Macedonia isone of my favorite countries in the Balkans . This is a small country with a population of 2 million 100 thousand, sandwiched between Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece. It was one of the former Yugoslav Republics. There are some countries, even if you have not heard of it, you realize that it is different when you step there for the first time and it starts to attract you.
One of them is definitely Macedonia for me. The difference of this place was that we were similar with its historical and cultural characteristics. It is an incredibly beautiful and untouched country. As in many other countries, mass tourism has not yet spoiled this country and its hospitality. Prices are reasonable, accommodation options are also affordable.
This landlocked country has a magnificent nature. Macedonia is a land of landscapes; With over fifty lakes, dozens of streams, magnificent mountains and dense forest cover, it has created a wonderful riot of colors. Mavrova, Yasen and Galicica national parks are just a few of the many parks.
Macedonia, with its fertile plains and mild climate, has hosted many great civilizations throughout history. From the Macedonian King Alexander the Great to the Roman Empire, from Eastern Rome to the Ottoman Empire, many civilizations have shaped Macedonia.
Macedonia Travel Guide
- Mavrovo for skiing
Macedonia was one of the former Yugoslav Republics. This is a small country with a population of 2 million 100 thousand, sandwiched between Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece. Separated from the Ottoman Empire by the Balkan War, Macedonia was a part of Yugoslavia for many years. The country’s own name was an issue that was almost impossible to reconcile with Greece .
Recognized by the United Nations in 1993, the country was called FYROM due to Greece’s objection; ie ‘Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’. It is now called the Republic of North Macedonia . It seems likely that it will be difficult for the country to enter the European Union, due to the Greeks who are the heirs of Alexander the Great and think that he has the right to use the name.
Macedonia joined socialist Yugoslavia in 1944. Macedonia was one of the 6 republics that made up Yugoslavia. Five nationalities, three different faiths (Muslims, Catholics and Orthodox) and eight ethnic groups (Turks, Bulgarians, Albanians, Hungarians, Czechs, Romanians (Vlachs), Ukrainians and Romans) lived together: Serbs, Bosnians, Croats, Slovenes and Macedonians. .
Macedonia, which became an autonomous republic in 1974, became independent by declaring its sovereignty on September 8, 1991, after the disintegration of Yugoslavia. When it declared its independence as a state, Turkey was the first state to recognize it.
Macedonia is now one of the countries where ethnic peace and political unity are sustainable, despite its multi-ethnic, multilingual and multicultural structure. 67% of Macedonia’s population is Orthodox Christian, 30% is Muslim, and the remaining 3% belongs to other religions. The only census carried out in the country was made by international organizations in the nineties. It is also said that Muslims are close to 50%.
The official language of the country is Macedonian. It is also used in Albanian, Croatian, Serbian and Turkish. Although they are of Albanian origin, the number of Turkish speakers is quite high. Today, there are more than 3,000 Turkish words in the Macedonian language of Slavic origin.
Dinar is used as the currency, the Euro is also sometimes accepted. The country is 1 hour behind Turkey. The New Year is celebrated on January 12, and the Orthodox Christmas on January 7-8, and the country goes on holiday on these dates. The country has a typical Central European continental climate, with cold and snowy winters and cool and rainy summers.
Music is an integral part of Macedonia’s rich culture, with the strong influence of the country’s large Roma communities. If you come in the summer, you have a high chance of coming across incredibly entertaining weddings on the streets. People’s warmth, hospitality and happy attitude towards visitors suddenly become Macedonia’s most beautiful feature.
Macedonia is a popular destination among Balkan Tours. It is a very cheap country compared to Turkey. I ate my dinner at the most luxurious restaurant in Macedonia with a modest budget, and drank my tea, coffee and drink in the most central place. Prices are quite reasonable. If you are thinking of going to one of the visa-free countries with a low budget, Macedonia may be the first country you should go to.
Macedonian places to visit include the cities of Skopje, Ohrid, Struga, Tetova (Tetovo), Veles (Köprülü), Shtip (Stip), Gostivar, Kumanova.
During my Macedonia trip, I followed the route Bitola (1 day) > Ohrid > Mavrovo (1 day) > Skopje (1 day) > Ohrid (3 days)>…Other Balkan Countries… > Skopje (2 days) > Istanbul . In the 25 enjoyable days of my Balkan tour, I visited 6 countries, 21 cities/towns for the first time, and I collected very pleasant memories.
