Macedonia Ohrid Church of St John at Kaneo

Travel Guide: Macedonia, an Amazing Mountainous Country of the Balkans

The country defined by the picturesque lake Ohrid is nestled in the shadow of the Balkan peninsula and former Yugoslavia. The roots of Macedonia glorify the existence of the Alexander The Great, person who is known by the legend of the Gordian Knot. The simplicity of solving the problems goes into cutting the knot instead of trying to untie it.

Macedonia or officially, the Republic of North Macedonia creates the borders with Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Albania. The history of North Macedonia is blended mostly with the palette of Ottoman traces. Its blushed mountains and lake Ohrid replace the lack of seaside magic.

Skopje- the elegant macedonian capital

The river Vardar bursts the view in into a thousand splendid moments, but actually in two opposite sites. One is the artistic capture of glamorous statues, gardens and squares. The other is the charming labyrinth of streets and shops that shape the Skopje Old Bazaar, which leads by largeness almost next to the Istanbul.

The Old Bazaar with its lovely cobblestone streets and oriental charm remind to Bašćaršija of Sarajevo. In the narrowness of the streets you’ll find a covered market, many craft shops and even hammams or public baths. This is Skopje that captivates with the ancient magic and differs from the rest.

The quiet street of Old Bazaar in Skopje
The quiet street of Old Bazaar in Skopje- Credit: Whereismacedonia.org

Stone Bridge

Stone Bridge splits the new and old architecture of Split across the Vardar river. Built in the 15th century, Stone Bridge is known as the symbol of Skopje.

The Stone Bridge in Skopje, North Macedonia with the elegant architecture in the background
The Stone Bridge in Skopje, North Macedonia with the elegant architecture in the background- Credit: Thousandwonders.net

Kale fortress

Kale fortress is a fabulous viewpoint to watch the city placed only few minutes from the Old Bazaar.

Debar Maalo- bohemian quarter of Skopje

This calm area is filled with trees, cafe bars and restaurants. Sometimes it’s even a fantastic ambience for the concerts. Close to the city center yet pretty calm, this is a perfect place to day and night chill.

Memorial house of Mother Theresa

This is a praise to the legendary Mother Theresa who was born in Skopje in 1910. This charming church with the permanent exhibition was built in 2009.

Mount Vodno

First by double-decker bus, then by cable-car from Sredno Vodno or by hiking Mount Vodno is easily reachable as it’s placed just above Skopje. The amazing views of the city won’t lack when you see the huge statue of Christ the Reedemer, even more huge than in Rio de Janeiro. Millenium Cross signifies the 2000 years of Christianity in Macedonia. Within 1066m Mount Vodno offers the cozy wanderings with seven hiking paths that are optional.

Tetovo

With the close distance to Skopje and significant Albanian influence, Tetovo is the crossroad of cultures. Famous by the Painted Mosque, this town of the 14th century has much more to offer. Only 45 km from Skopje, Tetovo is one of the largest cities in Macedonia.

The Painted Mosque from 1438. takes the breath away with decorations full of art, floral design and colours wherever the eye catches. The unique thing about this mosque is that it doesn’t have a dome. The illustrations of Mecca give it another particularity. Though the mosque is small, it’s full of details and amazing art all around.

Colourful interior of the Painted Mosque in Tetoco, North Macedonia
Colourful interior of the Painted Mosque in Tetoco, North Macedonia- Credit: Wander-lush.org

Arabati Baba Tekke from the 16th century is the spiritual complex dedicated to Sufism. The wooden pavilion looks pretty fascinating and the whole complex is very quiet.

Embraced by the Šar mountains, Tetovo is the feast of the green magic. Soft views spread at the distance with the Titov Vrh and its 748m.

Bitola

This charming city in the South-West of Macedonia near the Greek border is a historical and cultural treasure. Once named Heraclea Lyncestis in the 4th century, Bitola holds the archeological site by the same name. Heraclea Lyncestis enchants with the floor mosaics and a Roman amphitheatre sitting calmly just under the Mount Baba within 2 km from Bitola. Once it was even an important centre of Christianity and gathering of bishops, precisely in the IV.-VI. century AD.

The ancient Greek city Heraclea Lyncestis in Bitola, North Macedonia
The ancient greek city Heraclea Lyncestis in Bitola, North Macedonia- Credit: Discoveringmacedonia.com

Along the river Dragor stretches an Old Covered Bazaar in this puzzle of modern and ancient ottoman architecture. Lovely mosques and ottoman bathhouses bring the heritage under the umbrella of today’s life. Saat Kula from the 17th century is the central highlight.

