The Republic of North Macedonia is the last wilderness in Europe, a small Balkan state with thousands of years of history and culture which borders Bulgaria and Greece. Just over three-quarters of a million foreign tourists visited.
Though many of them would undoubtedly keep North Macedonia’s treasures to themselves, this extraordinary country is a secret too good not to share.
If you want an uncrowded, affordable, short-haul destination for your long-awaited travel escape this year, here are reasons that North Macedonia should rocket to the front of your list.
1 Macedonian Tour
Did you know it has been produced in North Macedonia for more than 4,000 years? That’s a long time to perfect the art of making.
International grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Grigio growing prolifically in the vineyards, as do indigenous grapes rarely found elsewhere.
Indeed 90 percent of all the Vranec vines in the world are planted in North Macedonia, and Macedonians celebrate World Vranec Day every October with a festival and tastings in their capital city Skopje.
Wine tourism in North Macedonia is growing, with more and more vineyards and wineries opening to visitors. Whet your appetite before you go with a 360-degree tour of Tikves Winery. Then plan a route taking in Lazar Winery and Popova Kula Winery. Both offer tours, tastings, and places to stay in their idyllic vineyard settings.
2 Skopje’s Old Bazaar
The Old Bazaar has been Skopje’s commercial center since the 12th century. It was close to the Vardar River and on the main trade route between Sarajevo and Athens.
The Ottomans built an extensive network of open and covered market buildings, caravanserais, mosques, monuments, and all the supporting infrastructure, but it’s still a fascinating, culturally rich part of the city to explore.
Today the Old Bazaar is protected as a cultural heritage. At the same time, two museums, the Museum of the Republic of North Macedonia and the Museum of Modern Art, have been built in this part of Skopje, further enhancing its appeal. Allow plenty of time to wander the streets, soak up the atmosphere.
3 Monastery of St. Jovan Bigorski
The Orthodox Monastery of St Jovan Bigorski (St John the Baptist) is in Mavrovo in the western part of North Macedonia. It was destroyed by the Ottomans in the 16th century but then rebuilt.
The monastery clings to the hillside and has superb views across the valleys. A community of monks still live here, though they welcome respectful guests. The monastery highlights are its spectacular frescoes and wooden iconostasis, and there is also a large collection of sacred relics.
4 Lake Ohrid
Lake Ohrid is a UNESCO World Heritage, and it straddles the border between North Macedonia and Albania. One of the oldest and deepest lakes in Europe, it is an important biosphere reserve, as well as being an undeniably scenic location to relax.
As a tourist, you are likely to stay in Ohrid or Struga, both of which are right on the lakeshore. Hotel Pela is tucked into the midst of a pine forest in the national park, with breathtaking views of the lake, and at Camp Krste Jon in Struga, you can spend the night in a treehouse, ramping up the excitement of your adventure.