Europe,  Macedonia,  Travels

Macedonia – an undiscovered pearl of the Balkans

It was my fourth journey to the Balkans. Last year I visited Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Hercegovina. This year, between 12 and 17 of September I was in Macedonia. If you would like to find out more about 5 worth visiting places in Serbia, here you can find my last post. Or if you are interested in my 3 favorite places in Bosnia and Hercegovina, click here to read the article. In this post, I’ve prepared for you top Macedonia’s attractions and places worth to visit.

Actually, being in all of those four countries, I can’t see differences between them. While traveling around, in all of those countries, views looked similar. It’s nothing weird because the Balkans landscape characterizes by amazing and breathtaking views of mountains, lakes, rivers or canyons.

The only difference can be cuisine. Macedonia offers more than typical Balkan pljeskavica, or cevapčići. Of course, you can find all of those Balkans specialties, but Macedonia has its delicious traditional dishes. You should try, for example, turli tava, tavce gravce, or selko meso. Additionally, Macedonian serve many types of cheeses as a warm or cold appetizer. The main starter in Macedonia is sirenje na skara. I promise to describe Macedonian cuisine in another post.

I have to add, that the big advantage was the knowledge of English among Macedonian. As well as young, elderly citizens, speak English fluently. During the whole trip, we had only one difficulty to communicate with personnel in one of the hostels in Skopje. I remember that in other Balkans countries it looked different.

Macedonia’s attractions and places worth visiting

During our stay in Macedonia, we got many worth visiting places. Personally, I recommend Mavrovo National Park, where you can reach the top of Mount Korab, the highest peak of the two countries: Macedonia and Albania. I’m not a super fan of climbing, but the trail to the top provided a lot of outstanding views. My other favorite place was Matka Canyon, which is located about 15 kilometers away from Skopie. I was wandering along the river and enjoying the silence of this place. The third place was Ohrid Lake and the city of the same name. More interesting places I’ve described below.

1. Mount Korab

In my opinion, reaching the top of Mount Korab was the best spent time in Macedonia. 5 hours of climbing, and 2 hours of climbing down with amazing and breathtaking views. It wasn’t easy to reach the top, but spending time among mountains and nature was absolutely the best.

Mount Korab is the highest peak of the eponymous mountain range of two countries, Macedonia and Albania. Additionally, it is also the fourth highest mountain entirely located in the Balkan Peninsula. It reaches 2 764 meters above sea level.

More information about reaching Mount Korab from the direction of Macedonia, you can find in this post.

On the way to the top of Mount Korab amazing views were streching around us
On the way to the top of Mount Korab amazing views were streching around us
The way to the top of Mount Korab leads through the forest, then pastures and meadows, and later mountains
The way to the top of Mount Korab leads through the forest, then pastures and meadows, and later mountains
I was waving to the tourists from the Czech Republic
I was waving to the tourists from the Czech Republic
Mission completed - the top of Mount Korab was reached
Mission completed – the top of Mount Korab was reached
Almost on the top of the Mount Korab
Almost on the top of the Mount Korab
2.  Mavrovo National Park

Mavrovo National Park is the largest of the three national parks in the North Macedonia. It is also the biggest protected area in the country. The park is located in the southwestern part of the Balkans, near the Macedonian border with Albania and Kosovo. It occupies an area of 72 204 ha. The park was founded in 1949. To get to the park, you should take a road through the cities of Gostivar, Debar and Kichevo.

Locally the park is the best known for its ski resort near Mavrovo town and for its lake. Its additional point of interest is the half-submerged church in the lake.

Mavrovo Lake is one of the three largest artificial lakes created in Macedonia. The main reason of its creation was the production of electrical power. In result, in 1953 was built a dam. After that, the water from the Radika and the Mavrovo River started to accumulate and slowly form the lake. During summer, the lake is used for recreational activities like swimming, boating, and fishing.

St Nicholas Church

As I mentioned, an additional attraction in Mavrovo National Park is the half-submerged church in the Mavrovo Lake. The St Nicholas Church was built in 1850. It served as a sacred site for about 100 years until the dam was built. For many years this church was partially submerged in the lake. The interesting fact is that in Mavrovo, there is another church dedicated to the same saint. The second church, also known as New St. Nicholas was built on the shore of Lake Mavrovo in 1996.

The St Nicholas Church and Mavrovo Lake
The St Nicholas Church and Mavrovo Lake
The St Nicholas Church was built in 1850. For many years this church was partially submerged in the lake
The St Nicholas Church was built in 1850. For many years this church was partially submerged in the lake
The second church, also known as New St. Nicholas was built on the shore of Lake Mavrovo in 1996
The second church, also known as New St. Nicholas was built on the shore of Lake Mavrovo in 1996
3. Matka Canyon

The Matka Lake within the Matka Canyon is the oldest artificial lake in the country. Due to its location, it is one of the most popular places among tourists and citizens. Matka Canyon is located about 15 kilometers south-west of Skopje, the capital of Macedonia. The canyon covers around 5 000 hectares.

