel and Restaurant on hand to provide traditional Macedonian cuisine and hospitality, visitors can be ensured a place to rest and refuel after their excursions.
Matka Canyon, 1 Village Matka, Dolna Matka, Macedonia.
This sleepy fishing village is another of Lake Ohrid’s hidden gems. Situated at the point of Macedonia which is closest to Albania, visitors can enjoy a culture here rich with the influences of both nations, and can even hop across the border for a wonderfully varied traveling experience. Calm, tranquil and picturesque, Radožda offers a taste of real Macedonian rural life and history, with the town first having been mentioned in historical documents between 1342 and 1345. The Saint Archangel Micheal Church makes for an excellent day out, having been built into a mountainside just above the village centuries ago. A true piece of untouched paradise by the lakeside, visitors should be sure to put this town on their list and experience the authentic lifestyle, food, and culture of its native people.
Radožda, Macedonia. By Megan O’Hara
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The Ultimate Macedonia bucket list: 28 Places in Macedonia you absolutely have to visit
Macedonia is probably one of the most fascinating but still underpublicized tourist destinations in Europe . You might not think there aren’t too many interesting places to visit in a country barely bigger than Vermont but you’d be wrong. Macedonia today is a melting pot of Persian, Roman, Ottoman, and Slavic cultures where most cities’ skyline is dominated by both, Orthodox Christian churches and mosques and where the omnipresent limestone-crusted mountains rise over the quiet countryside. There are many good reasons why should you visit this lovely country and hopefully, this article will show you some of them. Here are the 28 best places to visit in Macedonia. Let’s start at the beginning:
Skopje, not your typical European capital
If you’re looking for places to visit Macedonia, the capital, Skopje , will probably be your first stop. Skopje will show you how Macedonians embraced a modern European way of living while still preserving their ancient past. There is no better example of this than the Stone Bridge, which connects the new, modern part of Skopje to the Old Ottoman Quarter , and crossing it will make you feel like traveling back in time. Some other interesting sights include the Kale Fortress, Skopje’s own standing guard, the city square, Vodno Hill, and the Mother Teresa Memorial House (she was actually born in Skopje). While you’re here, you should also not miss…
The deepest underwater cave in Europe
Stobi, the ancient capital
If you’re a fan of history and looking for places to visit in Macedonia, Stobi is always a great idea. Stobi was the capital of the Macedonia Secunda province during the Roman times. It was one of the most important ancient capitals in the region, lying on the route that connected the Danube River with the Aegean Sea. In just one hour driving away from Skopje and 120 denars (2 EUR), you can get an ultimate glimpse of history .
Shara, the mountain of ice lakes
Spreading across 80 kilometers, the Shar Mountain is the longest mountain massif in the country. It’s here that you’ll find some of the highest mountaintops in the country, with the highest one being Titov Vrv, named after Josip Broz Tito sitting on 2 748 meters. The massif also has a very diverse flora and fauna featuring over 100 species, including the very rare Balkan Lynx. The Shar Mountain is also home to probably the best skiing center- Popova Shapka and over 20 breathtaking ice lakes. If you’re looking for an ultimate winter paradise destination, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Gonoi, the “beauty cave”
Mavrovo, an underwater church, and a 7-day wedding
When talking about places to visit in Macedonia, we have to mention Mavrovo; the largest National in Macedonia, spreading across 192,000 acres. It has an amazing nature and diverse wildlife and some of the most famous skiing resorts in Macedonia. Mavrovo Lake is another beautiful place that attracts a lot of photographers from around the country throughout the year.
Mavrovo also has its own underwater church which was flooded in 1953 when a severe earthquake damaged the dam containing the local lake. The church today is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the region. Another place to visit around Mavrovo is St. Jovan Bigorski, one of the most beautiful monasteries in the country that supposedly has a few pieces of the legendary cross Jesus was crucified in its foundation. Finally, while you’re here, don’t forget to visit Galicnik, one of the most beautiful small villages in Macedonia which is one of the last places where you can witness a traditional Macedonian wedding that lasts for 7 days. This happens every year in the month of July. Finally, if you want to get there, you’ll have to drive on arguably the most scenic road in the country!
Related: Unique wedding destinations
Enjoy the stunning nature of Lazaropole
These are two beautiful villages that many locals don’t know about. This whole area is so green that it will shock your senses. The lovely countryside parceled out in patches of green and brown, over roads and rivers winding through the landscapes always makes me wonder how there aren’t more tourists around. This is one of those places that will make you forget about your daily struggles and just enjoy nature as the gurgling waters of Gari River sing the hum of the turning earth.
If you want to get to places like this, the best option is to rent a car. Use this link and save 15% on all car rentals the country.
A cave that looks like it came out of Lord of the Rings
The oldest lake in Europe
No bucket list of the best places to visit in Macedonia is complete without a trip to Ohrid . This UNESCO World Heritage city is probably the best destination in Macedonia for a summer vacation. Ohrid also has the nickname The Jerusalem of the Balkan because, at one point in time, it had 365 churches- one for every day of the year. The city is also home to Ohrid Lake- a 4 million years old lake that happens to be the oldest one in Europe . While you’re at Ohrid, you should visit the Kaneo Monastery, the Ancient Theatre, St. Clement- what was once arguably the oldest university in Europe, and the Samuel’s Fortress, where you can experience an amazing view of the city.
