16 Must-see Places to Visit in Macedonia
*The name of the country was recently changed from Macedonia to North Macedonia. However for people to find my articles on the country I will refer to it as both Macedonia and North Macedonia for the time being. There are many political and strong opinions about the name change so I just want to note that any negative or political comments will be deleted.
Macedonia, much like the other countries in the Balkans, and in Eastern Europe as a whole, is an almost undiscovered gem of a country. It’s a place that doesn’t get half as much tourism as it should. And, while that’s a shame for those who ignore these beautiful places to visit in Macedonia, it’s certainly not a shame for you!
You get to discover all the wonderful places to see in Macedonia for yourself, free from most of the tourist traps and density of tourists found in European cities like Rome and Paris.
You’ll get to discover Mavrovo National Park, Snake Island, Pelister National Park, and discover so many amazing things to do in Macedonia for yourself! Macedonia is, after all, a place with as much cultural history as neighbouring Greece and as much natural beauty as Croatia and Slovenia.
Snow-capped mountains, endless green landscapes, a bustling modern capital, and ancient ruins are just some of the treasures that await when you visit Macedonia. So, let’s take a look at eighteen of the very best places to see in Macedonia!
16 most beautiful places to visit in Macedonia
It may be the capital but Skopje has a lot to offer and shouldn’t be left off your places to visit in Macedonia. A city with over thousands of years of history to explore in the form of monuments, fortresses, and statues, so many statues!
Many of the buildings in downtown Skopje are relatively new but built in a classical style giving the city a quirky and colourful feel that’s fun to wander around in. You’ll also still be able to see buildings in the brutalist style although they are disappearing quickly.
Make sure you don’t miss the old bazaar, it’s the second-largest in the Balkans after Istanbul and has a real old-world charm about it, there are plenty of bars and cafes there to get lost in the atmosphere for a while. You’ll also be able to visit the Kale fortress nearby which offers a lovely (and free!) view of the city.
2. Mavrovo National Park
Ready for some rugged mountain ranges and the best skiing in the country? Mavrovo National Park, in the western part of Macedonia, contains the highest peaks in the country including the Great Korab Mountain (2,746 meters high) and it’s one of the oldest national parks in Europe.
Within you’ll find Macedonia’s biggest ski resort offers tracks for beginners through to advance and ski lift to take you up to some stunning views but if you’d rather get lost in nature then this is a perfect place to do so.
The extensive forests in the park contain hundreds of species of trees and wild herbs and tea which can be gathered and an impressive number of animal species including otters and wolves and the endangered Eurasian Lynx. While there make sure you pay a visit to one of the country’s most important monasteries Sveti Jovan Bigorski and two traditional villages Galičnik and Janče.
3. Pelister National Park
Created in 1948, this is Macedonia’s first national park and is one of the best things to do in Macedonia.
One of the biggest draws to the park are ‘Pelister’s Eyes, two huge glacial lakes at the top of Mount Pelister. Surrounded by eight other peaks, Mount Pelister is the crowning glory of this diverse mountain range that’s been drawing hikers to the area for decades.
You can catch views of Bitola and Lake Prespa from the summits and encounter a huge range of flora and fauna including deer, eagles, and even bears and wolves. The national park sits on the southern border with Greece and is only 15km away from Bitola making a nice urban escape for those that live there.
As far as things to do in Macedonia go, Ohrid is often at the top of people’s bucket list and with good reason. Historical Ohrid is one of the oldest settlements in Europe, once the centre of Slavic culture and an absolutely one fo the most charming places to visit in Macedonia.
It’s like stepping into a medieval world so it’s no wonder it was named as a UNESCO World Heritage site partly down to the stunning Lake Ohrid, a three million-year-old lake and one of the oldest and deepest lakes in Europe.
There’s plenty to do in Ohrid from hiking and cycling to delving into Macedonian cuisine with some amazing restaurants situated here or wandering churches that date back to 200BC. It’s a wonderfully varied place and perfect for a city break that’s yet to be flooded with tourism. Ohrid is one of the most popular places to visit in Macedonia due to its beauty!
5. Kokino Observatory
If your interests lie in ancient history or astronomy then this long undiscovered marvel in the far north of Macedonia (about 19 kilometres northeast of Kumanovo) can’t be missed. Alongside the likes of Stone Henge, Angkor Wat and Abu Simbel this group of stones, at an elevation of 3,300 feet, were discovered alongside a settlement in 2001.
It’s an impressive sight that features seven markers that were used to follow the sun and moon across the sky, the observatory is thought to be over 3,800 years old. Many visitors choose to camp at the observatory with telescopes watching the sky themselves like those before but simply visiting to enjoy the impressive day time view is a must.
6. The Bay of Bones
Found 16km south of Ohrid, this archaeological complex has been dubbed ‘a museum on water’ and features an authentic recreation of an ancient settlement, the original dating back to 700BC. The settlement sits on a wooden platform supported by wooden piles reaching down to the lake bed – it makes for an impressive sight and a spectacular lake view from within the museum.
