If you’re already reading this, my guess is you’re the kind of traveller who would rather go to unknown or off-the-beaten-path places. In that case, Macedonia has to be your next backpacking crush! Not only does the country’s flag look like a Kingdom from GOT, the food is unbelievably delicious and cheap, and Ohrid, one of the country’s precious little gems, is a Natural World Heritage Site. Most importantly, Macedonia has remained relatively unspoiled by mass tourism. If you’re looking for inspiration, then keep reading for a list of essential things to do in Macedonia. You’ll be packing your bags to visit this beautiful Balkan country before you know it! You can thank me later 😉
📷@mf_photographies at the Memorial House of Mother Theresa
Visit the Macedonian capital, Skopje
If you’ve done any research on the best things to do in Macedonia, you might already have heard about Skopje’s weird relationship with statues. I promise you, you will never see any other city with as many monuments as the Macedonian capital. But Skopje is more than just a bizarre collection of statues. From Kale Fortress to the Memorial House of Mother Theresa, the Museum of Macedonia to the Millennium Cross (below), Skopje stands as one of the most diverse cities in the Balkans. Make sure you end your day at one of the cool bars near the main square. My personal favourite is Menada, which offers up great music, delicious food, excellent atmosphere, and unbeatable prices.
Have a stroll at Skopje’s Old Bazaar
Full of antiques spread across little streets and secret passages, I kid you not, Skopje Old Bazaar must be one of the best bazaars in the Balkans! It’s located on the eastern bank of the Vardar River, and only a short walk away from the main square. You’ll be transported back in time with the surrounding Ottoman architecture, traditional craft shops, museums and historical monuments such as churches and mosques. There’s a true local vibe, as recalled by backpacker @yorzic: “I wondered in to a shop that was owned by a gypsy entrepreneur who tried selling me a coat but ended up serving me his baklava with Turkish tea.”
If you are a foodie (of course you are, who isn’t?!), grab a bite in any of restaurants along the main streets of the bazaar and if you’re keen to experience the best Kebabs in town on your trip, you must definitely do so at the Bazaar.
Hike in and around Matka Canyon
There are plenty of things to do in Skopje, but it’s well worth making the time to a visit Matka Canyon as well. The great thing about this beautiful nature spot is that it doesn’t matter if you’re a hiking enthusiast or just someone who loves a breath-taking view. You can either walk all the way up to the caves or take a boat trip, or if you’re feeling extra adventurous, rent a kayak and row inside the caves!
You’ll probably be thirsty after all those walks and adventures, so treat yourself in one of the cafés facing the lake. Good wine, tasty food, and mind blowing views, what else do you need?
Spend some days in Ohrid
Picture yourself facing a peaceful lake surrounded by mountains, with clear water where swans swim freely. Ohrid is all that and more! You’ll find nature, nightclubs, cafés serving traditional Macedonian food and 365 churches…one per each day of the year the locals say! And if that’s is not enough to tempt you, my dear wanderluster, you should know Ohrid has one of the most beautiful fortresses of the whole country. I’m talking about Samuil Fortress and the stunning views it provides (below).
If you’re coming from Ohrid airport, it only takes 10 minutes to reach the city centre by car. Be careful and do not accept any taxi rides for more than €7. City Hostel Ohrid and SunnyLakeHostel are the perfect hostels for location, atmosphere and warm Macedonian hospitality!
Take a day trip to Bitola
The country’s oldest city is small but full of cultural heritage, and Bitola is a must do for your Macedonian adventure. This little city surrounded by mountains is only a 3 hour bus ride from Skopje and buses leave every hour from 9am – 8pm, costing just 10 euros. A walk along Širok Sokak, the city’s pedestrian street, should be enough to provide you with a perfect insight into Macedonia’s most European-looking city. And don’t dare leave this place without sampling at least one of the huge amount of coffee shops!
If you’d prefer getting lost in the woods, then take yourself up Baba Mountain for a top quality hiking.
Feast on traditional Macedonian food
There are a lot of reasons for travelling around the world and food is in my top five, especially if you are visiting the Balkan area! You’re spoilt for cheap places to eat in Macedonia, so here are some traditional dishes that you can’t leave the country without trying….
Start the day with a traditional Macedonian breakfast: fresh tomato, cucumber, hot homemade bread, feta cheese and Macedonian coffee. Healthy AND delicious, right?! You must also treat yourself with burek, a tasty pastry filled with cheese, spinach and potato/mince meat which can be found in almost all restaurants and it’s very cheap. If you have the chance to make some local friends they will definitely cook burek. Trust me, you will return home and dream about it, wishing you’d learnt how to cook it!
Veggies can’t go wrong with a Shopska Salad, with melt-in-your-mouth feta cheese crumbled on top! Pindjur is a spicy relish mix of tomatoes and paprika, enjoyed with cheese on the side and sometimes extra cooked with eggs. Baklava is a dietry staple in Macedonia, and is best served with a glass of Turkish Tea 🙂
One of the best things to do in Macedonia is get to know the locals with a shot of Rakija. Macedonians know how to party, and it doesn’t matter what time it is or even what day of the week, and I learnt that there’s always a good time for shot of Rakija. Take yourself to the first bar you come across and ask for a shot of this traditional Balkan drink. Na zdravye!
About the author: Angie is a working traveller from Argentina and author of her own blog, Titin Around the World. In 2012 she dropped everything and went to New Zealand on a working VISA, and had the revelation that travelling was her way of life and recording everything on her blog was her passion. She now writes to inspire and motivate everyone to travel!
Have you been to this hidden Balkan treasure? What do you think are some of the best things to do in Macedonia? We’d love to know, so let us know in the comments section below.