A beautiful monastery that hangs off a cliff
Located around 25 kilometers away from Ohrid, this stunning monastery located on a rocky cliff near the Albanian border is one of the most spectacular places to visit in Macedonia. Here, you’ll enjoy some panoramic views of Lake Ohrid, find some 16th-century frescoes, and the grave of St. Naum, one of the most important people in Macedonia’s history. Read more about traveling to Albania .
The Bay of Bones
Roughly halfway between Ohrid and St. Naum, you’ll find the legendary museum on water, known as the Bay of Bones. This is actually a reconstruction of an ancient settlement that was built by the Romans between 1200 and 700 BC.
The Galicica National Park and endangered Balkan Lynx
Spreading across an area of 25,000 acres, Galicica is the smallest National Park in Macedonia. If you’re lucky, you can see the endangered Balkan Lynx. There are 36 of them in Galicica and there are also small populations of bears and wolves. Galicica is home to arguably the most famous hiking trail in the country which leads to the top of the mountain, from where you can see the Ohrid Lake on your right, and the Prespa Lake on the left. In my opinion, this is the most beautiful view in the whole country and personally, one of my favorite places to visit in Macedonia! No matter how many times I visit, I just can’t get enough of the peaceful atmosphere at the top.
A village that’s 1,000 years old
This sleeping, charming fishing village is a place that not many locals know about. This is the closest inhabited place to the Albanian border. Hence, you’ll witness a rich culture with influences from both nations and you can even hop across the border if you fancy. This calm and picturesque village will give you a real taste of Macedonian rural life and history, as Radozda is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in Macedonia. It was first mentioned in historical documents in 1342!
Trpejca, the St. Tropez of Macedonia
Macedonia’s very own Snake Island
The Snake Island is one of the most unusual places to visit in Macedonia. It’s one of only few islands in a landlocked country in the world. On this island, you’ll find a lot of pelicans, turtles, and cormorants, as well as some endemic species of trees. However, what makes this island famous (and also a bit dangerous to visit) are snakes.
The island today is open for visitors and has been since 2008. However, the large presence of snakes, especially in their mating season makes it very difficult (and not so recommendable) to visit.
Bitola, the second-largest city tourists don’t know about
Even though often underrated in terms of visitors , Bitola deserves a special mention when it comes to places to visit in Macedonia. Bitola is the second-largest city in Macedonia with a great all-around sampling of Macedonian culture, dining, and day trip options. Some places you can’t miss while in Bitola are the Magnolia Square, the Old Bazaar, and Sirok Sokak, Bitola’s very own Champs Elysees. While you’re around, you also shouldn’t miss…
And another ancient capital
In the ancient world, Bitola was known as Heraclea, founded in the 4th century B.C. by Phillip the Second of Macedon. These fascinating ruins are only 2 kilometers away from the city and the archeological park is home to several buildings that are more than 3,500 years old! Another very notable attraction are the beautiful floor mosaics that depict religious imagery dating back to the Byzantine era.
Pelister and the most beautiful mountain lakes in the country
Located around 30 kilometers away from Bitola, you will find Macedonia’s oldest national park, created in 1938. Pelister is widely famous for its diverse flora and fauna that includes the five-leafed Molika pine, Pelagonian trout, wild boars, wolves, deer, and eagles, as well as the breathtaking hiking trails. My favorite place in this National Park are the two glacial lakes, known as the Eyes of Pelister, situated on the highest point of the national park.
Krusevo, the ultimate paragliding spot
See exactly how Roman baths used to look like!
Located around 12 kilometers away from Strumica, you’ll find Bansko- one of the largest hot water springs on the Balkan. These Roman baths have been around since the 2nd century BC and remain one of the last remnants of Roman times to be preserved in such great shape. The bath has 11 rooms, including rooms for the sick, massage rooms, and rooms for cold baths.
For the cheapest flights to Macedonia, use this Qatar Airways special offer .
Smolari, the highest waterfall in the country
Also located near Strumica, Smolari is the tallest waterfall in Macedonia, rising above nearly 30 meters. The waterfall is a part of the Lomnica River and if you want to get there, you have to pass a trail that includes 300 stone steps. The beautiful nature surrounding the falls makes Smolari one of the hotspots for picnics and camping.
Kavadarci, the wine capital
Berovo, the city with the cleanest air
Hidden in the Malesevo Mountains, Berovo is one of the smallest towns in Macedonia. In recent years, Berovo has become an attractive tourist destination, especially in the winter. Berovo is the city with the cleanest air in the Balkan Peninsula and the city that gets the most sunny days out of all cities in Macedonia , with an average of 6.4 hours per day. Three things Berovo is famous for are the legendary Berovo potato, the cheese, and the traditional skill of wood-crafting.
Ponikva, the ultimate mountain getaway
The mountaintop where you can be in two countries at the same time
Ruen is the highest top of the Osogovo Mountains, elevating up to 2,252 meters. Like many other mountaintops in Macedonia, Ruen offers spectacular views and beautiful, pristine trails where you can get away and feel isolated from the rest of the world. However, what makes this top special is that it’s located right on the border with Bulgaria . Hence, both, Macedonia and Bulgaria account this top as part of their territory and by making it to the top, you can actually get to a location where you can have your two feet in two different countries.
