Sunday, December 11th, 2016

Macedonia: This Magnificent Country Will Surprise You

184

Kate at Sveti Naum

Sometimes the best countries are the most surprising ones. Macedonia certainly falls into that category.

I fell into Macedonia on a whim — I needed somewhere to go for two weeks in between Istanbul and Dubai while Mario went to South Africa. Skopje popped up as a cheap flight from Istanbul, and I booked that flight in no time at all.

Macedonia — known also as FYROM, or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia — is snugly tucked in between Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece. (Many Greeks refuse to call it Macedonia, only using FYROM, because they have a region of their own called Macedonia.)

Other than that, there isn’t a lot of information on Macedonia out there as a travel destination, especially when compared to the other Balkans. That said, I found it to be an absolutely fascinating country — and one that deserves to be visited more.

Skopje

Why I Love Macedonia

Let’s start with the bombshell: Macedonia is the cheapest country I’ve been to in Europe. Many guides say that Bulgaria is the cheapest, but I found Macedonia to be even cheaper than Bulgaria!

Typical costs? The cheapest hostels start at around $7; nicer hostels were around $10; you can get private rooms from $15-25. A multi-course dinner with wine never exceeded $10; most of my meals were $3-5.

It’s also incredibly beautiful. Ohrid is the nation’s pride and joy, but Macedonia is also a land of mountains, and the views from the countryside are spectacular.

Delicious, cheap wine. I’m nowhere near a wine expert, but I found Macedonia’s red wines to be some of the best I’ve enjoyed in a long time. I usually paid around $2-3 for a single-serving bottle that came out to about a glass and a half.

Yummy and healthy food. The food didn’t push any boundaries, but I found it to be delicious and heavy on the veggies (which is unusual for Eastern Europe). I ate a lot of stuffed peppers, a huge variety of salads, and the occasional veggie pizza. And because the food is so cheap, you can sit down in a restaurant without even looking at the prices.

I also discovered chocolate and strawberry popcorn. It’s actually not that bad.

Chocolate and Strawberry Popcorn

Efficient, no-nonsense people. I didn’t find Macedonians to be overly warm and fuzzy, but they got stuff done — like the hostel worker who reamed out a cab company over the phone on my behalf when my driver never showed up. Most people spoke good English as well.

Easy travel connections within the region. I flew to Skopje from Istanbul on discount airline Pegasus Airlines. While there are a few trains within the country, it’s cheaper and easier to travel by bus to Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, or even Turkey.

Quirks. From money-changing booths that looked like fortune-telling booths to the fact that 90s music was played nonstop just about everywhere I went, I found Macedonia as interesting as it was beautiful.

Macedonian Money Changer

Get In While It’s Still Unknown

Macedonia is not nearly as well known as it should be, and it’s in a position to grow immensely — so much that it could even become the new hotspot of the Balkans. It’s prime for development for tourists outside Eastern Europe.

Still, make sure you keep your expectations in check. Macedonia isn’t as well-groomed as Croatia, Slovenia, or the Montenegrin coast. In many ways, Macedonia reminds me of Bosnia. There’s trash in the streets. Buildings are crumbling. Taxi drivers parked at train stations can and will rip you off. The internet, though good in places, could overall stand to be improved.

That said, if you’re not picky, you’ll enjoy this country immensely.

Sveti Jovan, Lake Ohrid, Macedonia

Ohrid

My first stop was Macedonia’s most celebrated spot: Ohrid, a pretty town located on the shores of Lake Ohrid. Lake Ohrid is snugly tucked in between Macedonia and Albania, but the Macedonian side is the more developed of the two. The region is also a UNESCO site.

Being the premiere resort of the country, there’s something for everyone here. You’ll find clubs that rock all night long, tons of family activities, and lodging options from camping to five-star luxury resorts. Even the president has a vacation home on the shores of Lake Ohrid.

But no matter what you like to do while traveling, it’s all about the beauty of this lake.

Lake Ohrid

Ohrid is a lake unlike any I’ve ever seen — it seems to meld perfectly into the sky. Taking a boat across it felt like I was gliding across an endless aqua cloud. Back on shore, the lake turned turquoise. It was like a shimmering mood ring, its affections changing with the wind.

Grandmother and child in Ohrid

The town of Ohrid itself is positively charming, filled with cobbled streets, unforgettable views, and all of the other cliches that you’d expect to find in perfectly adorable little towns around the European continent.

Lake Ohrid

I think that Ohrid would make a smashing place to spend the summer as a digital nomad. You could rent an apartment for just a few hundred dollars a month and enjoy the beautiful lake, the parties, and the amenities of the town, all without breaking the bank.

Who knows — maybe I’ll end up there one summer myself!

Bitola

Bitola

For my second stop, I hit up Bitola, not knowing anything beyond the fact that it was one of the nicer, prettier and more livable cities in Macedonia. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love!

For me, the biggest highlight was Sirok Sokak — a long street filled with endless cafes and banners celebrating the latest festival, which happened to be the Shakespeare Festival. Sirok Sokak is THE place to see and be seen in Bitola, no matter the time of day. All of the chairs face the street for this reason.

At night, the cafes convert into bars, and you’ll see the girls go from t-shirts, ponytails and skinny jeans to short dresses, complicated updos, sky-high stilettos, and crazy nail art.

