Macedonia Travel Guide
Boasting the most confusing country name in the world, The breakaway state known as Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is nestled in the southeast of Europe, is a unique patchwork of cultures and home to a rich archaeological legacy. Visitors will find medieval monasteries, vineyards, lush orchards, Orthodox churches, timeworn Turkish bazaars and ultramodern shopping centers. Occassionally people mistake it for a province of Greece, which is why the Greeks insist they call themselves FYROM and not Macedonia!
Macedonian cuisine closely resembles Turkish and Greek cooking, and kebabs feature prominently on the snack menus. Meat lovers will have a feast, and dairy products are often used as ingredients. Wash your dinner down with a shot or two of the obligatory Rakia, a strong grape brandy. Lodging can be expensive throughout the country, with hotels charging foreigners double rates. More economical, private accommodation can easily be arranged; often you’ll be approached by touts at the bus station – yup it’s that kind of country!
When to Go
A landlocked country, Macedonia has a distinct continental climate with very cold winters and hot summers.
Summers (June to August) are hot and dry although cool nights bring relief.
Warm winds blowing up the Vardar Valley from the Aegean Sea moderate the continental conditions found farther north.
The temperatures can fluctuate widely; summer temperatures can reach 104°F, while in winter, the mercury can plunge to as low as -22°F. All the mountainous areas get plenty of snowfall from November to April.
Getting There & Away
Most visitors arrive by air in Skopje, while there is also an international airport in Ohrid. The most convenient means of getting around is by rail, with quaint and cheap trains winding through some spectacular scenery. Bus travel is well organized with frequent services from Skopje to Ohrid and major regional towns.
Health & Safety
Macedonia is a relatively safe travel destination, but take the usual precautions and be on your guard for pickpockets in busy tourist areas. There are plenty of people who need to make a living scamming tourists. Most hotels and private accommodation will provide a safe for keeping valuables and cash in. Tap water is safe to drink and there are public drinking fountains in most public places. It is recommended that you wash all fruit and vegetables before eating them.
Three days in Skopje
Two days in Ohrid
Two days in Bitola
Two days exploring Pelister National Park
A daytrip to Sveti Jovan Bigorski Monastery
Skopje Old Town: in the capital is home to the Church of the Holy Saviour, the 15th century Mustafa Pasha Mosque and other historical landmarks. It’s hardly ‘Prague‘ but charming and worth loitering in.
Ohrid: is the tourist Mecca of Macedonia, with spectacular Byzantine churches, small cobbled lanes, art galleries, good lodging and quaint pebble beaches to relax on. This is where you come to be among the tourist crowds.
Bitola: is the country’s second-largest town and a former key center of Ottoman rule. The ancient ruins of the city of Heraclea are nearby, but otherwise you’d be hard pressed to write home gushingly about the palce.
Sveti Jovan Bigorski Monastery: is a fully working monastery in a forest location on the slopes of Mount Korab. The monastery offers self-catering dormitories for visitors.
Pelister National Park: features unique geological formations, a wealth of springs, streams and rivers, and is home to two glacial lakes. Outdoor lovers make a bee-line for this park.
Boating: on Lake Matka, where the steep canyon is mirrored in the green surface of the lake. Glide along in your boat and explore the local caves and their mysterious life-forms.
Mountain biking: in Mavrovo National Park on macadam roads and dirt paths while visiting mountain dairies and admiring herds of wild horses.
Caving: or vertical spelunking in the many impressive caves including the Ice Cave.
Hunting: in the hunting range of Lakavica, located in the central part of Macedonia, with prey including wild boar, mouflon sheep and deer.
Macedonian Mardi Gras: in Strumica is held in March and features traditional costumes and grotesquely long-face masks worn by those who parade the streets to the sounds of music and merriment.