Stanecki, another divine waterfall
The Stanecki Falls are located in the northern part of the Osogovo Mountains, 8 kilometers south of Kriva Palanka. This place lies off the beaten track and getting here isn’t easy as the Kozjak Valley Trail is really tight and almost vertical on several places but once you get there, it’ll be worth it.
A wonder of nature: the stone dolls of Kuklica
The Stone Dolls of Kuklica is another monument that started gaining popularity in recent years. This fascinating, stone town was formed as a result of natural erosion processes but that didn’t stop locals from creating legends about these strange stone pillars.
One of them is that a woman who was supposed to marry a man saw him marrying another woman and cursed them and all the guests and turned them to stones. Nevertheless, this place looks different than anything I saw before and it’s certainly worth visiting.
One of the oldest space observatories in the world
Helpful resources for visiting Macedonia
For the cheapest flights to Macedonia, use this Qatar Airways special offer . In case you’re wondering, yes it is an affiliate link but I also use it when booking my flights.
For the best travel insurance for you trip to Macedonia, check out these SafetyWing deals .
Looking to rent a car in Macedonia? Use this link to save 15% on all car rentals.
If you want to save on accommodation, use this Booking discount code and this IHG Hotels special offer .
Finally, check whether you need to obtain a visa before your trip to Macedonia. If you do, you can easily obtain it through IVisa without going to the local Macedonian embassy. I used their services a few times and I can’t recommend them enough.
How did you like this list of places to visit in Macedonia? Have you heard about some of these before? Would you like to visit Macedonia and some of them and did this article give you any ideas? Let me know in the comments!
Wednesday 15th of January 2020
Wow looks like such an amazing place to visit! I totally agree with you ! I love adventure but I'll pass on snake island ! Can't imagine why any One would go there ! What's the good spas with the best massages? I have to have massages lol ! ❤
Macedonia is one of those few places in Europe that hasn't been a tourist destination yet and you should totally visit it.
Tuesday 29th of January 2019
Documents of the Continued Existence of Macedonia and the Macedonian Nation for a period of over 2500 years http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/ConciseMacedonia/Documents.html
Well done Passport Symphony very well presented and informative
Thank you, Steve- I really appreciate it.
Monday 7th of January 2019
I love Macedonia as one of my best friends is from there, have visited so many times and we always go off the grid and visit the less touristy places. I loved this list and realize despite having hbeen there so many times, there are a few things I've missed out on.
Tuesday 8th of January 2019
It's awesome that one of your best friends is from here and I'm glad you visited so many places around. I hope you visit again and discover some of the places on this list.
Thursday 3rd of January 2019
Whoa! Macedonia is just wonderful! I recently visited Budapest and came to know of Underwater caves. Good to know the biggest one is here in Macedonia! Being a history enthusiast, Stobi will be my top priority along with Bitola and Bansko. Peshna is fascinating too. I should go now to check the flight costs to here, esp in July...
Friday 4th of January 2019
Well, we're not sure if it's the biggest as it still hasn't been fully explored but it is possible :) I hope you get the chance to visit soon :)
Peter Moore | 31 May 2022
9 things you must do in north macedonia.
A little bit Balkan, a little bit Mediterranean, North Macedonia has been shaped by the empires that have conquered it. Expect natural beauty, fascinating ruins and a lively and hospitable local culture...
1. Walk through the ages in Skopje
Statue of Alexander The Great, Macedonia Square (Shutterstock)
The North Macedonian capital is a quirky mix old and new. Kale Fortress has been guarding the city since the sixth century AD and is partly built from stones from a nearby Roman city that was destroyed by an earthquake 518 AD.
A huge, kitschy statue of Alexander The Great has been standing rampant in Macedonia Square since being unveiled in 2011. Walk the streets and you’ll find a surprise around every corner.
The Old Bazaar on the eastern bank of the Vardar River remains much the same since its medieval heyday: a labyrinth of narrow, cobblestone streets where hawkers sell their wares. Macedonia Square tempers Alexander’s grandiosity with a line of Baroque and Neoclassical buildings.
And looking over the entire city, the 217ft high Millennium Cross sits atop Vodno Mountain. Catch the cable car for astounding views.
2. Hike to the top of Mount Ljuboten
The Šar Mountains (Shutterstock)
Looming high along North Macedonia’s north-west edge, the Šar (or Sharr) Mountains form a natural barrier with the country's northern neighbours. It is home to untouched landscapes, abundant wildlife and some of the best (and least-used) hiking trails in Europe.
One of the best is the hike to the top of Mount Ljuboten, a pyramid-shaped peak that stands 8,196 feet above sea level, and takes five hours to climb.
In winter, it is snow-capped. In spring, it is carpeted in wildflowers. Lynx and wild goats roam its slopes. Eagles and hawks fly above it. And at the top, it feels like the whole of North Macedonia and Kosovo lay before you.
A simple guesthouse is situated at the treeline, making a great base for your climb. On your return from the summit, you’ll be greeted by a warming fire and a hearty homemade feast of North Macedonian treats.
3. Stand in awe at the Painted Mosque in Tetovo
The gilded interior of the Painted Mosque (Shutterstock)
Get ready for a technicolour treat. The Painted Mosque in Tetovo, 43km from Skopje, is one of the brightest sights you’ll see in North Macedonia.
Built in the 15th century, razed to the ground in the 17th and rebuilt in the 19th, no colour in the artist's palate has been left unused on its stunning interior.