Bride and groom in Bitola, Macedonia

I also saw more weddings in one weekend than I’ve seen in the past five years. Wedding parade after wedding parade drove through the city, each car covered with white ribbons and honking incessantly. Every couple came to pose on Sirok Sokak.

Bitola

Another cool thing about Bitola is its outdoor bazaar. I’ve never seen one quite like this before. Rather than being enclosed in a building, like Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, the stores are out in the open, pressed close together, and filled with eager shoppers looking for deals.

Bitola Bazaar

I found Bitola a wonderful little place to spend a few days, and I easily could have stayed for longer. It makes me wonder how many towns like Bitola are scattered throughout Europe and the world — towns that I would just adore, had I ever heard of them. There must be thousands.

And then…there was Skopje.

Skopje at Night

Skopje

Oh my God, Skopje. Skopje made me walk around slack-jawed, my eyes the size of flying saucers. I cannot remember the last time a destination shocked me as much as this place.

I had arrived expecting an unremarkable Eastern European capital. Instead, I found a city covered in multiple dancing fountains, some of them actually simulating flames!

Skopje Fire Fountains

Skopje has been under a lot of construction over the past few years, and rather than building upon the traditional architecture, they’ve been going for a more Vegas-like look. The architecture is a combination of classical and Renaissance influences; lots of statues of famous Macedonians decorate bridges. Nothing is built on a small scale — everything here is immense.

After all, what city square doesn’t need a statue of a man on horseback ten times what would be its actual size, surrounded by water jets taller than most humans?

Skopje Monuments

I wish there were an accurate way to convey to you just how much Skopje blew my mind. I was literally walking around with my eyes wide, occasionally shaking my head and muttering “…the f*ck is this place?” to myself like a crazy person.

By the end of the night, I was calling the city Skop Vegas. My cab driver loved it.

Lagoon Near Ohrid

Beyond These Destinations

There is so much more to Macedonia than what I got to see in my week here. I especially wish I had gone to see the national parks (which I skipped because I don’t put myself in isolating situations while traveling solo). Mavrovo National Park is famous for being an excellent cheap ski destination; Pelister National Park is right near Bitola and looks beautiful as well.

There’s the Tiknes wine region, where you can sample the delightful Macedonian wines in the field.

Prilep looks like a fun city and they have an annual beer festival, which I just missed.

And if Ohrid isn’t enough lake action for you, Lake Prespa is close by and looks lovely, too.

Sveti Naum

Don’t Wait on Macedonia — Come Soon

Will Macedonia turn out to be an “it destination” in the future? With the help of a smart marketing campaign, it absolutely could. Macedonia a destination that sells itself brilliantly to its visitors; the only problem is getting people to actually come there in the first place.

And for that reason, I promise you that you will enjoy Macedonia. Come here and take a boat across Lake Ohrid, or stroll through Bitola’s bazaar, or take ten thousand pictures of wacky Skopje. Come enjoy it while the prices are this good. This is a very special place.

Comments

184 Responses to “Macedonia: This Magnificent Country Will Surprise You”
  1. Laryssa says:

    Cheap food/wine? I’m sold!

    “Macedonia” has never crossed my mind as a a European destination, but it looks like a gem. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Georgia says:

    Macedonia looks pretty ace! I knew absolutely nothing about the country (and I’ve never seen any other blogs about it) so it was great to read this.

    I really, really want to try some strawberry popcorn now!

    • That’s my goal lately, Georgia — to cover more destinations that have hardly been covered by other bloggers. Something I especially need to do when I return to Southeast Asia, where there are very few unturned stones.

      • Elizabeta says:

        As an American who’s parents immigrated from a small village in Macedonia to the US in the 70’s, they made sure that they took us to visit our homeland and family members who all still love there! I have been to Macedonia on a number of occasions, and I’m so glad that you loved it as much as I do!

  3. Clare says:

    I’ve been reading a bit about the history of Macedonia since I’m currently in the Greek part. This is a well timed post for me because you’re answering a few of my ponderings about exploring beyond Greece on a future trip. I’m intrigued. In the best possible way!

    • I’m thrilled to hear it, Clare!

    • someone says:

      macedonia today is just a part of what it is etnic macedonia who include parts from greece and bulgaria …. you are welcome to see it beauty

      • Art winger says:

        Please dont use Skopian propaganda here. Macedonia is an ancient Greek state. FYROM was in fact ex-yugoslavia and prior to that was known as Vardarska. The Slavs of FYROm who claim to be Macedonian are ethnic Western Bulgarians, who speak a south-slavic idiom. All ancient Macedonian inscriptions are written in ancient Greek. Enjoy Vardarska, but it is definitelty NOT Macedonia anything.

        • Spanko81 says:

          Let`s back your propaganda mind 100 years in history of former turkish province (1912). One question, where was the border of your HellASS before balkan wars? That part of nowadays HellASS that you called Macedonia never been a part of HellASS.