It is a place which offers many unforgettable views and things to do. There are dozens of caves and large number of endemic plants and animals. The most popular cave is Vrelo Cave, which is listed as one of the top 77 natural sites in the world in the New7 Wonders of Nature. Additionally, you can find there several medieval buildings, including churches and monasteries. The most visited is St. Andrew’s Monastery, dates from the 14th century. Visitors can also go hiking, rock climbing, or kayaking on the Treska River.

There is also a restaurant and hotel available for guests. More information you can find on the official website.

The entrance to the Matka Canyon in Macedonia
The entrance to the Matka Canyon in Macedonia
Matka Canyon in Macedonia
Matka Canyon in Macedonia
A restaurant at Matka Canyon
A restaurant at Matka Canyon
Hike trail along Matka Canyon

The road on the right side of Matka Canyon ends after around 3,5 kilometers. The Vrelo Cave is located beyond the lake. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get there. I recommend sailing across. The boat harbor is located close to the famous St. Andrew’s Monastery. It costs 30 MKD.

The trail along the river
The trail along the river
Kayaking on the Treska River:

If you want to discover Matka Canyon from the water, I recommend to rent a kayak. Double kayak for 1 hour costs 500 MKD, the single kayak costs 300 MKD. You can rent it close to the famous St. Andrew’s Monastery.

Th best option to explore Matka Canyon is rent a canoe
Th best option to explore Matka Canyon is rent a canoe
Boat trip along Matka Canyon:

Another option for discovering Matka Canyon from the water, is buying a ticket for a boat trip. The cost is 200 MKD (the duration is 25 minutes in both ways). If you want to visit additionally Vrelo Cave, the boat trip will cost 400 MKD.

Many people have chosen a boat trip to discover Matka Canyon
Many people have chosen a boat trip to discover Matka Canyon
4. Ohrid Lake

It is the second popular place in Macedonia. Millions of tourists from over the world come here, to admire beautiful Ohrid Lake.

Ohrid Lake is one of Europe’s deepest and oldest lakes. It straddles the mountainous border between the southwestern part of North Macedonia and eastern Albania. In 1979 the Macedonian side of lake was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In 2019 the Albanian side of lake was also designated UNESCO world heritage status. The Macedonian side of the Ohrid Lake is a part of the Galičica National Park.

The view of Ohrid Lake from Samoil's Fortress in Ohrid City
The view of Ohrid Lake from Samoil’s Fortress in Ohrid City
Ohrid Lake in Macedonia
Ohrid Lake in Macedonia

More information about the attractions of Ohrid Lake and its city, you can find in another post.

5. Stobi

In the beginning, I didn’t have a plan to visit Stobi. Fortunately, our host from Veles was talking about the history of its city and surroundings. The next day we turned back from Veles to Stobi – to the largest archaeological site in Macedonia. It was a very good idea.

Stobi was an ancient town of Paeonia, conquered later by Philip V of Macedon. Thanks to its geographical location at the confluence of the rivers Crna and Vardar and close to the main road, the town was a significant economic, strategic and trading center. Stobi was the biggest Roman city in Macedonia. Later it became the capital of the province of Macedonia Secunda.

Ancient Stobi’s site contains numerous structures and buildings, some of them are easily recognized and surprisingly preserved. You can find there the 2nd century impressive amphitheater, palace ruins, basilicas, brightly-colored mosaics floors, streets, baths, houses and villas, and much more. We spent there 1 hour, wandering through ruins and enjoying the time.

Stobi - the largest archaeological site in Macedonia
Stobi – the largest archaeological site in Macedonia
You can find there the 2nd century impressive amphitheater, palace ruins, basilicas, brightly-colored mosaics floors, streets, baths, houses and villas
You can find there the 2nd century impressive amphitheater, palace ruins, basilicas, brightly-colored mosaics floors, streets, baths, houses and villas
Brightly-colored mosaics floors preserved in Stobi
Brightly-colored mosaics floors preserved in Stobi
Mosaic floor in the old episcopal Basilica in Stobi
Mosaic floor in the old episcopal Basilica in Stobi
How to get to Stobi

Stobi is located close to the town of Kavadarci, Negotino, and Veles. You can get there easily by car. The site lies near to the main highway. There is an exit ramp leading to a parking lot of the site.

If you travel from Skopje, the distance to Stobi is 82 kilometrs. You can get there in exactly one hour.

There is also a train, but it stops in Gradsko, about 5 kilometrs away from Stobi.

More information

Stobi is open daily between October and March from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm, and between April and September, from 8.30 am to 7.00 pm.

The ticket costs 120 MKD (2 EUR).

The plan of the archeological site. 

More information, you can find at the official website: http://www.stobi.mk

Stobi Winery

If you are interested in exploring wine’s production and getting know the history of this region, I recommend to visit the Stobi Winery. It is situated in Gradsko.

The wine tour is free. More information you can find here

Wine grapes
Wine grapes
Wine maturing in barrels in Stobi Winery
Wine maturing in barrels in Stobi Winery

Would you like to find out more about Macedonia? Don’t hesitate to contact me.

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