Places to Visit in Macedonia – A Gorgeous Lake and Many Monuments
Often overlooked and underexplored, The Republic Of Macedonia may not be on your travel radar but with its relatively dry Mediterranean climate and a vast array of mountains, hills, valleys and lakes, it is packed with great adventure potential. Read on as we explore the places to visit in Macedonia.
Macedonians are traditionally Orthodox but there’s also a heavy Albanian presence in the country so Orthodox churches, monasteries and mosques are found all over the little villages dotting the countryside as well as in the larger cities.
Places to visit in Macedonia
General Points on Macedonia
The country’s name and flag were of great controversy to the Greeks and Macedonians after its independence from Yugoslavia due a region in Greece also bearing the name of Macedonia, the people of which are ethnically unrelated to the Slavic Macedonians. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was adopted by the UN as the provisional name for the nation in the nineties but many UN members have now abandoned this terminology preferring to refer to the country at the Republic of Macedonia instead. The issue remains very sensitive for Greeks and Macedonians alike.
Macedonians speak Macedonian and use the Macedonian alphabet which is an adaptation of the Cyrillic one. Thankfully, road signs were written in both the Macedonian and the Latin alphabet so we never had problems reading them. The younger generation also seem to speak English very fluently.
Although we didn’t use public transport, we were told that most places are well-connected and buses are easy to use.
Travelling to Macedonia is very affordable for western travellers. A selection of different appetiser dishes (about seven in all), wine, water and two desserts in one of Skopje’s highest recommended restaurants cost about 25 euro. Our pretty apartment in Skopje city centre cost about 20 euro per night and ice-cream on Ohrid’s busy lakefront cost less that 0.50 euro a scoop (refraining from ordering a scoop in every flavour was not easy especially since it was particularly hot in Ohrid that day!).
Both Ohrid and Skopje in our opinion are unmissable for very different reasons and though we didn’t stay in Macedonia for as long as we would have liked, we felt really comfortable exploring this little nation. Next time that we are in the country though, we plan on spending some adventure time in the gorgeous national parks.
Overall we felt that Macedonia is an easy and fun destination. With three national parks and endless mountains, there are a number of activities for the thrill-seeker including skiing, kayaking, hiking, diving and even paragliding. And if you need additional reasons to visit, the food and wine are some of the best in the Balkans!
Some Practical Tips – Places to visit in Macedonia
The Albania (Qafë Thanë) – Macedonia (Ќafasan) border was the busiest one of our entire trip in the Balkans meaning there were about ten cars ahead of us. We were annoyingly called over by customs for a car search which took over an hour, as again, there were other cars waiting to be searched before ours. The officers emptied our bags and checked every piece of clothing and opened the bags holding electronics, cameras, cosmetics, toiletries etc. An elderly-looking male officer who spoke no English pointed at my brightly wrapped tampons and wanted to know what they were. Nikki almost died laughing as I tried to explain their function using hand gestures. Finally a younger officer saved me further embarrassment and explained them to his colleague at which point they both roared with laughter and shooed us away.
We were warned about theft and pickpocketing in Macedonia especially in the larger cities but we never felt threatened or at risk even when walking at night. Obviously, as always, it is important to be sensible and trust one’s instinct.
Accommodation & service
Our apartment in Skopje was located in a drab grey soviet-era building very close to the city centre. Surprisingly, the inside was beautifully decorated in complete contrast to the outside part. Perfectly located with a funky, clean, modern interior, this was most likely the apartment we liked best during the whole trip.
Driving in Macedonia
Very easy; roads are great when compared to Albania and Kosovo and road signs were written in both the Macedonian and the Latin alphabet so we never had problems reading them. The tolls along the motorway to Skopje are paid at different sections of the road so we got to pay about 0.50 euro four times along the same road.
Very kind and helpful. One time a Skopje woman suggested we drive behind her to a shopping centre when we couldn’t locate the mall. She drove right down to the mall’s underground parking and showed us where to park our car. How’s that for hospitality?
Very widespread with a fast internet speed everywhere we tried connecting.
Influenced by Turkish, Greek and Bulgarian cuisine, Macedonian dishes were some of the best we had in the Balkans.
Everywhere including inside. Luckily it was warm enough to dine outside and avoid the stench.
Still confused about which places to visit in Macedonia? Read more about Macedonia