        • Sashe says:

          So much from your knowlege of history Macedonia was never a “greek” state as there was never a notion of anything “greek” at the time as a matter of a fact the Macedonians defeated the thebans and athenians in 338 bc as u know demostenes said ad i quote that we (Macedonians) are barbarians from whom u can not buy even a worthy slave ! “Greek” state hahaha funny ! And she doesnt care about our problems with you so just drop it and enjoy the rest of ur broke life 🙂

          • Art winger says:

            Actually, the ancient Macedonians spoke koine Greek, worshipped Greek gods and spread Hellenism to the known world. This is a fact that every reputable university classics department will teach you. A good psychiatrist can help you with your identity issues. As for a broke life, your country is lovely, your people are nice, however they dislike Hellenism and ancient Macedonia united the Hellenic city states. Its a contradiction in terms and you embarrass yourselves. As for being under Ottoman occupation, your country was actually under Turkish occupation for longer than Greece. Please enjoy your country, and stop the propaganda because your Bulgarian dialect language is NOT macedonian, as are your Slavic-Paenonian-Turkic populace. Liars don’t prosper 🙂

          • Mr. language says:

            P.S. You can also educate yourself by noticing the differences between Macedonian Bulgarian and Serbian language (if you have capacity to do it) and especially where these languages are spoken! As you will see, Bulgarian, Serbian and especially your language, are spoken ONLY within the borders of those countries, while Macedonian is spoken all around her neighbors, predominantly in your HellAss!
            (by the way, the quoted website is not Macedonian!!!)
            Enjoy enriching your knowledge 🙂

            http://www.listlanguage.com/

        • Art winger says:

          Economic downturn has nothing to do with history or archeological facts. Greece is experiencing recession, however this does not change the fact that the ancient Macedonians spoke a Greek dialect, spread Hellenism and considered themselves Hellenes. Also, it does not change the fact that your country is located in ancient Paeonia, and the Slavic populace who now call themselves Macedonian, where in fact “bulgarians” in the independent Ottoman census in the early 1900s. As I stated, enjoy your ex-yugoslav republic that was known as country “Vardarska”, but unfortunately it is NOT Macedonia. Keep dreaming with your annexation and expansion delusions, and you can always drive south the the real Ancient Macedonia – Greece and enjoy the sea 🙂 I have booked many lessons with reputable history teacher – go to Oxford, cambridge – their version of Macedonian history is the same as mine.

          • Daniel says:

            Art my friend,

            why do you and your people bother so much about these things? You surely have bigger issues at the moment than worrying about your northern neighbor Macedonia.

            Nobody is going to take away the fact that Greece was a place were “modern civilization” once blossomed, where the first steps were taken for what we today refer to as a democratic society and so on. Be proud of that!

            Unfortunately the legacy that your ancestors left behind is completely washed out due to your generation’s behavior. The fact that you have moved away from democracy, don’t recognize minorities and forbid them to speak their languages or practice their religions, the daily abuse of foreigners among many other unacceptable actions taking place looks very bad on you. You’re also known to have the most corrupt government in EU, trying to piggy back on all the hard work the rest of the European citizens have put in….somehow your politicians thought it would be ok to steal German tax payers’ money and just give out to Greek government employees…in the rest of the world this is called stealing, when you take money from someone else and spend it yourself for your own benefit without any intentions of paying back. The worst part is that the general public in Greece seems to agree with this, and blames the rest of the EU for their over consumption….to the rest of us this is just pure insanity. The fact that Greece manipulated financial data to be accepted as a EU state is a whole different story….this is called “fraud” in the rest of the world and is considered a crime.

            You seem to be a smart guy, Macedonia is not your problem, your problem is how your people’s behavior is ruining the reputation of Greece and how this will have a negative effect on YOUR life…..and not on the life of anybody else. Especially not the life of Macedonians.

            Get your friends out there, organize yourself and try to get your own country out of the gutter. Stop abusing people, pay back the loans you owe the rest of the world and restructure your industry (clearly not everyone can be a government employee) and you’ll be on the path of improvement again.

            Because if you don’t (I’m not sure if you live in Greece or not) your people will soon not be able to afford internet and will no longer have the ability to engage in silly “arguments” online about what countries should be called and not called. There are only so many more loans that EU will grant you, at some point that source of free money will no longer be available and you’ll have to care for your self.

            With that being said, you need to focus your energy on the right things in life, start being a contributor instead of a burden to your fellow European citizens. After all, if it is true that the country Macedonia has nothing to do with your view of Macedonia …..how is that a problem for you? Is it a problem that everyone else in the world recognizes Macedonia under its correct constitutional name “Macedonia”?

            I sincerely hope for the rest of us that you will get your ducks in a row soon.

            Cheers

        • Mkd girl says:

          Art are you for real. What is with all the hate and anger? Do you even know what you are writing about? Perhaps you should read couple of books before making comment over blogs. What right do you have to call me a Skopian instead of Macedonian. If am not Macedonian then you are not Greek. In the ancient times the Greeks were tall blond and blue eyed which now can not be found between the Greeks. Do you even know when the name Greece was stated to that land. Back in the day the name Macedonia was not allowed to be said in Greece (bet you don’t even know why) but now Macedonia is Greece. In every country people move, came and go. If I am Slav then you are from Persian. The part of Macedonia that was given to Greece was under a 100 year agreement which expires very soon and Greece wants the name changed so that part doesn’t have to be given back. Also 80% of the visitor during summer in Greece are from Macedonia. GREEKS ARE A MIX OF PERSIANS INDIANS ETC. SO IF AM NOT MACEDONIAN THEN FOR SURE YOU ARE NOT “GREEK” Just know that we believe in god and for everything you people do will comae back to bite you in the behind. Karma

        • the man says:

          and also The name Macedonia is the only country that is written in the bible not the greek macadonia that you think the real Macedonia of king Phillip

          • the man says:

            Kiril is considered to be the founder of Cyrillic which is even today, apart from some new and modernised details the official alphabet of the Russian’s, Ukranians, White Russian’s, Bulgarian’s, Serbian’s, Montenegrians and Macedonian’s.

