Macedonia is a small Balkan country bordered by Serbia, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Albania, and Greece The country is still off the beaten path of most tourists. However, those who do come find a land of incredible natural beauty with mountains, rivers, and lakes offering beautiful views and memorable experiences. The countryside is dotted with villages that seem to have changed little since medieval times. There are many interesting pre-historical ruins and more modern historic architecture that will leave visitors intrigued and enthralled with the history and culture of this small nation.
© Courtesy of David Johnston - Fotolia.com
Lake Ohrid sits in the mountains on the border between Macedonia and Albania. It is one of the oldest and deepest lakes in all of Europe. The lake has a unique ecosystem and is home to more than 200 species found nowhere else, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its importance to humanity. The Macedonian towns of Ohrid and Struga sit on the lakeshore. Visitors come to enjoy the lakefront and the water as well as the surroundings. Taking a boat ride on the lake itself is a popular activity. Many beautiful churches and monasteries, an ancient theater, and more are popular attractions around the lake. Others come to shop for famous Lake Ohrid pearls, which are known to be especially bright and shiny.
© Courtesy of Wallpaper - Fotolia.com
The Ancient Theater of Ohrid is a Hellenistic theater that was constructed in 200 BC. It is the only theater in Macedonia dating from Hellenistic times. Only the lower section has survived until today so it is unclear how large it once was. It was sited between two hills, which naturally make the acoustics very good. During Roman times, the theater was used for gladiator fights and became a site where Christians were frequently executed by the Romans. The site fell into disuse after the fall of the Roman empire and was eventually buried. It was re-discovered in the 1980s and since then has been used for public performances such as theater, dance performances, and concerts.
3.Bay of Bones
© Courtesy of Gryf - Fotolia.com
While you are in Ohrid to see the ancient theater, you should make time to check out another of its cultural and historic landmarks – the Bay of Bones. The bay features a “Museum on Water,” which is an exceptional example of architecture. The original structures have long disappeared, but the site features an authentic reconstruction of part of the original pile-dwelling settlement, which has been dated to somewhere between 1200 and 700 BC. A Roman military fortification stands on the hill above the bay, which was also reconstructed as part of the project. The two sites combine to give visitors and tourists a good look into the ancient history in this region.
© Courtesy of thdk - Fotolia.com
This cave is not very well known even among locals but has the distinction of having the largest cave entrance in all of the Balkans. It is a significant site of natural beauty and remains far off the beaten path for most tourists. There is a fortress at the entrance dating to the Middle Ages. The fortress ruins are somewhat connected historically to Deva’s Fortress, which is located nearby. Locals say that the two fortresses were home to the sisters of King Marko. There is parking near the cave entrance and a well-maintained trail leads up to the entrance of the cave. The cave is quite large and trekking through it in daylight is quite easy, even with children.
5.Contemporary Art Museum of Macedonia
© Contemporary Art Museum of Macedonia
The Contemporary Art Museum of Macedonia is one of the largest and most complete national institutions in Macedonia. It is located in the country’s capital city of Skopje. The museum holdings include two main collections: art from Macedonia and International art. The international collection contains pieces from almost all regions of the world and has a special focus on the decades from 1950-1980 but it also has several significantly older pieces. Some of the most famous artists with works in the museum include Pablo Picasso, Alberto Burri, Zoltan Kemeny, Emilio Vedova, and Hans Hartung, among others. The museum building is particularly interesting as it is modeled after a medieval fortress and placed on a hill with a panoramic view of the capital city.
© Courtesy of mitarart - Fotolia.com
There are three large, natural lakes in the country and Lake Dojran is the smallest of the three. The lake sits on the border of southeastern Macedonia with Greece and is a popular tourist attraction. There are many interesting and unique folklore stories associated with the lake. During your visit, be sure to ask locals about the stories as they are quite intriguing. There is also a unique way of fishing that can only be seen at Dojran Lake, where local fishermen use cormorant birds to herd fish into their traps. The mud from the lake is also said to be quite good for your skin, which may be something else you want to try during your visit.