The pirate-like name ‘Bay of Bones’ is due to the many animals and ship remains that they found here while excavating. People who love to dive will be pleased to know that you can actually go down and view the remains of the original settlement with Diving Center Amfora. This is definitely one of the most unique places to visit in Macedonia! Check out this great tour that leaves from Ohrid and visit the Bay of Bones.
7. Snake Island
Macedonia is landlocked but the one island you can visit, in the south of Lake Prespa, is actually not inhabited by humans at all but a large snake population (although you’re most likely to see these in the water around the island).
It’s not just snakes though, you’ll find other animals and many rare plant species on this beautiful island. Also known as Golem Grad, the Island is part of Galičica National Park and features nine archaeological sites which range from the 4th century to the 9th century including remnants of buildings, churches, and a monastery complex.
You can reach the island by organizing a boat from one of the villages surrounding Lake Prespa.
This excavation site in the middle of Macedonia (80km from Skopje) is an incredible place to see the long history of Macedonia. There’s so much to discover by just wandering the ruins which date back to the 2nd century when it fell under the Romans and became the capital of the Macedonia Salutaris province.
Beautiful mosaics, 26 buildings, a theatre, and baths can be explored and you can just picture the civilizations that have lived here through the ages. This is one of the best places to visit in Macedonia if you love history.
This charming lakeside fishing village sits near the border of Albania and offers a real mix of Macedonian and Albanian culture and some wonderful food! Built into the mountainside is the 14th-century Saint Archangel Micheal Church which sits above the village proudly and adds to the atmosphere.
There are actually seven churches you can visit which makes for a nice walking tour of the village. Although Radožda is small, it has a lot to offer, not least a serene and tranquil environment which will make you never want to leave.
Although not the easiest place to get to, it’s one of the most impressive and unique things to do in Macedonia. These towering stone structures have some interesting folklore behind them, the 120 stones represent a full wedding party turned to stone by a woman when the husband, unable to make up his mind between two women, married a second bride at the same time.
The stones have stood for over 100,000 years in the village of Kuklica 8km northwest of Kratovo. If you love photography or just want to take some really impressive pictures then this is one of the best places to visit in Macedonia.
This postcard-perfect town is full of winding streets, bridges and romantic stone towers – it also happens to be situated in the crater of an extinct volcano. Quaint stone buildings line the cobbled streets and although modernized in some respects, Kratovo very much retains its charm and is often described as a ‘living museum’.
There are even underground tunnels to explore and the famous Kuklica stones (mentioned) are an easy day trip away making for a diverse Macedonia getaway.
12. Galicica National Park
If you’re ready for some panoramic views of both Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespa then head over to Galicica National Park on the border of Macedonia and Albania. The park is situated on Galicica mountain, the largest mountain of the Sara-Pind mountain range.
The hike is so worth it for the unparalleled views but you’ll also find many species of rare flora and fauna within the park.
Tucked within the Baba, Nitze, and Kajmakčalan mountain ranges is another beautiful Macedonian city to discover. There’s a wonderful coffee culture here so you could easily spend a day just wandering in and out of cafes on Sirok Sokak, the city’s main pedestrian area.
Shopping in the Old Bazaar is also an excellent way to while away a few hours. With neo-classical buildings, galleries and museums, this is a real walking city with a relaxed laid-back vibe that you’re sure to fall in love with. Make sure you catch the prehistoric rock monument Veluška Tumba for an impressive sight in the city.
14. Canyon Matka
One of the most amazing things to do in Macedonia and an easy day trip from Skopje, visit Canyon Matka. The popular thing to do is take a boat trip around the canyon but there’s so much more to do there including swimming, hiking, visiting medieval monasteries and even cave exploring.
Although it’s a popular day trip, you can actually stay in the area and spend more time exploring the canyon which is definitely worth it if you have time. Canyon Matka is a wonderful spot for photography and nature lovers so don’t miss out.
Another spot that makes for an easy day trip from Skopje but can easily be extended is the city of Tetovo which actually has an Albanian majority population. The Pena River flows through the centre of the city and right on the bank, you’ll find one of the city’s most famous landmarks the Hamam of Tetovo which dates back to the 16th-century. Inside you’ll find Tetovo Art Gallery which is a fascinating visit.
There are also some interesting mosques and museums in the city with the most famous being the stunningly painted Sarena Mosque. Make sure to set aside some time just to wander the back streets, walk the stone bridges and generally enjoy the unique style of this city.
16. Monastery of St. Naum
Set within the lush landscape above the lake and an easy day trip from Ohrid, this captivating Byzantine monument represents one of the first examples of Slavic church architecture. The monastery itself is incredibly well-preserved and you can spend hours wandering the church, admiring the art and famous wood carvings which date back to the 16th-century.
The grounds, which contain peacocks and fountains, are also lovely to walk around and offer spectacular views over the lake. This is one of the most beautiful and religiously important places to visit in Macedonia.
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