Macedonia Travel Guides for Backpackers

Things to do in Ohrid, the pearl of North Macedonia

Being Macedonian means taking part in the Balkan countries that are known for many things. Mostly they are characterized with incredible nature, stunning landscapes, tasty and greasy food, happy and welcoming people, history, beautiful lakes. Speaking of lakes, right on the border between North Macedonia and Albania lays the deepest lakes in Balkan, the oldest and one of the most unique lakes in Europe. This beauty is shared by three towns: Ohrid and Struga in the Republic of North Macedonia and Podgradec in Albania. So, visiting Ohrid means you can easily check on the other two cities. Ohrid is being called a “Jerusalem” of the Balkans or even “Balkan Pearl”. I am happy to be able to visit this city and the lake anytime I want, to share my experiences and give advice and recommendations to people interested in visiting it. Here is a list of things you may want to know when in the city of Ohrid. Go to church If you ask the local people of the city of Ohrid they will tell you there are exactly 365 churches for each day of the year, but this number is not that accurate, as many of the churches built in the past were ruined or even rebuilt, during the Ottoman rule, into mosques. Regardless of the number, there are definitely many to be admired, being built on places that offer the most incredible views of Ohrid lake. One of the most significant is the Monastery of St. Naum, then the Church of St. John at Kaneo, Church of St. Panteleimon, Church of St. Sophia. Even if you are not such a religious person you will find worth visiting all of them only for the view and amazing surroundings. Al of them are very easy to reach and the best is, there are no long ques or entrance fees. Church of St. John at Kaneo Make an effort and try burek I did mention earlier that our food is tasty but greasy, right? Well, burek is one of the most delicious but at the same time most greasy pastry Ohrid offers. As a visitor, you should definitely have a go and start the day as any local would, with a quarter of the burek and a cup of yogurt. It is an indescribable experience and I assure you, you will go back for more. Besides the burek, you may also want to try a pastry called “priturano” which is basically layers of crepes and oil. Aside from these pastries, the city of Ohrid is well known for its delightful fish specialties and traditional Macedonian food served in the many restaurants situated along Lake Ohrid. Seek the hidden beaches If you are in Ohrid to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature, the villages along the lakeshore and the beaches they are hiding is a must. Of course, famous, loud and crowded beaches are there to have fun, but if you are searching for an escape, take the bus or rent a car and go further […]

How to spend four days in Skopje if you are a first-timer

Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, is the largest and definitely the most developed city in the country.  A great mixture of tradition and actuality flows along the largest river in the state, Vardar. It has huge cultural diversity and a controversial history. Skopje, the city where the Macedonians, Albanians, Turks live in a peaceful harmony can offer you a worth lifetime experience. Here is my example what not to miss when in Skopje. City center The Stone Bridge in the city center connects the authentic Skopje Old Bazar on one side with the modern controversial side on the other. Therefore, you can start your walking tour from the very center of the city, the Macedonia square. Right In the middle you can see the Alexander the Great fountain. Moreover, there are a lot of monuments and statues from a different time in history all around. For example, you can see a statue of some Macedonian revolutionary warriors who fought against the Ottoman Empire, statue of Justinian and others. It is pretty new and people’s opinion about it is divided. Some find it very kitschy and the other think it is impressive. My feelings about it are mixed because sometimes I think it is too much. On the other hand, when it gets crowded in summer and children play and run smiled around the fountain, elder people play chess on the benches, people take photos everywhere, make me think it does not look that bad. Skopje Old Bazar Later on, you can continue across the Stone Bridge to the Old Bazar. Few meters after the Bridge, on your left side, you can check the Holocaust Memorial Center for the Jews of Macedonia where you can find some original examples of the Macedonian Jews deportation during the World War II. After a short 2-3 minute walk, you come just in front of the Skopje Old Bazar. You simply cannot miss this place when traveling to Skopje. This is one of the most interesting places in Skopje and in Macedonia in total. Here you can meet Macedonians, Turks, Albanians, Gypsies, homeless or business people, tourists. To get lost in the tiny streets while admiring its Turkish architecture is quite an experience. There are a lot of shops where polite local people are eagerly waiting to serve you with a smile. Here you can try our traditional food Burek with yogurt or eat kebap in the oldest and the most famous kafana (some kind of a restaurant) in Skopje – Destan. After a great meal, you can have baklava for dessert or drink a cup of Turkish tea for just 0,3euro. There are fourteen mosques which some are turned into museums in the Bazar and three churches. The grave of the most famous Macedonian revolutionary fighter Goce Delcev is in the church Saint Spas. In the evenings the Bazar turns into a place where the young people come to the party in the local bars. At the end of the Bazar, there is the […]