© Courtesy of Adwo - Fotolia.com
Known by many locals as the Kale Fortress, the Skopje Fortress sits on the highest point in the capital city above the Vardar River. The fortress has become an iconic symbol of Skopje and is recognized throughout the world. Surprisingly little is known about the impressive structure, as it appears in just a few documents with little detail. It is thought that a fortress was first constructed on the site in the mid-6th century and was reconstructed under Emperor Justinian I and further during the 10th and 11th centuries. The fortress is sometimes closed to visitors for archeological activities so it would be advisable to check that it is open before planning a visit.
© Courtesy of ollirg - Fotolia.com
In order to really experience ancient Macedonia, you must make a trip to Heraclea Lyncestis, an ancient Macedonian city that once sat 2 kilometers south of the modern town of Bitola. It was a significant town during the Hellenistic period as it was sited at a crossroads and the border of the empire. Today, it is the most well-preserved city surviving from the ancient Macedonian Empire. Visitors come here to see the impressive mosaics, Roman baths, and Roman-era ancient theater. There is a small museum on site, which features some artifacts that have been recovered from the ancient city as well as a detailed scale model of what the impressive ancient city used to look like.
© Courtesy of Aleksandar Vasilevsk - Fotolia.com
The Kokino Observatory is a significant archeological site from the Bronze Age, located near the Serbian border near the town of Kamanovo. The ruins were discovered just recently, in 2001, and feature giant stones arranged in interesting and intriguing patterns. Kokino is thought to have had functioned as both a ritual and a scientific site. It is placed at 3,300 feet above sea level and features two platforms in the center, with rock arrangements and carvings that denote astrological events. Information about the changes in seasons were communicated from the observatory to people in the surrounding areas by the use of a large fire that could be seen from miles around. The observatory is the fourth oldest in the world following Abu Simbel, Stonehenge, and Angkor Wat.
Places to see: Valentine's Day, Rijeka, Myanmar, Venice, Paris, Berlin, Lithuania, Whistler, Shanghai, New Zealand, Mauritius
© Courtesy of bora030 - Fotolia.com
According to local legend, there was once a man who was having a hard time choosing between two potential brides. He wasn’t able to make up his mind so he decided to marry both women on the same day but keep it a secret from the women. The second wife walked in on the first wedding and cursed the whole wedding party, turning them into stone, and they stood there for many years. Whether or not you choose to believe this legend, the site has an interesting feel to it. There are 120 massive stones stood on end covering 74 acres. They are thought to have actually been caused by uneven erosion and volcanic rocks. The site is not easy to find and is not well marked so it would be smart to hire a local guide.
© Courtesy of Marco - Fotolia.com
Macedonia has many options for those who wish to explore the outdoors as it features a varied and beautiful landscape. Matka Canyon near Skopje is one of the most popular destinations in Macedonia for nature lovers. The canyon is home to several medieval monasteries as well as the oldest artificial lake in Macedonia. There are ten caves, many of which can be explored by visitors. Many visitors come for hiking and climbing and it is one of the best areas in the region to engage in these activities. The Treska River runs through the canyon and is popular for kayaking, fishing, and swimming.
12.Mechkin Kamen Monument
© Courtesy of chicha1mk - Fotolia.com
The Mechkin Kamen Monument is a space age looking monument and memorial that was built 70 years after the Ilinden Uprising to honor the momentous occasion. The uprising happened in 1903 when a group of Macedonians led a battle against the Ottomans that resulted in freedom for Macedonia. The odd-looking monument is a white sphere with ten stained-glass skylights spaced around its surface. It has become an iconic symbol of freedom and statehood in Macedonia. The monument sits 4,000 feet above the town of Krusevo, offering visitors beautiful views of the well-preserved medieval town while you take in this odd and interesting monument.
, Day Trips from Denver
, FL Camping
, Kauai Beaches
13.Memorial House of Mother Teresa
© Courtesy of zatletic - Fotolia.com
The Memorial House of Mother Teresa is a memorial home dedicated to Nobel Peace Prize recipient and famous humanitarian Mother Teresa. The home sits on the location of the former Sacred Heart of Jesus church where Mother Teresa, a Skopje native, was baptized. The home is a modernized version of Mother Teresa’s birth house. It contains some of her relics, which were transferred there by the Church. There is a museum on site that has a number of sculptures of Mother Teresa and various members of her family. From time to time, the house and its gallery are used as a venue for art and cultural exhibits.