Sitting on the southern side of the Pena River, the exterior of the mosque only gives a hint of the splendours within – just a few brightly coloured rectangles framing the lattice windows, that’s all.
Inside, every inch of the walls and balconies are covered with flamboyant frescoes, painted in floral, geometric and arabesque patterns. Slip your shoes off, step inside and prepare for your senses to be overwhelmed.
4. Kayak through the stunning Matka Canyon
Kayaking Matka Canyon (Shutterstock)
Kayaking through Matka’s awe-inspiring canyon is a highlight of any visit to North Macedonia. From water-level, the rugged cliffs seem even more imposing.
Their mood changes throughout the day, as the sun drifts across their face, shadows dancing across the stone. Best of all? The canyon is less than 10 miles from downtown Skopje.
Kayaks are the only watercraft individuals are allowed to use here and the trip up to Vrelo Cave and back is the most popular paddle. Simply hire a kayak from just in front of the Canyon Matka Hotel and set off.
Kayaking to the cave and back takes about two hours, but leave time to explore the cave, which has a series of dimly lit paths and wooden stairways, leading to a series of underground lakes.
5. Eat, drink and be merry
North Macedonia is famous for its hearty local food (Shutterstock)
North Macedonian’s love their food and are determined that you do, too. A tasty mix of Turkish, Mediterranean and Balkan cuisines, every meal is a feast with you the special guest.
Burek , or 'salty pie', is a staple. You’ll find this warm, doughy treat, filled with spinach or cheese, everywhere. Ajvar , a red pepper and garlic sauce, is ubiquitous, as is shopska , a salad of tomato, onion, cucumber, and green pepper topped with tangy sheep cheese.
And that’s just for starters. You’ll also be plied with tavče gravče , a hearty bean stew, peppers stuffed with ground meat, sarmi (stuffed cabbage) and an assortment of grilled meat.
Pair it with a nice wine from one of the country’s 84 wineries – those from Sopot are particularly well regarded - and you have pretty much the perfect North Macedonian meal.
6. Search for wildlife in Mavrovo National Park
A European lynx in the wild (Shutterstock)
Mavrovo is North Macedonia’s largest National Park and arguably its most beautiful. A kaleidoscope of gorges, pine forests, karst fields and waterfalls, it is the perfect place to break your travels between Lake Ohrid and Skopje.
In winter, it is home to the country’s best ski slopes. But it is in summer when the park truly comes into its own. Within the park’s boundaries you’ll find monasteries, cheese makers and pretty villages like Janče and Galičnik, famous for its traditional village wedding festival, one of the country’s quirkiest summer festivals.
There’s wildlife too, including bears, lynx, wolves and deer – and 123 species of birds, many endemic to the rolling forests and highlands here.
7. Commune with God and nature at Lake Ohrid
Church of Saint John at Kaneo (Shutterstock)
There’s nowhere quite like Lake Ohrid. A beguiling shade of blue, ringed by nature and dotted with ancient monasteries, it is the spiritual heart of North Macedonia. That’s why it’s one of the country’s most treasured gems. And why the whole area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The lake itself is a thing of breathtaking beauty. Stretching as far as the eye can see, it glitters and shimmers, one of the oldest lakes in the world, dating back more than a million years. Take a seat, preferably on a grassy hill overlooking it, and marvel at its many moods.
Tucked on one of those hilly shores you’ll find Ohrid, one of the oldest settlements in Europe. It is crammed with dozens of historic churches and monasteries, including the Church of Saint John at Kaneo. It is picturesquely perched on the edge of the Lake. St. Panteleimon, and is the world’s oldest Slav monastery, boasting intricate stonework that has been meticulously restored.
Further along the lake, 20 miles from Ohrid, you’ll find St Naum, one of the oldest and the richest monasteries in North Macedonia.
8. Wander through ancient Macedonia in Heraclea
A mosaic in Heraclea (Shutterstock)
Famous for its stunning mosaics, ancient amphitheatre and bathhouses, Heraclea is the best preserved ruins from the time of the ancient Macedonian Empire.
Polybius and Strabo wrote about it. Caesar tried to conquer it. And wandering around the atmospheric ruins is one of the most rewarding things you can do in North Macedonia today.
The ruins sit just south of Bitola, on the slopes just below the village of Bukovo. There’s a small museum with a few artefacts, but it is much more rewarding to amble through the ruins and discover its treasures, like the Episcopal church and the Roman baths, by chance.
9. Take time to stop and smell the coffee
A group of elderly men sit for drinking coffee in Skopje (Shutterstock)
Ever since the days of the Ottoman Empire, coffee has played an important part in North Macedonian social life and even religion.
Meeting for coffee is a part of everyday life, offering the chance to catch up with friends, share gossip and swap news. It is also incorporated into many traditional ceremonies like weddings and christenings.
It is believed there are over 5,000 coffee establishments in North Macedonia, from traditional Balkan coffee shops and kafeana (a type of coffee bar particular to the regions) to more modern, western style outlets.
Follow the lead of the locals. Grab a seat at an outdoor cafe, order something strong and black, and watch the world go by.
More things to do in North Macedonia:
How to spend 24 hours in skopje, short break guide to ohrid, wildlife watching in north macedonia’s national parks, related articles, looking for inspiration.