        • Alexander says:

          Art,

          All of your “facts” are based on empty words. You show absolutely no evidence in your statements and use them (in an indirectly offensive way) to bully your point across.

          Here’s an article with credible sources and LOGICAL STATEMENTS to support the author’s ideas and opinions;
          http://www.ancientmacedonia.com/gandeto.html

          And putting the historical ethnic debate aside, look at the name-dispute situation logically;

          1) The large majority of Latin-Americans speak dialects of the Spanish language, while Brazilians speak Portuguese. Neither Latin Americans nor Brazilians are considered SPANIARDS or PORTUGUESE.

          2) If you remove all people, ethnicities, and cultures from the map, the land we currently live in is located in the heart of Ancient Macedonia. Language aside, Macedonians (not Greeks) have been living in this land for centuries. The land is OURS. We have the right to keep the land’s original name and no matter if Macedonians, Israelis, Filipinos, or Cambodians were currently living in this land, IT’S STILL MACEDONIA!

          3) If you think Ancient Macedonians, Ancient Slavs, and Ancient Greeks didn’t mix blood (have sex and reproduce) with one another, you should take a sex education course, not a history course. Inhabitants of the same land have mixed throughout history and to claim an entire race is clean-blooded with no evidence is laughable. The Macedonian and Greek languages have some similarities which I can guarantee you aren’t “stolen” just because we like how a word sounds.

          3) If my family owned House A and then moved to House B for, say, a few centuries; and a family of 2 million people moved into House A, we can’t claim House A as our own just because we miss it.

          Politically and economically, Greece has played an important role in oppressing Macedonia from progressing forward for too long. Logic and human rights are not on your side. You oppress, slander, and belittle my people and my culture today for something you show NO EVIDENCE of that happened (or didn’t happen) centuries ago.

          I myself don’t know enough to claim one thing or another, but I do know that you, Art, and Greek politicians, popes, and people need to stop trying to claim what no longer (if ever) belongs to you.

        • Vida says:

          “Art Winger” my foot! Why don’ you show your real face and use your real name. This is a travel blog and should not be used for political reasons – whatsoever!

        • mark says:

          Just a little advice to our Greek neighbours:, Get an education (history) work hard pay your debts back and return lands that don’t belong to you.I can travel trough any part of northern Greece(Macedonia) and use the Macedonian language to communicate with the locals. Isn’t that strange mr Skopiakis. Don’t spoil this girls beautiful expiriance with your political crap.

  4. Megan says:

    You’ve hit on many of the reasons I’m going to Macedonia in a few weeks. I think it will change a lot in a few years time as more tourists discover it and the local industry and economy responds to that. There isn’t much time left to see it as it is now, which can be said for a few countries in that area.

  5. Kerry says:

    I’m so envious you were there for the Shakespeare festival in Bitola – I really wanted to go but it didn’t work out this year. Also, I didn’t know Macedonia was so well-connected! That horse fountain looks NUTS.

  6. jennifer says:

    I had Macedonia on my last itinerary. But I also had about 97 days worth of itinerary for only 25 days of travel time. So I had to take it off and put it on a bucket list instead.

    It really does look like a great place to spend a month catching up on work. I am right now at work (at a desk, at a job I hate, while saving up to take off forever) and I have to say it also looks like a great place to spend a month to break up the journey from office hell into “LOOK AT ME I AM FREEEEEEEEEEE”

  7. I bet I would love chocolate popcorn! I already drizzle chocolate chips into my fresh popcorn sometimes and let it melt into big chunks. 🙂

  8. Jennifer says:

    You had me at delicious wine! Macedonia is on our list since it is Tim’s goal to visit every European country. This definitely gives us a base of some areas we might like to explore and an airline to check out to get there.

  9. I love how travel writing can make me consider a place that had never crossed my mind before. Macedonia sounds like a great value destination. Plus wine? Sign me up!

  10. Bradley says:

    I really want to go there now. Im sold and would love to spend a summer there myself. Is it crowded?

    Can you swim in the Ohrid? Looks unbelievable.

  11. Kristy says:

    I’d never heard of Macedonia before, but it looks like somewhere I would love to visit. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Angela says:

    Macedonia sounds pretty awesome. I never considered going here, I don’t know why. I guess it just isn’t a country you hear a lot about.

  13. Julika says:

    Macedonia sounds amazing! Honestly, I never considered going there, but unrightfully so! Lake Ohrid looks beyond stunning!

  14. Christy Wimberley says:

    Kate, this post is already being enthusiastically shared among the Peace Corps volunteers here in Macedonia! You’re right, it’s a hidden gem with a ton of potential. I live in Skop Vegas (spot on), as it were, and if any of you following this blog have questions or actually make it out this way feel free to send me a message on Facebook!

  15. Zoe says:

    This sounds amazing! I can’t wait to go! I heard good things from someone I met about Macedonia but I had never considered it as a place to visit until then.

  16. It looks beautiful Kate! I never would have thought to go there but if it’s cheap and pretty then I’m in!

  17. This is my first time reading about Macedonia from a tourist’s perspective. Your pictures are gorgeous and I’m definitely eager to visit now. Bulgaria has always been on my list too so perhaps I’ll visit both in one trip.

    • You know…while it can be done, I actually didn’t like pairing Macedonia and Bulgaria together in retrospect. Macedonia is better paired with Kosovo and Albania.