Širok Sokak

Širok Sokak or The Wide Street is a pedestrian boulevard which begins at Magnolia Square, Bitola’s main square. It’s the vibrant fusion of Macedonian and Ottoman architecture, of the charming shops, cafe bars and restaurants.

Lovely pedestrian street Shirok sokak in Bitola
Lovely pedestrian street Shirok sokak in Bitola- Credit: Bitola.info

Old Bazaar

The Old Bazaar is the colourful fusion of Ottoman influence among the cobbletone streets and lovely souvenirs.

Pelister National Park

Nestled at the mount Baba above the lake Prespa Pelister National Park is placed only 14 km from Bitola. It offers scenic views among the contrasts of soft valleys and sharp mountains.

Pelister National Park is the large treasure of forests and valleys, flora and fauna named after its highest peak with over 2600 m. Baba mountain delights with the views of Pelagonia Valley, Prespa Lake, the city of Bitola and few lovely mountains like Nidže, Galičica and Jakupica.

Canyon Matka

Canyon Matka is a wonderful gift of nature only 15 km from Skopje, it’s easily reachable with the bus number 60. At this artificial place you can explore stunning churches, monasteries, caves and astonishing nature.

Amazing beauty of nature at Matka Canyon near Skopje, North Macedonia
Amazing beauty of nature at Matka Canyon near Skopje, North Macedonia- Credit: Mywanderlust.pl

Kayaking, boat riding or hiking offer the plenty of adventure along mesmerising views.

Treska river joins here limestone cliffs and the fascinating Matka Lake. Amazing hikes spread around the canyon, especially towards the tiny Monastery of St. Nicholas Shihovski. To be absorbed totally by the beauty of Canyon, Matka Hotel will indulge you with fascinating experiences.

Lake Ohrid

Lake Ohrid is a picturesque retreat full of serenity. Stretching over the border between Macedonia and Albania, this large lake is a protected and lesser known UNESCO World Heritage Site from 1980. Whether strolling around the water or taking a boat ride, lake Ohrid absorbs the offbeaten vibe though being one of the oldest lakes of Europe.

Ohrid town

Ohrid city and its Old town pour the magic across its cobblestone streets. These hilly streets draw the path to the historical fortifications and amazing viewpoints. Few gates lead the way among which the Upper Gate close to the city market serves as the most preserved.

The Ancient Theatre nearby fills the touch of this charming puzzle. During the Roman Empire the gladiator battles were the most common happenings. Nowadays, it serves as the venue for many public shows, especially the annual Ohrid Summer Festival.

Between the lovely Ottoman houses, the relaxed atmosphere gives the entrance to the Old Bazaar. Ohrid Bazaar is the vibrant and busy pedestrian area. Ohrid pearls draw the attention as the famous local crafts made of the local plasica fish. Carrying the unique shine this jewelry is also pretty affordable.

Local Macedonian marble holds the charm in the streets full of shops and boutiques. The ancient Chinar Tree creates a pleasant atmosphere in the small square near the water fountain and several mosques.

Samuel Fortress

Samuel’s Fortress dominates the town with its marvellous appearance. Amazing walk at its walls gifts with even more fascinating views. Tsar Samuil holds the specific strategic point during the First Bulgarian Empire as its capital in the 10th century. The steep stairs lead to the amazing views in all directions.

One of the typical Macedonian houses is the Robevci Family House Museum located in the Old town. This 19th century edifice presents the life of the wealthy Robevci family and the lifestyle of the old Ohrid.

The Church of St. John at Kaneo

The Church of St. John set up at Kaneo near the city centre of Ohrid is one of the most amazing churches among many of Ohrid. Some of them include the historic Church of St. Sophia or Holy Mary Perivlepta Church featuring the painted frescos.

Macedonia Ohrid Church of St John at Kaneo
The Church of St. John at Kaneo at Ohrid Lake- Credit: Erikatravels.com

The Kaleo Church sitting on the cliff beats with the fantastic views.

St. Clement Church at Plaošnik is nestled near Kaneo Church where its stunning design and soft colours enchant the relaxing atmosphere by the forrest. Once being a mosque in the 15th century, it holds the fascinating frescos and mosaics.

Monastery of St. Naum

The Monastery of St. Naum is placed at the picturesque rocky cliff within 28 km from Ohrid town, just at the border with Albania. It’s one of the most popular day trips from Ohrid.

Struga town

Struga is the perfect escape to feel the authentic Macedonian vibe of the lake Ohrid. Just 15 km away from the Ohrid town, Struga lives its peaceful life. The picturesque scenery is created also by the Black Drin River and its canals.