Ohrid: A Cultural Getaway By The Lake

Whether you enjoy relaxing walks, adrenaline filled adventures or anything in between, Ohrid is a must place to visit this summer. Nested in the mountainous region of Macedonia, it is considered as one of the many hidden gems in the Balkans. It’s assumed that the city was named Ohrid because it’s located on a hill or “rid” – Macedonian word for a hill. The so-called “pearl of Ohrid” – Ohrid Lake is the biggest lake in Macedonia with an area of 358km2, on 695m above sea level, with a maximum depth of 286m and a perimeter of 87.53km. A unique day in Ohrid Morning adventure to the National Park – Galichica Start the day with a tour to the National Park – Galichica, situated east of the city, where you can go and enjoy the phenomenal views of the lake from the peak, on 2.582m above sea level while hiking through the pleasant untouched nature. If that sounds dull to you then the park offers the thrill and experience of paragliding above the lake. Afternoon chill by the lake If you are not the biggest thrill seeker, you can always admire the lovely beaches alongside the crystal clear water, or enjoy the luscious cuisine at one of the many restaurants where you can try the Macedonian specialties, fresh fish or the most famous traditional dishes, such as “Ribja chorba” – fish soup, “Gjomleze”, “Makalo” or the famous Ohrid trout – “Ohridska Pastrmka”. Cultural evening, sightseeing and strolling through Ohrid's cobbled streets After lunch you can go for a cultural sightseeing expedition within the old part of the city where you can visit some of the most significant churches, (it is estimated to be one church for each day of the year, considering there are 365 in the city!), see how handmade paper is produced, visit one of the many pearl workshops and witness the process of birth of the Ohrid pearls, or sit down at the antic theater and relive the medieval era. Through the cobbled narrow streets, you can easily scale up to Samuel’s fortress. Below the fortress is the archeological site Plaoshnik where the Saint Clement`s Monastery is situated which features remarkable architecture, blending together many cultural layers throughout the years. Breathtaking sunset at Kaneo As the day winds down, you can walk down the unbeaten path to the church of St. John Theologian at Kaneo, where you can stop to relax and take in the moment while watching the sun hiding behind the mountains across the lake. Summer night full of lights After the long day, you can stop for dinner in one of the many restaurants in the city square along the shoreline, or in the Old Bazaar going through the square. The vibrant nightlife starts around 10 PM, with a wide variety of bars and clubs open until the early hours which feature a musical specter wide enough to satisfy everyone’s taste. If you happen to be in the city during the peak season, you […]

