25 Things to do in North Macedonia

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Despite its tourism growing at a rapid clip, North Macedonia is a relatively unknown and under-appreciated traveling destination.

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Where is North Macedonia?

Situated in the center of the Balkan Peninsula, North Macedonia has been a quiet place for decades. Fortunately, people are finally starting to explore the colorful and diverse North Macedonian landscape.

If you have an adventurous spirit, and you are looking for a holiday destination that fits comfortably within your budget, 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. My wife and I documented every corner of this small and secluded country, so allow me to walk you through it one step at a time.

I’ll share some of the most exciting experiences North Macedonia has to offer. I’m betting that you’ll be searching for your passport before you reach the end of this guide. 

Skopje, the Capital of North Macedonia

As the unofficial gateway to North Macedonia, the capital city is where most people start their journey. Home to nearly one-third of the entire North Macedonian population, Skopje is a kaleidoscope run wild and a proper European metropolis that rarely sleeps.

Skopje, the Capital of Macedonia

Once here, there is plenty of sightseeing to enjoy. The city center has been reconstructed as of late, and you’ll find dozens of monumental buildings, statues and ambitious architectural projects dotting the map.

Skopje, the Capital of Macedonia

The Old Bazaar

If you are a culture aficionado, North Macedonia makes a great place for your next travel destination. Throughout the centuries, many different civilizations have set their flag on the North Macedonian soil, leaving with them some of their customs, traditions, and architecture. From the Romans to the Ottomans, the cultural influence is still felt even today.

The Old Bazaar - Skopje, Macedonia

The Old Bazaar, perhaps, is the single most captivating attraction where the Ottoman era left a footprint. It offers an abundance of artisan workshops, traditional handicrafts, and plenty of opportunities for leisure and hospitality.

Vodno

Take the cable car to the top of Vodno. If you want to escape the urban jungle, there is no better place than the neighboring mountain towering above the city of Skopje. Vodno, if you know your way around, can be both a formidable mountain, and a forgiving park forest to enjoy at your leisure.

Take the cable car to the top of Vodno - - Skopje, Macedonia

If you are not a huge fan of the outdoors, taking the cable car up will definitely suffice. Offering you a variety of panoramic views, it will bring you right to the top of the mountain.

Trails on Vodno

Feel the challenging trails on a bike. My wife and I are huge cycling fans, and nothing makes our hearts race faster than a challenging ride up the mountain. The trails cut left and right, and the forest is picturesque.

Biking in Macedonia

North Macedonia has an abundance of religious monuments and artifacts, so you’ll find a captivating church almost anywhere you turn. If you want to take the easy way up, just follow the asphalt road and you’ll get to a location called Middle Vodno, where this secluded church awaits.

Kale Fortress

Visit the Kale Fortress. Back to the city and the remnants of the past… Kale Fortress was a huge medieval prison, and it is magnificently preserved even today. This architectural landmark overlooks the entire city and you can easily spend an entire afternoon climbing through the towers.

Visit the Kale Fortress

The fortress is right at the end of the Old Bazaar, so you can nicely combine these two attractions for a single day of exploration and sightseeing.

Canyon Matka

Whatever else might be said, Canyon Matka is one of the most underappreciated nature attractions in Europe. The steep cliffs offer some amazing hiking trails on the right and plenty of panoramic lookouts.

Discovering Canyon Matka

Below, however, lays the true beauty. Crystal green, calm, and stretching for miles on end, the river-lake is a perfect spot for kayaking and boat rides.

Discovering Canyon Matka

You can spend an entire day here, enjoying the scenery and the monasteries nearby, and finally, take a lunch break sipping some Macedonian red wine as you watch the sun going behind the canyon. The terrace on the front is the perfect spot for you to unwind.

Discovering Canyon Matka

Kokino

This natural observatory is located at a one hour drive away from Skopje. It is a rare sight hidden amidst dense forest. Take the road From Kumanovo, and follow the winding trail till you reach the destination. It is nicely marked on Google Maps but drive slowly nevertheless.

Kokino Macedonia

Some say that Kokino is the Stonehenge of the Balkans, since it was a natural observatory many centuries ago, dating back from the Bronze Age. It is one of the most exciting afternoons you’ll ever have.