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Macedonia Tourist Attractions
Following is an overview of the best Macedonia tourist attractions, such as as various cultural heritage sights, restaurants, night clubs and bars, as well as natural beauties of the country – wonderful landscapes, lakes, old towns, villages
LAKES / SPRINGS / OLD TOWNS
Ohrid Lake – the Europe’s oldest lake and the most visited attraction in Macedonia.
Prespa Lake – with it’s area is known for it breathtaking beauty and cultural heritage.
Dojran Lake – although the smallest natural lake in Macedonia, still it has unique offers such as lake specialties, healing mud, D – Festival …
Berovo Lake – this far east site has many to offer but is best known for the amazing mountain climate.
MOUNTAINS / NATIONAL PARKS
Vodno – The park-forest Vodno is great spot to visit for recreation and beautiful view of Macedonia’s capital – Skopje
Shar Mountain – The most famous mountain in the Balkan area, Shara mountain will leave you breathless
Popova Shapka – if you are winter sports fan this Shar Mountain skiing center is something you must visit
Galicica mountain – amazing beauty between Prespa and Ohrid Lake. Once you witness those stunning landscapes you won’t want to leave
Millennium Cross – On the peak Krstovar, positioned on Skopje’s green protector – Vodno mountain
Skopje Fortress – one of the most iconic symbols of the capital city.
Stone Bridge – one of the most iconic symbols of the capital city, important cultural heritage monument.
Matka canyon and Vrelo cave – dive in into the mysteries of nature.
Paragliding has long tradition in Macedonia, thanks to the unique weather conditions, the mountain reefs and the wide valleys that provide positioning of challenging and new adventures
KAYAK OR ROCK CLIMB / MATKA CANYON / DEMIR KAPIJA GORGE
The Canyon Matka together with the lake and Demir Kapija Gorge represents one of the ten most beautiful canyons in Europe. Famous spot for rock-climbing and kayak fans.
Antient Cities – There are many, but only few are well known. They all hide stories from our distant past.
Kokino – this ancient megalithic observatory became famous ten years ago and it’s officially Nasa’s number four on the list of the oldest observatories in the world
Samuil’s Fortress – One of the most visited attraction that dates back to third century. Offers you a breath taking view of the city of Ohrid and the sky blue lake.
Skopje Fortress – one of the most iconic symbols of the capital city .
CHURCHES / MONASTERIES
“St. Jovan Bigorski” Monastery – is probably the largest monastery complex in Macedonia where the biggest monastic brotherhood resides.
“St. Panteleimon” Church (Plaoshnik) – is with no doubt one of the most sacred and important religious locality of Christianity on Balkans and further.
“St. Naum” Monastery – build by St Naum from Ohrid, one of the most significant disciples of Ss. Cyril and Methodius, known for his miraculous healing power.
“St. John the Theologian” Church – placed on the rocky hill, near the very end of the old part of Ohrid, it’s probably the most famous and visited church in Ohrid area.
Colourful Mosque, Tetovo – One of the most beautiful and most representative buildings in Macedonia, as well as the most recognizable site of the city of Tetovo.
Isak Mosque, Bitola – built in 1506, and it is one of the oldest preserved mosques in Bitola. It is opposite the Clock Tower and the Great Bezisten.
Daut Pasha Hamam, Skopje – built in the second half of the 15th century, at the time when Daut Pasha, Rumelia’s vizier, lived in Skopje. It is located near the Stone Bridge
The Sultan Murad Mosque and The Clock Tower – The oldest mosque ever built on the territory of the Balkans, built by the founder Sultan Murad II, the father of the well-known Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror in 1436
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26 Unique Things to do in Macedonia
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Last Updated on July 27, 2021
* The name of the country was recently changed from Macedonia to North Macedonia. However for people to find my articles on the country I will refer to it as both Macedonia and North Macedonia for the time being. There are many political and strong opinions about the name change so I just want to note that any negative or political comments will be deleted.
The small but gorgeous country of Macedonia is a land of natural and inexplicably beautiful attractions like rivers, mountains, waterfalls, wild animals, and more. It also has an innumerable amount of archaeological sites and museums for tourists who seek a dive into European history. If you are planning a trip to country, here are twenty-six things to do in Macedonia!
1. Visit Lake Ohrid
Lake Ohrid is an official UNESCO World Heritage Site that can be found in the mountains situated between Albania and Macedonia.
Its UNESCO status is due to the fact that it is arguably Europe’s oldest and deepest lake. There are many beautiful structures that have been built up around it and it is a popular spot for boating and diving. Take a tour to get the most out of the city!
2. Catch a Performance at the Ancient Theatre
The theatre has great Hellenistic roots and the Ancient Theatre of Ohrid is the only theatre in Macedonia that still exists from its Hellenistic age.
Not much is known about it as it has crumbled over the centuries. However, it is known to have been a central place of entertainment in Ohrid.
It was used for gladiator fights and Christian executions and is now used for dance, concerts, and other performances.
3. Visit the Bay of Bones
If you are able to catch a performance at the Ancient Theatre and have time to spare, then another historical attraction awaits at the Bay of Bones. The Bay of Bones is a floating archaeological complex found along the Ohrid coast, at the excavation site of Ploca Micov Kamen.
The complex is a deliberate and accurate reconstruction of the prehistoric settlement that was once there and is one of the most popular historical places to visit in Macedonia.