      • George says:

        Actually Kate, it’s every country on its own, you can’t pair them. In Macedonia live a lot of Albanians and probably that’s why you think it is similar to Kosovo and Albania, but on the eastern part or east of Vardar there are no Albanians and it is different from Skopje and western part. Definitely visit Strumica, Gevgelija, Dojran (there is lake as well)…

  18. eemusings says:

    Sounds amazing! I wonder what was up with all the weddings (one of the highlights of Prague for me was watching a wedding party photo session out on the streets).

    • Alex says:

      It is sort of a tradition that the newly weds to take a stroll near Sirok Sokak and make a photosession in the park near the Clock tower which is maybe the most recognized monument in Bitola.

  19. Wow, THAT is an informative post. I knew Macedonia was an up and coming destination and now I definitely see why!

  20. noel says:

    Oh man, now I have to switch my travel plans in fall when I was planning on traveling from Zagreb through Bulgaria to Turkey….hmmmm how to squeeze in another country? I do love the sound of a place that is still not on the radar!

  21. Jack Kent says:

    Reading this post makes me want to come to Macedonia, specially in Orhid and explore the beauty of the place. This is worth visiting for since you have said that hostels and restaurants are cheap. I really love to eat in restaurants and taste the local wine of the place I’m into.

    Thank you for sharing this information about Macedonia.
    Your posts are very informative and addictive. ha ha ha.

  22. Ben says:

    Wow, I’ve never even looked at Macedonia as a holiday destination but it looks incredible. Lake Orhid looks like a beautiful place, and Skop Vegas very intriguing. Even better if the country is yet to be taken by the tourist storm. I will be looking at it closely for future trips!

  23. zof says:

    Oh my, they call popcorn “pukanki”. I love it.

  24. Mina says:

    I’m Macedonian, and I really like it your blog post. My recommendation for visiting (for your next coming to Macedonia) is Ljubanista beach, on Ohrid Lake, close to the border with Albania. Its camping place, with the best beach on Ohrid Lake.

    • I believe I was there, Mina — is that where Sveti Naum is? If not, I was close!

      • elena says:

        Its not the same place but very very close and very similar-cristal clear water and breathtaking lake sights..Sveti Naum is stunning too and holds a great story, i hope someone told you all about it.
        Loved every single word you wrote cause its so true…I live in skopje and i also walk around with eyes wide open, cause its all so newly build :)))

  25. Stefan says:

    I am Macedonian and I feel honored by your post. As you said Macedonia is a hidden gem in the Balkans although is a small country there are so many beautiful places that are hidden in plain sight. For everyone that would like to visit I strongly recommend that besides Skopje, Ohrid and Bitola you must visit Prilep (especially during the beer fest), Berovo and its beautiful mountain lake and other smaller towns in the eastern part of the country.

  26. Jamie says:

    Thanks for the detailed post. It definitely looks like a country that I would visit.

  27. Biljana says:

    WOW…well done girl… thank you for this excellent promoting of our country :)) It was pleasure reading all this, i loved it ..and I reminded my self just how proud I am of my country…Greetings from SKOPJE.. come visit us again soon… :*

  28. Kristina says:

    Oh Kate! Thank you ever so much about the post! And all of you guys who are eager to come and visit our beautiful country!

    Here are 2 websites that might help you out in discovering more before you come as well as planning your trips:

    http://www.exploringmacedonia.com/

    http://travel2macedonia.com.mk/

    Have fun! 🙂

  29. Robert says:

    We loved it too on a trip from our Bulgaria and Greece holiday, especially Ohrid, On the other had we found the food is nothing special and repetitive. Something to confess, we felt uneasy in some Albanian parts of the country which simply didn’t want outsiders. So the advice is go if you are in the area but avoid some places.

  30. Dani says:

    I was there 4 days ago and just loved it! I saw the same things and thought the same things 😉 I would definitely go back again!!!

  31. Chocolate and strawberry popcorn? I’m sold! 🙂

  32. Ivana says:

    I live in Macedonia, and I can say that my country is amazing. There is lot of unexplored nature with breathtaking views, waterfalls and wildlife. I saw the places you have visited and I may say that you missed one of he newest discoveries in Macedonia. In the city of Kumanovo there is an opservatory which is the 4th oldest opservatory in the world.

  33. Gilbert says:

    very inviting report: congratz to the writer !
    I’m not Macedonian (I’m Belgian and happened to discover that jewel!).
    some additional tips:
    – close to Skopje: Matka canyon is an amazing place, excellent to have a break from town for a few hours.
    – in Tetovo: the painted mosk: ask the priest for visiting inside (and drop a few dinars in the basket for lighting): you will not believe your eyes: there is no square centimeter without art painting: just unbelievable.
    – between Debar and Ohrid, along the Drin river: the monastry of St Jovan Bigorski: have a look to the wood carved iconostase: you’ll never forget.
    – wine region: in Demir Kapija, there is a winery that invites you to taste their production in a newly build tower overlooking the wine fields : five stars white wines are proposed.
    – go to Dojran Lake and eat the local carp (usually, carp meat is not that enjoying, but this one !! hmm!)
    – also in Ohrid: eat the local trout (an endemic species distinguished from other trouts and samons since the tertiar period); buy a collar made from local pearl (only 6 families know how to handle the shells of a specific fish to make them: Ohridski biser!)
    – in Prespa lake you will see some of the last Dalmatian Pelicans of Europe.
    – in Prilep, during the tobacco earning, you’ll see thousands of blades drying along the pedestrian walks: the town gave her name to a world known tobacco species: prilep tobacco.
    – take a rest and lots of fresh air in Berovo region.
    – day trips across the border (very close to Macedonia): Rila monastry in Bulgaria, Edessa waterfalls in Greece, drive around Ohrid lake through Albania.
    ………… and many more

  34. Stefania says:

    You dangerous Kate just convinced me to open my own travel blog, LOL.

