Although it has had a bit of an identity crisis due to pressures from neighboring countries, the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) has changed its name. It now embraces what they hope will be its last moniker: North Macedonia.
North Macedonia is a little-known country that tourists might not know about. It boasts some of the most beautiful landscapes and historic cities in the Balkans and has taken huge steps to improve its infrastructure.
Traveling to Skopje International Airport is easier than ever because more airlines are flying into the city. Here’s a list of beautiful spots in North Macedonia you might want to add to your trip itinerary.
Skopje is nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains. It was the capital and largest city of North Macedonia. The government-funded facelift began in 2014. In 1963, a massive earthquake destroyed large swathes of the city, destroying many of its historical monuments and buildings. A largely brutalist aesthetic started to emerge as the city was rebuilt. However, several neoclassical buildings were built to make it a true national capital, and many monumental monuments were added.
The Old Bazaar is one of few places that was not damaged by the earthquake. It is located between the Stone Bridge and the Fortress Kale, and it covers the entire area of the Old Bazaar. This market is the oldest in the Balkans and has been continuously operating since the 12th Century.
Although Tetovo is experiencing some industrial and tech booms, there are still important ottoman sites that you can visit. These sites date back to a simpler time. The Sarena Dzamija (The Painted Mosque) and the Baltepes Fortify are worth visiting. The views from the former, located atop Baltepes hill, are breathtaking.
Tetovo is home to the popular Macedonian dish tavce gravce. This hearty stew of beans and onions, often with bacon, or Suho Meso (a Balkan type of smoked pork), is hearty and carefully prepared. It is prepared in an earthenware pot and will be served hot from the oven at your table at Tetovo’s traditional restaurants.
Mavrovo Lake is a popular spot for summer vacations within the largest national park in Macedonia. It has a unique feature: it contains the remains of an abandoned church now submerged in the water. It is known as the Church of Saint Nicolas. Although it was built in the 19th century, the dam that flooded the area created the lake. The church was abandoned and now serves only as a tourist attraction.
For excellent skiing, you should visit Resort Mavrovo at the south end of Lake Superior if you are going in winter. It boasts three hotels and a ski center. There are also 5,000m of groomed runs. This area is one of the most popular in the region.
There are many hiking trails throughout the Sar Mountain range. You can also go mountaineering. This landscape is a favorite of European backpackers and thru-hikers due to its breathtaking views.
Popova Sapka is also part of the range. Although it is a little sparse in modern terms, it makes up for its access to some of the most beautiful backcountry skiing in the country. This resort is for the extreme adventurer and very advanced. It offers untouched wilderness and off-piste skiing.
Lake Ohrid, one of Europe’s deepest lakes, is a popular choice for summer vacationers from the Balkans. The largest towns on the Macedonian side are Struga, Ohrid, and their namesake city. The lake’s clear, crystal-clear waters can appear like a mirror on calm days. Make sure you take at least one hike into the region’s hills to see it from the top. A short hike to The Church of St. John at Kaneo or Tzar Samuel’s fortress in Ohrid will provide stunning views.
Visitors love to take the boat from Ohrid to Naum Monastery. You don’t have to pay for a private transfer. The 2.5-hour trip can be on the public ferry, which costs only EUR10. You can visit the monastery and grounds once you arrive. They are known for their peacocks, which you will find hopping around everywhere.