4. Take an Easy Walk Through Peshna Cave
Peshna Cave is a very secluded and relatively unknown cave situated about 7km of Makedonski Brod town. A Macedonian cultural monument, the entrance to the cave is the largest in the Balkans.
The complex inside the cave has been typified to the caves in the Lord of the Rings and right in character, there is a Middle-Ages fortress at the entrance to the cave. The cave is large and well maintained. It is also very easy to walk through in the daytime.
5. Go to the Contemporary Art Museum of Macedonia
In the capital city of Skopje sits one Macedonia’s largest and most comprehensive national institutions – the Contemporary Art Museum of Macedonia. The building was constructed in a classical “fortress on a hill” style. It holds artwork by local and international artists and focuses on art that was created between 1950 – 1980.
Some of the artists that have been displayed at the Museum include Emilio Vedova, Hans Hartung, Pablo Picasso, and Alberto Burri.
6. Visit the Macedonian Saint-Tropez
Trpejca is a former fishing village on Lake Ohrid which has turned into a destination town due to the influx of tourists that have discovered the beauties of what is commonly referred to as the Macedonian Saint-Tropez.
This glorious little town has a lot of small but comfortable hotels and tourists can get up to a variety of fun activities like swimming, diving, boating, and some simple beach relaxation.
7. Relax at Dojran Lake
Lake Dojran is the smallest of the three largest lakes in Macedonia. It is situated on the border that separates Macedonia from Greece and regularly attracts tourists visiting both countries.
The Lake is deeply steeped in folklore and mythology and many locals are often glad to share intriguing tales about how the Lake came to being. The mud at the lake is also said to be therapeutic and there are spas located on the Lake that offer professional services.
Image by Julian Hacker from Pixabay
8. Visit Skopje Fortress
Skopje Fortress is located at the city’s highest point, on a hill overlooking the Vardar River. Although it is known to have been built in the middle of the 6th century and then reconstructed during the 10th and 11th centuries, not much else is known about it.
This is why even though it is open to the public for exploration it is sometimes closed to allow for further academic research.
9. Visit the Ancient Heraclea Lyncestis
Of all the cities built during the age of the Macedonian Empire, the only one that still survives with a reasonable level of preservation is Heraclea Lyncestis. A true reflection of what ancient Macedonia was like, tourists come to this ancient city to marvel at the mosaics, the baths, and all the other artefacts that carry that classical Roman design.
Heraclea Lycestis also hosts a small museum that preserves artefacts recovered in excavations of the city.
Image by schteck from Pixabay
10. Check Out the Kokino Observatory
The Kokino Observatory is an ancient archaeological site that is believed to have existed in the Bronze Age and to have been used for scientific and ritualistic purposes. Its ruins were recently discovered between the Serbian border and Kokino town at a seaside spot 3300 feet.
The observatory is an arrangement of multiple giant stones in mysterious but interesting patterns, similar to those of Angkor Wat, Abu Simbel, and Stonehenge.
11. Go See the Kuklica Rock Formation
Kuklica is an astounding formation of 120 gigantic stones standing end to end for about 74 acres. Many myths surround the existence of this formation.
Some claim they are the wedding guests of a man who was cursed by a woman after attempting to marry her and someone else simultaneously, while others believe it is simply the result of erosion and unevenly sized volcanic rocks.
Regardless, the site is held in high regard, although it can be difficult to find.
12. Explore Matka Canyon
Located near the capital city of Skopje, Matka Canyon is a fantastic destination for those who wish to visit Macedonia for its enthralling landscape, natural and artificial wonders, as its old religious structures.
The oldest artificial lake in Macedonia can be found in Matka Canyon as well as ten deep caves, some of which are available to the public for exploration.
The Canyon is a popular spot for hiking and climbing and also for water activities like fishing and swimming in the Treska River below.
13. Go See The Mechkin Kamen Monument
The Mechkin Kamen Monument is a memorial that was constructed in 1973 to honor the Ilinden Uprising. A space-age styled monument, it is made to look like a white sphere, with skylights made of stained glass surrounding its surface.
Not many people really understand what the artist was trying to communicate, but it has come to be seen as a beacon of hope and freedom for the people of Macedonia.
14. Visit The Memorial House of Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa is a humanitarian figure of legend who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for her life-changing work. She also happens to have been born and baptized in Skopje, Macedonia.
In Skopje, a memorial house was constructed in her honor at the former church where she was baptized. The house hosts a museum that has several documents relating to Mother Teresa as well as sculptures of her along with family members.
Image by DiscoveringMacedonia from Pixabay
15. Explore Mavrovo National Park
Mavrovo National Park was opened in 1949 and is the largest of Northern Macedonia’s three national parks.
While it is not as popular as other places in Macedonia, visitors to the park always have things to do such as a climb up Mount Korab, skiing at Zare Ski Resort, or going on a culinary exploration of Janče and Galičnik, the twin villages located inside the National Park.
16. Visit the Museum of Bitola
The Museum of Bitola was created in the 1980s and housed in a building with its own historical value. It had, first of all, served as a military academy and high-school that trained many great military leaders, including Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the progenitor of modern-day Turkey.
The Museum of Bitola houses historical pieces from the entire Bitola area, from different time periods and along with different themes.