    By the way, my former flatmate now lives in Skopje and she says the exact same thing: you must come here soon, it’s crazy wacky! I’ll have to visit her soon, it sounds like an interesting country to explore.

  35. jasminka says:

    I love my country.
    And is more to see it……trust me
    And yes ……Macedonia is the future destination for business, leasure, fun and lot’s more.

    enjoy guys…..you will never regret visiting Macedonia.

    Pozdrav do site makedonci kade I da ste.

  36. Kris says:

    Macedonia is an awesome place to visit. Check out Lake Prespa the next time you go, it’s a fun place. And I think I know who that bride is that you posted the photo of.

  37. Angie says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading through this article. Macedonia is, as mentioned on many occasions, definitely a hidden gem in the Balkans. The country has an extremely rich history and there are many breathtaking sites to see from landscapes, architecture, ancient ruins and cultural locations. Given the political struggles and the country’s dispute with Greece over its name, it has been hidden behind its southern neighbour’s shadow for too long. However, I strongly recommend this small, landlocked country to all travellers with an open mind and love for culture. Macedonia is a historical land with many hidden jewels. For instance, the Matka Canyon outside of Skopje holds what is speculated to be the deepest underwater cave in the world, Vrelo. The country has endless monasteries and churches from various historical eras, as well as ancient ruin sites including Stobi, Scupi and Heraclea Lyncestis. There are many great mountains with beautiful ski resorts, national parks including Galicica and Mavrovo, beautiful lakes including Ohrid, Prespa and Dojran, as well as many beautiful cities and villages. Besides Skopje, I recommend cities such as Bitola, Ohrid, Prilep. Gevgelija is known for its casinos. Also, smaller towns and villages such as Krusevo and Galicnik are worth a visit as well. Every summer the Galicnik Wedding Festival is held in the village and hundreds of tourists visit to observe the historic wedding traditions of the region. Thank you so much for shedding some light on this tiny Balkan nation. Many are quick to overlook it however they would be surprised by everything it has to offer given its size. It’s rich historically, culturally, religiously and has great food. Macedonians are usually referred to as the warmest, most welcoming & friendliest peoples within the Balkans and recently the country was ranked number 4 on the CNN list of top 10 friendliest countries to visit.

  38. Melissa says:

    Wow! I was hoping to visit Croatia soon, but you’ve got me thinking that I should head to Macedonia instead, before the tourist hoards get there.

  39. Alexander says:

    It’s a shame you didn’t have a chance to discover Lake Prespa!

    There are a few fishing towns all around the lake and tourism is just now starting to grow in the region. I strongly recommend traveling from Ohrid up to Galicica National Park and then down towards Prespa Lake.

    If you travel to Otesevo on Lake Prespa, me and my family (American/Macedonian) have acquired an old hotel/restaurant built by political prisoners in the early 1960s. We offer cheap rooms with a view of the lake, a private beach, live music on weekends, and plenty more! By next year you’ll be able to enjoy Wine Tasting inside a secret war bunker built during the Presidency of Josip Broz Tito (1st Yugoslavian President) in a man-made cave within the mountainside right behind the hotel! Also, there are plenty of beautiful nature trails and old ruined buildings/hotels to explore. We’re located about 50km from the Greek border and 15km from the Albanian border. Our hotel is now called “Lakeview Resort” in Otesevo.

    Hope future travelers will stop by and say hello! We’re open all year long.

    Lake Prespa is also home to Golem Grad Island (also known as Snake Island). It is home to a countless number of Pelicans, Storks, various other birds, vipers and various water snakes, turtles, rabbits, and surely many other types of wildlife. The lake is also very old and very beautiful, but much shallower and warmer than Lake Ohrid! It is a very unpredictable lake with reports of random whirlpools and strange currents taking place. It is divided up between Greece, Macedonia, and Albania; the largest part being in Macedonia. There are plenty of people who offer tours to the island and hopefully by next summer we’ll organize tours ourselves.

    For anyone interested in visiting Lake Prespa or Galicica National Park, feel free to contact me for more info or details while you’re here!

    Glad you enjoyed Macedonia Kate!

    Best,

    Alexander

    • Hi, Alexander —

      Thanks for sharing, but I don’t allow unsolicited advertising on this site — as you can imagine, it would get out of control if everyone were promoting their businesses on all of my posts. I’ve deleted your links but left everything else as is — people can Google you if they’d like to learn more.

      Kate

      • Alexander says:

        Understandable! Your article just got me overly excited, especially about Prespa!

        Also another suggestion; don’t allow posts about the Macedonian – Greek dispute.. it’d be a shame to see this great article infected by hundreds of comments slandering both my country and Greece.

        Cheers!