14.Museum of Bitola
© Courtesy of Jove - Fotolia.com
The Museum of Bitola is housed within a building that was built in 1848 and was previously used as a military high school and military academy. The father of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, was the academy’s most famous student. The building was converted into a museum in the 1980s, and it now preserves the most valuable historical and cultural artifacts from the region, illuminating the cultural diversity of this small but diverse region. Exhibits include the Memorial Room of Kemal Ataturk, the City Room, rooms dedicated to various historical periods, and temporary thematic exhibits. After visiting, you will have a deeper appreciation and understanding for the history and cultural heritage of this area.
15.Museum of the City of Skopje
© Courtesy of markobe - Fotolia.com
The Museum of the City of Skopje tells the story of the history of Macedonia’s capital city. The first settlements known to have existed in Skopje were founded around 3000 BC, so the city has a long history with many interesting events. The building is a former railway station that was converted to a museum in 1949. During the 1963 earthquake, the building was partially destroyed but was later repaired. The museum exhibits cover a variety of genres, including history, archeology, art, and more. One of the main permanent exhibits is called “Walk through the Past” and it covers the history of Skopje and the surrounding region from prehistoric times up until the present.
16.Museum of the Macedonian Struggle
© Courtesy of Leonid Andronov - Fotolia.com
The Museum of the Macedonian Struggle for Statehood and Independence, the Museum of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, and the Museum of the Victims of the Communist Regime is a three-part museum owned by the government of Macedonia. It is a specialized museum that tells the story of the revolutionary tradition of the small Balkan state. The exhibits housed in the museum tell the story from the beginning of Macedonia’s struggle against the Ottomans all the way up until they achieved independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Visitors can tour the museum on guided tours, which travel through 13 exhibits arranged in chronological order, ending in front of the original 1991 Declaration of Independence.
© Courtesy of markobe - Fotolia.com
The Old Bazaar is located on the banks of the Vardar River in Skopje. It is one of the largest and oldest markets in all of the Balkans and has been at the center of Skopje’s economy since before the 12th century. In addition to scores of interesting shops, the area around the market is known for its interesting architectural features. Examples of both Ottoman and Byzantine architecture can be found here, as can several modern buildings. The Museum of Modern Art and Museum of Macedonia are both found within the bazaar as well. In addition, several interesting mosques and churches surround the market, many of them still operational.
© Courtesy of ollirg - Fotolia.com
Pelister National Park is a national park situated in the Baba Mountain massif. The park has stunning and varied flora and fauna, including a wide range of interesting wildlife. Visitors may encounter bears, deer, wild boars, eagles, and more during their visit. The park is the oldest national park in the country and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Macedonia. Many visitors come during the winter to ski as it is a world-class skiing destination. The park is also known for its two alpine lakes, Big Lake and Small Lake, which are together referred to as Pelister’s Eyes.
19.Roman Bath Bansko
© Courtesy of vadim_petrakov - Fotolia.com
?About 12 kilometers from the town of Strumica near the base of Mount Belasitza sits one of the largest hot water springs in all of the Balkans. The water in the springs come from the village of Bansko, which is how the baths got their name. Roman baths were built on the site in the 2nd century. There are 11 rooms, which have a variety of functions, including rooms for the sick, dressing rooms, massage rooms, cold baths, and a sauna among others. In all of Europe, the baths remain one of the only remnants of Roman times to have been preserved to such a great degree.
20.Sarai ahmet Niyazi
© Courtesy of bellakadife - Fotolia.com
Sarai ahmet Niyazi is one of the best and most stunning examples of neoclassical architecture in all of Macedonia. The building is thought to have been constructed by Niyazi Bey, who was an Ottoman overlord and leader of the Young Turk revolution. Supposedly, he modeled the building after a postcard of a French castle. The building was Niyazi Bey’s personal residence but today is preserved as a museum. The museum is home to the Keraca Visulceva Gallery, the Dragi Tozija House of Culture, and the Resen Ceramic Colony, making it a significant center for culture and the arts.