Galičica National Park

Sandwiched between the Ohrid lake and lake Prespa National Park Galičica amazes with the breathtaking views in the pristine settings. This popular hiking path is close to the city of Ohrid, filled with aromatic herbs, wild flowers and endemic species. Though its peaks are above 2000 m, Galičica spreads from all directions where you can visit the Monastery of St. Naum, hiking to the highest point Magaro, visiting island Golem Grad full of snakes and much more.

Šar Mountains

Sharing the territory of Kosovo, the northwest of North Macedonia and Albania, Šar mountain is the marvellous touch of nature and glacial lakes. It’s the largest mountain of Macedonia, covering more than 80 km dressed in snow already from November till May.

Šar mountain with its highest peak Ljuboten
Šar mountain with its highest peak Ljuboten- Credit: Nestvarna.blog

The highest peak in Macedonia, Ljuboten (2498 m) is placed properly at the border between Kosovo and North Macedonia. After crossing the Vardar river, Šar mountain flows into the Mavrovo valley and national park.

Mavrovo National Park

The scenic landscapes create the largest of the three national parks in the North Macedonia, placed only 96 km from Skopje. Mavrovo is the place where the postcard images and Macedonian customs unite, the place where many locals have their weekend houses.

Painted by the deep canyons, lakes and forests, the pure wild life hides here in the breathtaking images of nature. Woven by the Šar, Korab and Bistra mountains flows the Radika gorge for more than 25 km. Snowy peaks and glacial lakes make this Alpine zone even more charming.

Mavrovo lake in the snow, North Macedonia
Mavrovo lake in the snow, North Macedonia- Credit: Macedonia-timeless.com

The highlight of visiting the Mavrovo lake is St. Nicholas Church half-submerged in the water. This artificial lake offers the breathtaking scenery embraced by the dense forests. In winter it’s sometimes totally frozen. Today the lake gets the water from river Radika. The canyon of river Radika just enchants by its beauty considering the whole Europe. Near the Mavrovo town the ski tourism creates the most popular gatherings.

North Macedonia’s highest peak- Mt Korab (2764 m) is the beauutiful crown of the Mavrovo National Park. This sharp peak together with the Korab mountain creates the natural border between Albania and Macedonia.

Some of the most popular places at Mavrovo lake either for hiking or just relaxing are Crn Kamen, Leunovo and Nikoforovo. Galičnik village offers the profine experience of mountain biking, hiking and traditional Macedonian culture and food. The high waterfalls of Mavrovo make the charming puzzle of this Macedonian gem even more inviting.

The refreshing temperatures of Mavrovo, even in summer, add to the numeral sport activities and nature wonders one of the favourite Macedonian retreats.

Tikves Lake

This artificial lake scatters its conical shape like pearls as it’s so picturesquely created in the canyon of Black River (Crna Reka) way back in 1968. It’s located 12 km from Kavadarci town as the support to the Tikveš Hydroelectic Power Station.

Pictureque view of the Tikveš lake, North Macedonia
Picturesque view of the Tikveš lake, North Macedonia- Credit: Macedonia-timeless.com

Tikveš region embraced by the soft hills is popular by its wine, yogurt and sour milk. The natural beauties surrounded by productivity and cultural sites like Polog monastery make Tikveš lake the fascinating treasure of local autonomy.

Conclusion- Underrated but marvellous country of south Europe

Though taking the crown of the touristic shine by its Ohrid lake, Macedonia is full of treasures. This landlocked country shares the beauties of the mountains that are almost parallel with the Alpine spirit. The melting point of Persian, Greek, Ottoman and local culture hides its southern fusion.

The affordable prices are the additional attribute to visit North Macedonia where Lake Ohrid can conquer everybody’s taste. This large lake amazes with the Mediterranean spirit inviting to absorb the offbeaten track.

The surprising fact is that even the bazaar streets are influenced by the major worldly shops but also by the local creativity and craftiness. Ohrid town witnesses the power of being the UNESCO World Heritage Site, where more than 300 churches add to that amazement.

Skopje is a charming city where contrasts play the game and on the threshold of several amazing natural retreats like Matka Canyon. Skopje will definitely pull you back into the ancient times, especially in the Old Bazaar.

North Macedonia amazes with the colourful variety of mountain life where outdoor enthusiasts will find its peace. Though underrated, North Macedonia is rich with beauty and natural charm. This is the place to feel the tradition and explore the marvellous mountain peaks, not only the Lake Ohrid.

 

 

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