The Old Cave Churches of Macedonia

Macedonia is a small country placed on the Balkan Peninsula, sandwiched between Serbia, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Greece and Albania. Although small, the country abounds in beautiful natural landscapes thanks to the numerous mountains and lakes. It also is a home of historical and cultural places and sites, such as the unique Orthodox churches, some of which have remained untouched for centuries. Nobody knows how many churches there are in Macedonia. Indeed, it is believed that there are 365 churches only around Lake Ohrid. You can find churches all around the country and you can find them on some really unusual spots – on top of hills, hidden in forests, on mountains and by rivers and lakes (sometimes even submerged under lakes). There is one type of church that is most unique, though – the cave church, or church in a rock. They got their name after their placement, namely they have been built in a cave or in a rock. There are several churches of this type in Macedonia, some of them popular to the public and some secret and never discovered. Some of them are now abandoned, but there are few that are open to everyone. Sveti Stefan, Ohrid History Most of them have been built in the Middle Ages, although there are few that date from the 9th century. To build a church cave, people would look for caves hidden in rocks. Often, these caves were unreachable, on mountains and surrounded by nature, so locals worked hard to build them. Later, when art started to flourish in the region, local artists painted frescoes inside of the churches. Some of the churches were build next to monasteries, where monks used live and write scripts about the locals. These religious sites are considered to be a cultural and historical treasure nowadays. Keeping some of the oldest paintings which date as early as the Byzantine period, the churches represent a valuable source of information and inspiration for experts in the region. So far, over 50 cave churches have been found all around the country. Most of them are clustered by the natural lakes Prespa and Ohrid in the south, but some have been found near the lake Tikvesh, Veles and Kavadarci. There are many cave churches that hasn’t been explored yet. It is believed that people have started to build churches in this style as early as the 9th century. The earliest frescos in the churches date from 13th and 14th century. Often, there are only written proves about the existence of cave churches and most of those that haven’t been explored are unreachable. Unfortunately, not much is known about the cave churches in Macedonia. However, the cave churches are slowly becoming sort of touristic attractions for locals, being perfect weekend getaways for families and explorers, but also places to find inspiration and inner peace for the religious. Here are some of the most popular cave churches in Macedonia. Sveti Stefan, Ohrid Sveti Stefan is a cave church […]

Skopje, City in the heart of the Balkans

Most of you probably never heard about Skopje, and this is one of the reasons I am sharing this story with you, and other reason is because of my opinion that “the place from where the traveling begins, and you’ve “traveled” most of the days in your life, is part of you.” So here it is. Skopje is proud to be the capital of a small country on the Balkans called Macedonia, and yet if you have never heard of it as well, there is a commercial on CNN called “Macedonia timeless”. If you search for Macedonia on a map, its form to me looks like perfectly fried egg in the middle of the Peninsula. It's easier to remember this way right? I believe it’s a place worth visiting. To be honest, I believe every place is worth visiting, what makes the difference is individual tastes. Skopje is located in the north part of the country, and lately most crowded, because it is the biggest business center and also city where famous country’s Universities are placed, so students and employees, both with their career ambitions are building their life up. With current population of nearly 1 million (the entire country population is approximately 2 million), Skopje surely has something to tell. Of course, the best way is to witness, to fell, to smell, experience, to have a story of your own , and hopefully you would have the chance for it someday, therefore I will certainly point  out the “must see” things in Skopje for your to do tourist list.   Prices, food and things to see as tourist About the financing, Skopje is considered as cheap city with low every day costs, but individually this measurement depends of your country standards. There are hostels as the cheapest solution for short stay, but for better conditions, there are apartments offered for short and longer stay as well. For example if you have work arrangements you can find very nice place to stay for 300-400 Euros monthly. If you need a taxy you should always search a number online and call for a one, because in Skopje, as almost everywhere street taxy can be a “little hard” on foreigners. Normal taxy charges are 5Euros for 8-10km. The public transportation is by buses only, with tickets costing 25-35denars (50cents). Everyday grocery costs are also reachable, homemade products are a must try. I would compare Skopje with Prague, if someone is familiar because I am, and I would share the experience through my eyes in other writing occasion, but these two cities have almost same price standards, Skopje is just a bit cheaper. I point out that Balkans have “that thing” over politics and history, which I believe is very important for identity, but when it comes to food specially I believe it belongs to the geographical region where can be harvested and should be shared with the world. Traditional food should be tried 1. Ajvar – Made from red bell peppers and eggplant […]
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