Stobi

Stobi is the best place to visit North Macedonia is around the middle of spring and the beginning of summer. If you are in love with the outdoors, then perhaps you can time your visit a bit later, as summer is ideal for exploration and outdoor fun.

The true excitement, however, is in the combination of the outdoors with the historic like Stobi. Located in the middle of the map, and close to the main highway, it is ideal for exploring. Once a mighty settlement of the past, Stobi is now a relatively large excavation site, cataloging both the Hellenic and Roman period – step inside, and your imagination runs wild.

Heraclea

Equally captivating, Heraclea is another majestic settlement of the past. Suffering the same fate as Stobi, it was nicely preserved to remain one of the most captivating remnants of the Roman era.

Prilep

If you have a map by your hand, you’ll notice the line we are drawing as we are connecting one place to the next. Visiting Stobi and Heraclea, the next stop on your journey is Prilep.

Prilep

This small town is charming and cute, but the real fun is on the very edges. There, several monasteries are dotting the map, and you should definitely visit some of them if you are impressed with the architecture of the Orthodox Church.

Monastery of Treskavec

Above Prilep, a gigantic hill is home to one of the most iconic Monasteries in North Macedonia. There, embedded within a massive rock formation at the end of a windy road, the Monastery of Treskavec awaits. 

Monastery of Treskavec

If you are game, you can get there with a bike, but it’s not an experience I’ll gladly recommend to just about everyone.

Marble Lake

If you are the adventurous type, just follow the short safari-like road exiting the main highway before Pletrav, passing the village of Belovodica. Once you are up the mountain, an unbelievable spectacle unfolds.

Marble Lake

A white marble amphitheater circles the crystal blue pocket of water below, making it a real sight to behold. You can swim in the lake, or enjoy the sun as it reflects from the magnificent blocks of marble. Just climb up and chill for an hour or two while taking pictures, timelapse photography, and processing the sight.

Sopot

Drink Macedonian wine in Sopot. The wineries along the Vardar Valley are home to some of the finest wine in the region. I’m not a fan of wine myself, but my wife is a true fanatic. Naturally, we had to document the place.

Sopot

The grape fields will remind you of an Old Italian vineyard or the Californian Napa Valley. You can dine here, stay for the night, and enjoy the region as you wake up in a peaceful natural environment.

Krusevo

Visit the small town of Krusevo. Hidden deep in the mountains, the small town of Krusevo has a lot of history tales to reveal. One century ago, the first Macedonian revolution took place in this very town, rebelling against the Ottomans. The story goes that a small garrison of rebels endured for several days, against a fully equipped Ottoman battalion.

Nowadays, Krusevo is famous for the food, and of course, the paragliding competitions taking place year after year.

Krusevo

Mavrovo

See the sunken church near Mavrovo. Accessible via the main road passing through Mavrovo, the sunken church is a postcard worthy attraction. If the tide is low, you can even walk inside and explore the interior.

Sunken Church

The small grassy field in front of the church is ideal for welcoming the sunset or taking long time-lapse shots of the marvel ahead.

Mavrovo Lake

Take a bike ride around Mavrovo Lake. The asphalt road is fairly forgiving even for a beginner, so make sure to enjoy the scenery around the lake.

bike around Mavrovo Lake

You will have plenty of panoramic views, as the road stretches for 33 kilometers, circling the entire lake. Worry not though – the ride is equally flat and downhill, as it is an occasional struggle.

Galicnik Wedding Festival

If you are here during the month of July, make sure not to miss the traditional Galicnik Wedding Festival. It will usually take place in the middle of the month, over the course of a weekend.

Galicnik Wedding Festival

There, Macedonian customs and traditional attire are on full display.

But even if you fail to catch the wedding, the road from Mavrovo to Galicnik is a separate spectacle to enjoy. It offers some of the most captivating panoramic views of the entire region.