21.Skopje Hydrometeorological Institute
© Courtesy of steuccio79 - Fotolia.com
The Skopje Hydrometeorological Institute is part of a primary school in Macedonia’s capital city. The building has been designed to generate all of its own energy needs. It is covered with solar panels and has other features that help it to conserve energy. The building is an experiment of sorts in the struggle to transition away from fossil fuels and towards alternative energy. Fans of the project hope that the school’s success will inspire others on both a large and small scale to pursue solar power and other forms of alternative energy in order to meet their energy needs.
© Courtesy of Nace Popov - Fotolia.com
The Smolare Waterfall is the country’s tallest waterfall, plummeting nearly 40 meters down the side of a mountain. The waterfall is located near the village of the same name in southeastern Macedonia. It is part of the Lomnica River, which is tucked away deep in Mount Belasica. There is a nature trail with some 300 stone steps that visitors can walk to reach the waterfall. A bridge in front of the waterfall offers a great place to watch the waterfall and snap a photograph. There are also picnicking and camping areas near the base of the falls. The area around the waterfall is nicely wooded, making the walk to the falls a pleasant one.
© Courtesy of iza_miszczak - Fotolia.com
Stobi is the modern name of the ancient town of Paeonia. The town was conquered and converted into the capital of Macedonia Salutaris, an ancient Roman province. The town sat along the route from the Aegean Sea to the Danube River as well as at the crossroads of trade and warfare, and thus has many significant archaeological sites throughout. A number of historical sites may be of interest to visitors to Stobi. The Northern Basilica, the main town public fountain, and the Palace of Theodosius are a few examples of the sites that make Stobi an attractive destination for anyone interested in the ancient history of the region.
24.The Library Goce Delchev
© Courtesy of connel_design - Fotolia.com
The Library Goce Delchev is housed within a two-story home in the city center. The home is a stunning and authentic example of Macedonian architecture. It was constructed in 1912 and holds a valuable collection of rare books from the 1800s and early 1900s. The entire collection numbers more than 70,000 volumes. One of the most significant books in the library is Kiril Pejchinovich’s Mirror, which dates to 1816. The museum is named after important revolutionary figure Gotse Delchev, who is regarded as a national hero for the part he played in the resistance movement against the Ottomans.
25 Best Things to Do in Macedonia
- Ohrid Lake, Photo: Courtesy of David Johnston - Fotolia.com
- Ancient Theater, Photo: Courtesy of Wallpaper - Fotolia.com
- Bay of Bones, Photo: Courtesy of Gryf - Fotolia.com
- Cave Peshna, Photo: Courtesy of thdk - Fotolia.com
- Contemporary Art Museum of Macedonia, Photo: Contemporary Art Museum of Macedonia
- Dojran Lake, Photo: Courtesy of mitarart - Fotolia.com
- Skopje Fortress, Photo: Courtesy of Adwo - Fotolia.com
- Heraclea Lyncestis, Photo: Courtesy of ollirg - Fotolia.com
- Kokino Observatory, Photo: Courtesy of Aleksandar Vasilevsk - Fotolia.com
- Kuklica, Photo: Courtesy of bora030 - Fotolia.com
- Matka Canyon, Photo: Courtesy of Marco - Fotolia.com
- Mechkin Kamen Monument, Photo: Courtesy of chicha1mk - Fotolia.com
- Memorial House of Mother Teresa, Photo: Courtesy of zatletic - Fotolia.com
- Museum of Bitola, Photo: Courtesy of Jove - Fotolia.com
- Museum of the City of Skopje, Photo: Courtesy of markobe - Fotolia.com
- Museum of the Macedonian Struggle, Photo: Courtesy of Leonid Andronov - Fotolia.com
- Old Bazaar , Photo: Courtesy of markobe - Fotolia.com
- Pelister, Photo: Courtesy of ollirg - Fotolia.com
- Roman Bath Bansko, Photo: Courtesy of vadim_petrakov - Fotolia.com
- Sarai ahmet Niyazi, Photo: Courtesy of bellakadife - Fotolia.com
- Skopje Hydrometeorological Institute, Photo: Courtesy of steuccio79 - Fotolia.com
- Smolare Waterfall, Photo: Courtesy of Nace Popov - Fotolia.com
- Stobi, Photo: Courtesy of iza_miszczak - Fotolia.com
- The Library Goce Delchev, Photo: Courtesy of connel_design - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Adwo - Fotolia.com