17. Learn about Skopje at the City’s Museum
The capital city of Skopje has a long-standing history, with settlers known to have reached the land around 3000 BC. Much of the city’s history is properly preserved at the Museum of the City of Skopje and even the building it is housed in is of significant historical import.
A variety of exhibits are housed at the city’s museum and it holds other pieces apart from historical ones.
Image by ExplorerBob from Pixabay
18. Visit the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle
If you are intrigued by history and are wondering where to go in Macedonia, you can take the time to learn about the different sufferings the country has had to go through by visiting the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle for Statehood and Independence.
It is a part of a three-part museum which is owned and run by the Macedonian government. The museum tells the story of Macedonia and their contention against the Ottomans to secure their freedom.
19. Shop at the Old Bazaar
The Old Bazaar of Skopje is situated on the banks of River Vardar. The bazaar has existed since before the 12th century and is one of the oldest and biggest markets in Macedonia.
It is built in a style that blends Byzantine and Ottoman architecture flawlessly and holds scores of shops, mosques, and churches, as well as the Museum of Modern art and the Museum of Macedonia.
best accommodation in skopje
20. Explore Pelister National Park
Located in the massif known as Baba Mountain, Pelister National Park is a nature lover’s haven. Filled with multiple species of flora and fauna, visitors come to the park to find rare plant species or to observe animals like deer, falcons, bears, wild boars, and eagles in their natural habitat.
The oldest of Macedonia’s national parks, Pelister National Park is popular among tourists looking for what to do in Macedonia.
21. Take a Tour of Golem Grad
If you are exploring Lake Prespa, you might want to give some attention to Golem Grad, otherwise known as “the Snake Island”. Accessible via boat, the island is a protected home of extremely rare plants and is regularly visited by botanists and other researchers.
Golem Grad also holds nine archeological sites, some of which are temples and homes dating as far back as 1000 years ago.
22. Visit the Roman Baths in Bansko
The village of Bansko is responsible for feeding water to one of the largest hot water springs in the country. The Bansko Springs is located near the base of Mont Belasitza, about 12km from Strumica Town.
During the 2nd century, the Romans who were occupying Macedonia built baths on the site to cater to all types of people. Those baths were excellently preserved and are still used to this day.
23. Go to the Sarai Ahmet Niyazi
Constructed during the era of the Young Turk Revolution, the Sarai Ahmet Niyazi represents the very best in Macedonian neoclassical architecture.
It is said to have been built for and by Niyazi Bey, the inglorious Ottoman overlord. He lived in the building, but after his death, it was converted to a museum.
24. Chase the Smolare Waterfall
Those who chase waterfalls will be pleased to find Macedonia’s tallest waterfall close to Smolare Village. Smolare Waterfall cascades 40 meters down the side of Mount Belasica and is accessible by a 300-stone-step nature trail.
Visitors to the waterfall can watch it and take awesome pictures by a bridge that is located in front of the waterfall.
Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash
25. Read a Book at the Library Goce Delchev
If you are a devout lover of books, then a trip to the Library Goce Delchev will definitely be worth your time. Opened in 1912, the library houses a collection of more than 70000 super-rare books that were written between the 1800s and the early 1900s.
Beyond its extensive collection, the building which houses the library is a magnificently designed two-story home that showcases the brilliance of Macedonian architecture.
26. Make a Trip to Stobi Archaeological Site
Stobi is an archeological site that is found right at the center of Macedonia. It played a key role during the Roman era, serving as the capital to Macedonia Secunda – a Roman Provence. Visitors to the site can take a look at the theater with its beautiful and detailed mosaics.
Macedonia is a beautiful country full of amazing ancient artifacts and awe-inspiring natural attractions. Make a to-see list using this guide, the next time you make a trip to visit this amazing Balkan nation.
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16 Must-see Places to Visit in Macedonia
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Author: Anita Hendrieka
Anita Hendrieka is the blogger behind this website and another popular website called 'Anita Hendrieka'. She has been named the top travel blogger in New Zealand and has been to over 50 countries in the world. Now, based in the Balkans she gives you the best advice on the region through this website.
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Top 20 tourist attractions
Located in the center of the Balkan Peninsula, North Macedonia has been a quiet place for decades. People are finally starting to explore the colorful and diverse North Macedonian landscape. If you have an adventurous spirit, and you are searching for a holiday destination that fits comfortably within your style to explore, North Macedonia should be on your list of possible destinations.
Characterized by natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and gourmet experience, North Macedonia has a long story to unveil. In this brochure you will find the TOP 20 TOURIST ATTRACTIONS.
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Awesome Places Worth Visiting In Macedonia
Planning to go for a tour after the Covid-19 Pandemic? Did you know about the best places to visit in Macedonia? If not, then don’t miss to know and visit these great tourist attractions in Macedonia.
Table of Contents
Matka Canyon is one of the major attractions for tourists and travelers. It is situated in the west of Macedonia. It is one of the most admired and well-liked tourist destinations. It is one of the oldest and unnatural lakes in Macedonia.
The number of tourists and travelers is increasing year by year. This place is a symbol of harmony, calm, and peace. There are various popular churches and monasteries situated in Matka Canyon . Matka Canyon is an awesome tourist attraction in Macedonia and a popular fishing spot as well. The place is more popular for like the following:
Old Bazaar Skopje
Old Bazaar, Skopje is one of the major places to visit in Macedonia. It is one of the largest markets in Macedonia. It is the main attraction point of Skopje. It is one of the best parts of the town.