Ohrid

Visit the town of Ohrid. Whatever else might be said, the town of Ohrid is the pinnacle of the Macedonian experience. If you are set on discovering North Macedonia, Ohrid is a separate category on its own. Filled with churches and monasteries, it’s an equal part culture trip as it is a haven of nature.

church of Kaneo

Two of the most captivating churches are right next to the coast, providing scenic views that will have your cameras snapping pictures left and right. The first is the church of Kaneo, pictured above, and the second is the monastery of Plaoshnik.

monastery of Plaoshnik

Ohrid Lake

Ohrid Lake

Enjoy Ohrid Lake. If you want to combine the cultural field trip with one of the most picturesque lakes in Europe, make sure not to miss a day on the beach. The water is cold during spring and early summer, so the months of July and August are probably the best time for a visit.

Ohrid Lake

Bay of Bones

Discover the Bay of Bones. The Ohrid region is filled with different types of attractions, but few are as captivating as the reconstructed settlement at the Bay of Bones. The original site dates from the prehistoric era, and the newly constructed wooden platform is almost a decade old.

Bay of Bones

You can visit each of the houses and find different artifacts excavated from this very location while taking pictures of the entire settlement. It is especially beautiful on a sunny day in July.

Monastery of Saint Naum

Go to the Monastery of Saint Naum. Following the coast road from Ohrid through the Bay of Bones, you will reach the majestic monastery complex of Saint Naum.

Monastery of Saint Naum

The garden inside is excellent for a moment of Zen and relaxation, and the monastery itself is a rare sight to behold.

Springs of Lake Ohrid

Take a boat to the springs of Lake Ohrid. This place is one of the most magical corners of North Macedonia. It connects the Prespa Lake and the Ohrid Lake as they touch bellow the mountain and it is here where one pocket of water spills into the next.

Springs of Ohrid Lake

You can take a raft and enjoy the sight, book a lunch or perhaps a dinner at sunset. Macedonians are known for making a good atmosphere around food, respecting the customs and traditions tied to their cuisine.

Ohrid Lake

Berovo

Home to one of the most scenic mountain lakes, the small town of Berovo is secluded in a dense pine forest. Go there go unwind from your trip, breathing fresh mountain air and soaking in some of the most adorable panoramic views.

Berovo

Traditional Macedonian food

On your trip taste traditional Macedonian food The gourmet experience here is one of a kind. Macedonians love to combine organic produce with juicy meat and rich dairy, and the food is a spectacle on its own.

Stuffed Peppers - Food in Macedonia

Make sure to taste:

  • Tavce gravce (Macedonian style baked beans)
  • Sarmi (stuffed cabbage)
  • Stuffed peppers
  • Selsko Meso (pork and mushroom dish)
  • Ajvar (pepper-based condiment)
  • Shopska Salad (chopped salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, peppers and white cheese)

Sarmi - Food in Macedonia

Conclusion

You’ll definitely enjoy North Macedonia as it offers plenty of diverse locations to discover. The food is beyond amazing, the people are welcoming, kind, and friendly to show you around.

The best part of all is that North Macedonia is one of the countries where the cost of living is ridiculously low, so you will be able to enjoy a royal vacation, staying a while longer than usual.

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by Slavko Desik

Slavko Desik is writing at Discovering Macedonia, where he wants to catalogue the full scope of the Macedonian experience. Exploring the cuisine, the outdoors and the historical landmarks, he’s fallen deeply in love with this small but beautiful country.

4 Responses to “25 Things to do in North Macedonia”

Biljana Dzaleva

Says:

I am sad to see that Bitola is not mentioned in the 25 things to do in Macedonia. Heraclea is a sight located on the outskirts of Bitola, a beautiful city worth exploring. Some lovely old buildings and charm, also in the past known as a the city of consulates. Just saying…

Lizette

Says:

Thanks for the post. Nature is indeed beautiful! I especially like the pictures of Berovo and Mavrovo – all the greenery makes me long for the Garden Route in Cape Town South Africa.

manuella

Says:

Hello Slavko, very good article thank you. I would like to visit all the places mentioned in your article, I should be heading to skopje mid of september. Do you think it’s safe for single woman traveller ? are car rentals easy there ? thank you again

Mai

Says:

Such a useful post! I was curious about Macedonia travel and fortunately found out your site. So many informative posts that definitely help me a lot for my next trip. thanks for sharing your amazing experience.

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