  40. Diana says:

    I really appreciate you writing this! I’m from Macedonia and often feel that the country is overlooked. It’s filled with wonderful and hospitable people, the history, and with beautiful scenery and amazing food as well. Many don’t think of Macedonia as a good place for vacation, but I hope they soon change their minds. Again, thank you for posting this! 🙂

  41. Daniel says:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83QkWNPu7mE

    Video with all mentioned places.

    Greetings from Macedonia.

  42. Goran says:

    10x for writing these good words about my country.

    And have in mind that the monument with the fountain in the middle of the Skopje main square “Macedonia”, is that huge only because of the Macedonian-greek relations.

    • Art winger says:

      Hi Goran,

      Do you think its right to steal an ancient Greek legacy and attempt to portray your country as Macedonia? Unfortunately 90% of your Slavic country never resided in ancient Macedonia which was a Greek State. As for the Greek Star of Vergina, found in ancient Macedonia Greece, it must hurt to steal other countries emblems and claim them as your own. Do you wonder why your language, Bulgarian and other Slavic languages are similar?

      Nice Macedonian Name, goran…. Macedonia is Greek. FYROM is a lovely slavic country that steals from neighbouring countries.

      • Mina says:

        Art winger, as Alexander says before your post, it’s a shame to see this great article infected by your comments full of hate for My beautiful country MACEDONIA . Please don’t call us FYROM. This is travelers blog !!!
        And Kate, please don’t let him post again comments like this on your blog site.

        • Mina, I don’t censor commenters because you don’t happen to like their comments.

          Abusive posts get deleted. Promotional posts get deleted. Posts you don’t like? They stay up.

      • Goran says:

        Hi Art / Zdravo Art / Geia sas Art,
        Thank you for being polite. Please have in mind, that this is an independent writer/traveler blog.

        Here’s mine response:
        1. We do not steal nobody’s history or culture – we have our own. We call it Macedonian.
        2. Macedonia is not greek, however part of Macedonia is being greek since the division of Macedonia, after the second Balkan War in 1913; And yes, Philip 2nd the Barbarian from Macedonia (as the ancient greek spokesman Demostenes referred to him), conquered the unified armies of the ancient greek civilization, so if the Macedonians, and their star of Vergina/Kutlesh were greek – I doubt they were ever gonna fight against each other. The speaking of the greek language as well as the hellenic culture, is the same as today we all speak the world’s no. 1 language – the English and the global language of the music is the English.
        3. No/Ne/Ohi re, my language is Macedonian language (γλοσσα Μακεδονικοσ) and (which is widely spoken in the north of your country) and is related to the Bulgarian, Serbian, Croatian, Montenegrin and all of us understand quite good and very easily, although we all speak different languages.

        And don’t know how you do find hard to understand ?!

        • Art winger says:

          Goran,

          You are deliberately spreading falsehoods and propaganda about the ancient Greek Macedonian Legacy on the wrong forum? Please dont make your people and the nationistic propagators look even more obtuse than they already seem. Alexander united the Greek city states, and spread the Greek language and culture to the known world. Please attend a basic classics lecture at any University. Or even, open an American or British encyclopaedia. Your Slavic people did not migrate to the northern outskirts of the Macedonian region until 700AD. You cannot find one ancient Macedonian artefact that is written in your Slavic-Bulgarian dialect? Your country is lovely, however there is no NEED to steal from neighbours. Be proud of your Western Bulgarian heritage – and leave Macedonia to the Hellenes.

          • Goran says:

            I can see, there cannot be discussion with you – as a greek “macedonian”.

            The ancient Macedonians were & the Macedonians today, are people of European origin.
            The today greek “Macedonians”, living in the area of Aegean Macedonia – greek province of Macedonia are settlers (newcomers), or as you say in “your language” – Pontos/Ponti from Asia Minor (after the greek-turkish agreement in Lausane in 1923, for exchange of Muslims and Orthodox population).

            So all those “Macedonians” are third generation of Europeans (living on European grounds), and therefore they cannot be Macedonians, since they are not of European origin. You know very well all of these as you probably learn this in your history books about the greek people in Constanople/Instabul, Trapzon, Prusa/Bursa, etc.

            In order to speak with somebody for history, especially when you attack him or her, you must know/learn/respect their history. I know, as you can see many information about your – Greek history. I don’t call it Turkish for example, although you eat Musaka and Gyros, (which are from the Ottoman cuisine, for example).

            Be proud of your Greek ethnicity, and respect your first neighbors in the Balkans – the Albanians, Macedonians, Bulgarians and the Turks. That’s the spirit of the European democratic society. Go and travel, see the world and Europe, instead of staying block-minded in “your country”.

      • m.frenkel says:

        I’ve been to Macedonia as a tourist in several occasions and it’s really fantastic!

        I feel I must reply to the politically motivated comments. The world history is a dynamic matter. We have seen many well-known historical facts busted with the latest discoveries. In this modern era, however, the technology to record the present time is so advanced we can’t miss a thing. So people can argue forever when it comes to the history before the industrialization.

        When it comes to DNA research, it is a proven fact that genetic variation within any nation is much greater than between nations. As the University of Munich researcher Svante Paabo says, ‘I might be closer in my DNA to an African than to another European in the street’. Geneticist Steve Jones says, ‘color does not say much about what lies under the skin’. The DNA research has proven that we all have a single ancestor somewhere in Africa. You will really need to learn more about the science of DNA before trying to divide people into nations. Read more: http://web.mit.edu/racescience/in_media/what_dna_says_about_human/ and http://www.futurity.org/science-technology/man%E2%80%99s-rare-y-chromosome-traced-back-338000-years/.

