This beautiful, small nation has an unexpected number of things to offer. It’s a wonderful blend of ancient Balkan, laid-back Mediterranean, and trendy and happening contemporary European vibes.
It all begins in vibrant Skopje, the country’s capital and economic hub. It has excellent shopping and partying possibilities, as well as magnificent historical sites. The Tvrdina Kale Fortress, built in the fifth century, is one of the major landmarks, along with the magnificent Sveti Spas Church, the lovely old Ottoman market arija, and the Kameni Most. This 600-year-old Stone Bridge leads directly into the city’s main plaza, where a massive monument of Alexander the Great awaits. If you’re feeling adventurous, walk up to the massive Millennium Cross atop Vodno mountain, or use the rope train for the same vistas with less effort. If the city becomes too hot in the summer, follow the residents to the cool beaches of Lake Matka, just outside of town, where you can explore the canyon and caverns through walks and kayak excursions.
Ohrid, a smaller yet popular tourist destination, is known for its many Byzantine churches. This beautiful location on Lake Ohrid is designated by UNESCO as both a cultural and natural monument. It is home to one of the world’s most renowned collections of Byzantine icons, second only to that of Moscow’s famed Tretiakov Gallery, as well as the country’s oldest Slavic monastery and the picture-perfect Church of St. John at Kaneo on the lake’s shore. Struga, the city’s smaller sister on the lake, has a comparable charm but is less crowded with tourists.
Many would say, however, that the greatest experiences in Macedonia can be found outside of the cities, in the breathtakingly magnificent mountain vistas, isolated monasteries, and welcoming rural communities. A trip of the countryside is, in any event, a must-do for every tourist. Pelister National Park is the country’s oldest national park and a renowned tourist destination due to its characteristic Eastern European flora and wildlife. The bigger Mavrovo National Park has beautiful scenery all year and is famous for winter sports. It also has the magnificent Sveti Jovan Bigorski Monastery and a relic of its patron saint. There are hundreds of additional monasteries to visit, including the Monastery of Bogorodica and the Zrze Monastery. For genuine nature enthusiasts, the little-known Public Enterprise for Managing and Protecting the Multipurpose Area Jasen is an outstanding and off-the-beaten-path reserve with superb animal viewing chances that is conveniently situated close to the capital.
If you have enough time, there are lots of additional things to see. Consider visiting the Stone Village of Kuklica, which is just a short distance from the beautiful small town of Kratovo. Alternatively, see the historic Towers of Marko near Prilep.