This place works as a magnet for tourists and travelers. If the tourists are in Skopje then they can’t stop themselves from entering the market of Old Bazaar. This place has an exciting and vivacious environment. This place is delightful for tourists and vacationers. The coffee shop, tea shop, jewelry, restaurants are always packed by the tourists. It is the same as a Chandi Chowk of New Delhi (India). The Major attraction point of Old Bazaar, Skopje:
- St. Spas church
- Mustapha Pasha mosque
- Jewelries Shop
As we all know that tourists and travelers are passionate about shopping and entertainment. Ramstore mall is one of the excellent shopping destinations for tourists in Macedonia. It is a globally recognized and renowned mall of Europe. The mall has more than 90 stores. It fulfills the needs, demands, and desires of the visitors.
Ramstore Mall has a wide variety of products and items. It is one of the profitable shopping malls in Macedonia. It gives fruitful results to their shareholders too. The major attractions of Ramstore Mall are:
- Mobile Shops (Samsung, Nokia, Karbonn, T- Mobile)
- Outlet’s of (Nike, Adidas, Puma, Lacoste, Bata, etc
- Movie theatres
- Cafeterias, restaurants
- Jewelries Shop and many more
Prilep is another popular place in Macedonia. It’s also one of the awesome places you can visit in Europe . The total number of inhabitants of Prilep are 76,769. It is also one of the largest tobacco producers of Macedonia. Places to visit in Macedonia:
- Markovi Kuli Fortress
- Sv. Blagoveshtenie Church
- St. Atanasie Church
- St. Peter Church and many more
Struga is one of the prominent places in Macedonia. It is a popular destination for the people and tourists who want to explore it. The place is situated on Lake Ohrid. According to 2002 census statistics it has 16,559 populations.
Tourism is the main source of income in Struga. Struga has delightful and wonderful attractive places for tourists and vacationers. The city is rich in its culture and beauty. Some of the places to visit in Struga:
- Black Drin River.
- Halveti Teke
- Miladinovci House
- Vangel Kodzoman Gallery.
Eventually, we can say that Macedonia is one of the most excellent and best destinations for tourists and visitors.
If you are visiting to North Macedonia, you’ll probably land at Skopje Airport. I recommend you to book an airport transfer in Skopje with a local company like Balkan Chauffeur who provides professional services for private transfers from Skopje to other places in North Macedonia. Balkan Chauffeur is a trusted airport transfer service provider and the prices the offer are affordable, more than all you will get quality service. However, you can find many more ways for Macedonia airport transfers and you can choose which suits the best to you.
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Must-see attractions in Skopje
National Gallery of Macedonia
The Daut Paša Amam (1473) were once the largest Turkish baths outside of İstanbul and they make a magical setting for the permanent collection of Skopje's…
Čaršija is Skopje's hillside Ottoman old town, evoking the city's past with its winding lanes filled with teahouses, mosques, craftspeople's shops, and…
Tvrdina Kale Fortress
Dominating the skyline of Skopje, this Game of Thrones–worthy, 6th-century AD Byzantine (and later, Ottoman) fortress is an easy walk up from the Čaršija…
Archaeological Museum of Macedonia
This supersized pile of Italianate-styled marble has been a giant receptacle for Skopje's recent splurge on government-led monuments to boost national…
Sveti Spas Church
Partially submerged 2m underground (the Ottomans banned churches from being taller than mosques), this church dates from the 14th century and is the most…
Museum of Macedonia
Sitting inside a concrete brutalist structure – awful to some, fascinating to others – the museum's solid historical and ethnological displays are housed…
Holocaust Memorial Center for the Jews of Macedonia
The mirrored-glass entrance is bizarrely unwelcoming, but once inside this is a moving museum with fascinating displays that commemorate the all-but-lost…
This gigantic square is the centrepiece of Skopje's audacious nation-building-through-architecture project and it has massive statues dedicated to…
Museum of the Macedonian Struggle for Statehood & Independence
Part history museum, part national propaganda machine, this is a formidable memorial to North Macedonia's past occupation, land struggles and…
Museum of Contemporary Art
Housed in a stunning modernist building with floor-to-ceiling windows and perched atop a hill with wonderful city views, this museum was built in the…
Mustafa Pasha Mosque
Standing on a plateau at the very top of Skopje's Čaršija is this working mosque where you can see locals come and go for prayers and chit-chat in the…
The Čifte Amam is a beautiful old Ottoman hammam (Turkish bath), now sometimes used as a temporary exhibition space under the stewardship of the National…
Memorial House of Mother Teresa
This extraordinary retro-futuristic memorial is the most unique church you'll see in North Macedonia. Inside the building there's a small 1st-floor museum…
Museum of the City of Skopje
Occupying the old train station building where the stone fingers of the clock remain frozen in time at 5.17am – the moment Skopje's devastating earthquake…
Sveti Dimitrija Church
Located just over the Stone Bridge heading into Čaršija, Sveti Dimitrija is a three-aisled church from the 19th century inside a small courtyard. There…
Murat Pasha Mosque
The original mosque at this site dated to the 15th century and was one of the oldest in the Balkans, but it was ravaged by a fire that devastated the…
This outpost of the National Gallery of Macedonia hosts temporary exhibitions. It's a bit of a hike from Skopje's city centre and sometimes lies empty;…