North Macedonia is a small landlocked country in the Balkans, which is perhaps better known as the country of Alexander the Great and the birthplace of Mother Theresa rather than the next hot tourist destination. However, that usually plays to its advantage as visitors are often surprised by the natural beauty, rich history, and fantastic food. Whether you are after discovering old architecture, exquisite cuisine, or simply are looking for your next outdoor adventure; you can find it all in North Macedonia. The best part is you'll pay a fraction of the cost you’d pay at other, more obvious, tourist destinations.
If you have an eye for detail and an admiration for history, Stobi will feel like a funfair for you. It's an excavation site in the middle of Macedonia, which sits on three terraces and tells the story of the Arc, Byzantine, Roman, and Slavic Era. It’s a rare opportunity to discover so much history in one place, and its well-preserved architecture guarantees to stir your imagination.
If you are interested in science and history, Kokino is the place to go. A Bronze Age settlement near the city of Kumanovo, this observatory was discovered in 2001 and has a rich history going back 3,800 years. Other than its unique-looking volcanic structures that stand out from the surrounding area, Kokino is of great historical significance due to its ancient use as a megalithic observatory to track the movement of the sun and the moon. Once you climb to the top, you can discover a breathtaking view, making it an excellent spot for selfies.
The Matka Canyon is very close to the capital city Skopje and offers spectacular views as well as a variety of action-packed activities. The canyon is surrounded by steep rocks that are popular among mountaineers and with amazing views of the Matka lake and the surrounding mountains. On the lake, you can take a boat tour or hire a kayak for a few exhilarating hours. The boat tour can take you to cave Vrelo, whose depth is unknown and which is one of the deepest underwater caves in the world.
If you are after something unique that fringes on the bizarre, the Vevčani Carnival is a must. This carnival dates back 1,400 years and, for a few days in January, brings the old world back to life. You can see people dressed as mythical creatures dancing and drinking through the streets of the village Vevčani. The village is so special that it has its own passport and currency, so don’t forget to get yours before you leave.
Have you ever heard of a wedding festival? Well, that’s exactly what you will find if you visit the village of Galičnik in July. Located on the slopes of Bistra Mountain, the village hosts the annual Galičnik Wedding Festival, which showcases many traditions passed down through generations. You can see men dancing the “teškoto,” a traditional oro that symbolizes the suffering of the people while tasting some of the renowned local yellow cheese “kaškaval.” Keep in mind; couples apply to have the honor to have a Galičnik wedding. If you visit, you are attending someone’s actual marriage. Pretty cool, right?
Ohrid is a must-see for anyone visiting North Macedonia simply because of the sheer variety of things to do and see. Other than being UNESCO-protected, the city bursts with cultural, historical, and gastronomic gems waiting to be discovered. If you like a relaxed day by the beach, you can visit Gradishte, which is popular for its bars and night parties. Alternatively, visit the shore of St. Naum Monastery for its remarkably clear water. Rather than driving, you can easily hire a local to take you to pretty much any beach by boat. If you want something more thrilling, you can go paragliding from mountain Galicica. Don't forget to also visit the Bay of Bones, a museum on the water of prehistoric settlements.
The old bazaar is a remnant of the country’s Ottoman history and is one of the oldest and largest marketplaces in the Balkans. During the day, you can wander through its cobbled streets to discover dozens of jewelry shops, antique shops, and restaurants. You can visit Kapan An - a 15th-century caravansary in the heart of the bazaar, which is a popular spot for lunch, or Destan, which is famous for its 'kebapi.' At night, the bazaar comes to life with many bars and restaurants which offer live music and traditional food.
If you love your wine and you’d like to discover new flavors, you are in luck as North Macedonia has over 80 wineries. If you are in Skopje, make sure you visit Chateau Kamnik Winery, whose wine is served in Michelin Star restaurants. Another popular winery is Popova Kula, located in the region of Demir Kapija that also has a lovely hotel on-site, so you don’t have to worry about driving back.
Mavrovo is a popular holiday destination for locals and visitors alike and for a good reason. The namesake Mavroro lake is excellent for swimming and kayaking. If you’d like to admire the lake from afar, you can take one of the many nearby hill walking trails. Its pine-wooded terrain is also great for mountain biking and hiking. The park is famous for its ski resort, which is the biggest in North Macedonia.