Things to see

Things to see

This lovely, compact country has a surprising myriad of attractions to offer. It's a fascinating mix of the ancient Balkan, the laid-back Mediterranean and the hip and happening vibe of modern Europe.

It all starts in lively Skopje, the country's main city and the centre of its economy. It offers great shopping and party opportunities, but also grand historic monuments. The 5th century Tvrdina Kale Fortress is one of the main landsmarks, together with the beautiful Sveti Spas Church, the charming old Ottoman bazaar Čaršija and the Kameni Most. This 600 year old Stone Bridge will take you right onto the city's main square, where a gigantic statue of Alexander The Great awaits. If you're up for a hike, make your way up to the enormous Millennium Cross on top of Vodno mountain, or take the rope railway to get the same views with less effort. If summer makes the city hard to bear, follow the locals to the cool shores of Lake Matka just out of town, where you can explore the gorge and caves through hikes and kayak tours.

Smaller but a visitor's favourite is the city of Ohrid, famous for its countless Byzantine churches. Beautifully situated on Lake Ohrid, this place is listed by UNESCO as both a cultural and a natural monument. It's home to one of the most prominent collections of Byzantine icons in the world, second only to that of the famous Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow, as well as to the oldest Slavic monastery in the country and the picture-perfect Church of St. John at Kaneoright on the edge of the lake. The city's little sister on the lake, Struga, offers similar charm but is less overrun with visitors.

Still, many will argue that Macedonia's best experiences can not be found in its cities, but rather in the stunningly beautiful mountain landscapes, remote monasteries and friendly rural villages. In any case, a tour of the countryside is a must-do for any visitor. Pelister National Park is the oldest of the country's three national parks and a popular destination for its typical Eastern European flora and fauna. The larger Mavrovo National Park offers great landscapes year round and is popular for winter sports in winter. It also holds the impressive Sveti Jovan Bigorski Monastery and a relic of its namesake patron. There are dozens of other monasteries to see, of which the Monastery of Bogorodica and the Zrze Monastery are good picks. For true nature lovers, the little known Public Enterprise for Managing and Protection of the Multipurpose Area Jasen is an excellent and off the beaten track reserve with great wildlife spotting opportunities, and yet located right next to the capital.

There are plenty of other attractions to choose from, if you have enough time to spare. Consider a visit to the Stone town of Kuklica, which is only a short ride from the charming little town of Kratovo. Or, head over to the ancient Towers of Marko near Prilep.

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Macedonia - Travel guide