11 highlights and fun facts to know before you visit Macedonia

Visit Macedonia, one of Europe’s best-kept secrets and an ancient treasure trove of history, nature and culture. We’ve done all the digging for you, to help paint a more vivid picture of what awaits you in Macedonia.

Skopje Statue

1. Visit Macedonia for an affordable European getaway

Eastern Europe is well known for being more affordable than its western counterparts. In fact, the Balkan states still take the cake for being the most affordable of all.

Travellers who choose to visit Macedonia will discover why the destination consistently ranks among the cheapest countries for a holiday.

This is, in part, due to the many affordable family-run traditional restaurants that serve up delicious food, not to mention the countless free activities that won’t cost a cent to view, most notably beautiful Lake Ohrid and the capital, Skopje.

2. The Cyrillic alphabet was invented in Macedonia

We have the Macedonians to thank for the invention of the Cyrillic alphabet. Saints Naum and Clement, both from Ohrid in Macedonia, are said to have been the founders of this new Slavic script many centuries ago. Today, the Russians, Ukrainians, Bulgarians and Serbians all use Cyrillic, albeit somewhat modified throughout the ages.

 3. Macedonia is ancient

phrid aerial

The kingdom of Macedonia was an ancient state founded by the dynasty of the Argeads in what is now the Macedonian region of northern Greece, during mid-7th century BC.

While today it doesn’t really feature on any high-hitting tourist charts, it was once an ancient crossroads for travellers journeying from west to east. It was also once the largest empire in the world under the reign of Alexander the Great. Consequently, it has been at the core of many conflicts.

The title ‘Macedonia’ was even a political hot potato when the country gained its independence in 1991. For many years, the Greeks had claimed it for one of the country’s northern regions. Happily, they’ve since resolved the dispute by officially renaming the country the Republic of Northern Macedonia.

4. Lake Ohrid, the Pearl of Macedonia

View of a village

Visit Macedonia and discover its ‘Pearl’. UNESCO-listed Lake Ohrid is no-filter-needed perfect and one of the top things to see in Macedonia. In addition to being one of the oldest lakes in the world, it’s also the deepest, measuring 287 meters in some parts.

Think towering pine trees and mountains which hug a deep-blue lake. Imagine the sky melting into its deep expanse and small beaches which are the perfect place to hide out for the day.

Rivalling the glorious Italian Lakes in the beauty stakes, this ‘seaside’ resort is incredibly popular among locals when the temperatures warm up.

5. A church for every day of the year

Sveti Jovan Kaneo

Locals tell the story of how, once upon a time, Ohrid was home to a staggering 365 churches. One for every day of the year! Most were destroyed during the Ottoman era, however.

You’ve likely seen the photos of the most famous church, St Jovan Kaneo or the Church of St. John at Kaneo. Perched on a cliff overlooking Kaneo Beach and the shimmering Lake Ohrid, it’s one of those Instagram shots you certainly wouldn’t want to miss.

6. A haven for culture vultures

Befitting of its status as a trading crossroads for centuries, visitors can expect to encounter an enviable multiculturism in its society. From food to architecture, modern-day Macedonia borrows from Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Serbian and even Persian influences on its cityscapes.

Explore a 2000-year-old Roman theatre, visit its Orthodox churches or sample the traditional rakija at a local café. All of these local experiences are a nod to the many nations and cultures which had a hand in shaping the country over several centuries. 

RELATED CONTENT: Where to sample rakija liquor, the infamous tipple, in Macedonia

7. Many, many mountains

Hold your head up high in Macedonia and take a deep breath of all that fresh mountain air. As the fourth-highest country in Europe, Macedonia has 34 mountains and as many as 50 glacial lakes. This adrenalin-inducing environment makes it the perfect option for travellers wanting to ski, snowboard, hike and boat. 

8. Low-key wine production

Visit Macedonia for good wine tasting

Macedonia is perhaps Europe’s most inconspicuous wine-producing region. You’ll be very pleasantly surprised to discover how good the wine is too.

They’ve quite literally had thousands of years to perfect their talents. Macedonia has been cultivating vineyards as far back as 4000 years ago.

Today, the country has an established wine industry with over 24,000 hectares of vineyards. And one of the largest wine-growing regions in Macedonia is the Tikvesh Valley.

It’s here that you’ll find Winery Tikves, Macedonia’s largest winery and a popular brand you’ll likely see mentioned on restaurant menus and in shops. There are 20 different varietals grown in the Tikveš region, but you’ll want to sample the local Smederveka, Vranec and Temjanika.

In the mood for something a little more potent? Embrace the local culture and add rakija to your mix of local drinks when you visit Macedonia. Put an extra spring in your step with this potent fruit brandy.

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9. Visit a 4000-year-old space observatory

View Kokino columns when you visit Macedonia

Macedonia brims with little-known archaeological treasures. Just an hour’s drive from Skopje, is one of the most notable things to see in Macedonia – a Bronze-Age archaeological site just outside the village of Kokino, bearing the same name.

When you visit Macedonia, you should check out these giant stones which have been arranged in a series of peculiar patterns. NASA says these were once used to study the movement of the sun and moon. They’ve subsequently dubbed this megalithic observatory as one of the oldest space observatories in the world.

10. Exquisite National Parks

Visit Macedonia to see Mavrovo National Park

Not to be outdone in the natural beauty stakes, Macedonia is also home to three irresistible national parks. If you love the outdoors, visit Macedonia to explore its Mavrovo, Pelister or Galicica national parks. These deliver a distinctive outdoors experience, whether you visit in winter or summer.

To see the most beautifully preserved mountainscape in the Balkans, look no further than Pelister National Park. Keep a keen eye out for the diverse array of wildlife that finds sanctuary amidst its peaks, from bears to wolves and even wild boars.

11. Skopje is a city of contrasts

Skopje

An ancient city that has had 7000 years to evolve – it’s little wonder that Skopje is a city of surprising contrasts. One of our favourite things to do when in Skopje, is to pay a visit to the the Old Bazaar – a popular and smaller version of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, minus the crowds. Also, when you visit Macedonia and its capital, make a point of viewing its 6th-century historic fortress, depicted on the city’s coat of arms.

RELATED CONTENT: Why you should visit Skopje, Europe’s most unusual capital city

Have you been lucky enough to visit Macedonia? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below…

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