        As I can see, Macedonia is located at the part of a location that was named Macedonia in the old age. I’m sure that people that live there at the present time have some of the genes from the ancient people that lived at that exact location. However, if you carefully study about DNA you will understand that genes are not something that can be used to claim the name of a country. From a legal point of you, other than Macedonia there is no other country in the world that has that name registered under the Untied Nations, so there is no problem whatsoever. If your government want to change the name of Greece into Macedonia, only than there is a legal ground for a dispute. If you have a city, chocolate or whatever in Greece that is named Macedonia, it’s totally not reasonable to use that as a mean to politically oppress another country for using that exact name.

        • Alexander says:

          It’s so refreshing reading a logical and comprehensive comment from a non-Macedonian/Greek regarding the issue. I couldn’t agree more!

          Macedonia is full of warm people, rich culture and traditions, beautiful nature (and women) and has a lot to offer. It’s little comments like these that mean the world to us!

          As a small and weak transition economy, we’ve been an easy target to political bullies. We need more Macedonians and non-Macedonians defending our side so that we can start moving forward! We’re not perfect and surely instigate our fair share of problems, but we’re also an entire civilization of people being kept out global organizations that can help us to grow as a nation by Greece because they don’t like our name!

          Anti-bullying courses must not be included in the Greek Political Science curriculum.

          • Actual Macedonian says:

            Dear “Alexander”,

            Your “victimhood” propaganda is no longer credible. The moment fanatics like you started to claim be dedescendents of the Hellenistic period, was the moment you validated Greeks complains that you were manipulating the name to promote irredentism against Greece. (and the fact your foreign apologists desperately try to downplay your identity quick change also revealed them as Greek hating bigots)

            Skopians need to take a course on their mostly ethnic BULGARIAN past before lecturing anyone on history. Its flattering that fanatics like you decided to build giant statues to ancient Greek historical figure Alexander the Great but the fact is there isn’t a single “Macedonian” in ancient Peonia. Not one. A country built entirely on fraud and hatred of anything legitimately Macedonian.

  43. ~ says:

    it’s Tikves actually, not Tiknes 🙂 glad you had a good time!

  44. Simona Krebs says:

    Thanks for sharing Kate! My family are originally from Macedonia and I have been over twice. I’ve been to many European countries also and always believed Macedonia was just an undiscovered jewel in the Balkans. It does help that I speak the language, but there are so many English speaking Macedonians, anyone will find a visit there wonderful! I also have family who run a beautiful hotel in Bitola called Villa Evita (on Facebook) who are Australian born and would love to help you all with any travel arrangements, accommodation and info on the best places to see! They are right near Sirok Sokak so you’ll be right amongst the awesome night life! Some advice for those considering a visit over soon, you have to try the local cuisine! 🙂 Burek, kebapi, DeNiro Pizza Restaurant, just to name a few. 😉

  45. Igor says:

    Nice read Kate.
    I wrote something similar few years ago for a blog from Washington DC so you might find it interesting…gives some more info on the country.

    http://noveladventurers.blogspot.ca/2011/05/off-beaten-track-macedonia-and-story.html

    PS. Keep up the good travel 🙂

  46. Sam says:

    Chocolate and strawberry popcorn? Sign me up!

  47. Meri says:

    Bravo for the great blog you hit the nail on the head!!! And… Thanks for the beautiful wedding photo in Bitola.. I’m the bride in the picture we live in the states and my husband is from australia we had a destination wedding there to be with family haha this was such a pleasant surprise!! Enjoy your travels and Visit again!!

  48. Andy says:

    What a great review of Macedonia. I spent 10 days in Macedonia last year. Great sights to see in Skopje, Ohrid, Bitola, Stip, Prilep, Krusevo, Struga. I loved the fortresses in Skopje, Prilep and Ohrid built hundreds/thousands of years ago. I loved the old churches, some built in the 8th century, some overlooking the lakes, some high up in the mountains, some in the middle of a city or neighborhood- all beautiful. Hotel prices were unbelievably low, I stayed in the Hotel Garden in Ohrid for 28 Euros. Modern, clean, friendly staff, great restaurant, rooms overlooking lake Ohrid, 5 minute walk to the old town with the restaurants, shops, churches, fortress. In Stip I visited a 2,200 year old winery and then toured a 25 year old Ezimit Winery with the newest of shiny equipment and endless barrels of stored wine underground. The wines were divine. I cannot say enough about Skopje, I walked around for 3 days with my eyes not believing what I saw. Buildings, bridges, riverbank, stadium, churches, shops, restaurants, bars, monuments, people. Hotel 903ta, 3 minute walk to the centre of the city, 35 euros per day. Burek that will make you will lick your fingers, for 45 denars, less than 1 euro. A full sit down dinner with wine for 5 euros. The friendliest people ever, and many speak English. Not surprised that Macedonia was voted the 4th Friendliest country for tourists. Cant wait to go back.

  49. Sashe says:

    I was born and rased in Ohrid Macedonia curently live in the US but man do i get away from the NY/NJ madness any chance i get so do you wana go to Macedonia ….. In a New York minute 🙂

Trackbacks

Check out what others are saying about this post...
  1. […] This Magnificent Country Will Surprise You27 Sometimes the best countries are the most surprising ones. Macedonia certainly falls into that […]



Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!


eight − three =