Macedonian cities : Skopje, Ohrid, Bitola, Prilep, Berovo, Struga, Dojran, Krushevo, Kavadarci, Gevgelija, Gostivar, Strumica, Kochani, Debar, Tetovo, Shtip, Negotino, Prilep, Veles, Kumanovo, Demir, Kapija, Kratovo and Kicevo .
Skopje is built on both banks of the Vardar River and is called Skopje in Macedonian. With a population of more than five hundred thousand, a quarter of the country lives here. The city, which joined the Ottoman lands in 1392, remained under Ottoman rule for more than 500 years.
Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, one of the oldest cities and cultural centers in the Balkans, dates back to two thousand years ago and its name comes from ‘Skupi’, where an Ilir tribe settled. Although not certain, Skopje was included in the Ottoman geography by Yıldırım Bayezid in 1392, 61 years before the conquest of Istanbul.
Skopje, where great personalities such as Yahya Kemal, Mehmet Akif Ersoy, Hoca Tahsin, Arnavut Abdi Pasha and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s grandfather Hakkı Efendi emerged, preserved its position at the head of the important cultural centers in the Ottoman Rumelia geography for years.
It suffered a major earthquake in 1963 when it lost most of the 18th and 19th century buildings it owned. The rebuilt city took on a reinforced concrete appearance with a landscape resembling the architecture of former communist countries. 1 full day is enough to visit the city.
Stone Bridge with 13 arches, which is the symbol of the city, and Macedonia Square, where the bridge is connected, are like the heart of the city. While the Albanian and Turkish minorities live on one side of the city, which is divided by the Stone Bridge, a unique architectural structure with 13 eyes built during the reign of Sultan Murad I, Macedonians live on the other.
Macedonia Square, the heart of Skopje, is overshadowed by the many exaggerated new statues erected to reinforce the Macedonian Identity. One of them is the Alexander the Great Statue, built in Florence, Italy, to commemorate the 20 years of Macedonia’s founding.
With the project called Skopje 2014 carried out by the Macedonian Government , the city seems to be recreated from a touristic point of view. Bridges, pools and sculptures that seem to overlap with the texture of the city are scattered all over the city.
When you walk from Macedonia Square to Stone Bridge and cross to the other side of the river, you start to feel like you are in Anatolia. Skopje Old Bazaar is like a slice of Anatolia. The Old Bazaar, starting from the horseman of the castle and extending towards the Stone Bridge, was one of the largest trade centers in Europe during the Ottoman period.
One of the most colorful open-air markets in the Balkans, the Old Bazaar promises a pleasant trip with its cobblestone streets and pastel-colored shops. Beautiful examples of Turkish culture and architecture, such as Mustafa Pasha Mosque, Kurşunlu Han, Sulu Han, Davut Pasha Bath, located in the Bazaar, can be seen in the Old Bazaar area.
An old Ottoman mansion, which has been restored and converted into the Ohrid Museum, can also be seen. The silhouette of the bazaar is dominated by the 10th century Castle. This is where you can get the best view of Skopje and the Vardar River.
It is in a good location for eating and drinking, considering that there are many restaurants serving Turkish food that will make you very happy if you are hungry.
The list of places to visit in Skopje includes Mother Teresa House (Mother Teresa House), St. Climent Church can also be added. Don’t forget the Matka Canyon near Skopje. I am sure that you will capture unique scenes for photography in the dam lake in the canyon, which you can visit daily.
Bitola or as we know it, Monastery is the second largest city in Macedonia. I met Macedonia for the first time with a private trip to the Balkans, starting from Istanbul and including the Greek city of Thessaloniki by bus. After Thessaloniki, the beautiful city of Greece, the first place I stayed in Macedonia was the small charming city of Bitola.
Standing out with its multicultural structure, the Monastery looks like a big town with its population approaching one hundred thousand. Monastery is a very calm, quaint and clean city away from the chaos of urbanization. Some of its streets have been venues for Turkish TV series for a long time.
Due to the fact that the monastery was also the center of the Ottoman 3rd Army in history, it was quite developed compared to other Macedonian cities. This is also where Atatürk came to study at the military high school in 1896. After completing his education in Thessaloniki Military High School, Mustafa Kemal succeeded by taking the exams of the Manastır Military High School. The first city he lived in after Thessaloniki was Monastery.
Ohrid is Macedonia’s most touristic city. Ohrid was one of the cities I fell in love with during my almost one month trip, which includedGreece, Macedonia, Albania , Montenegro and Serbia . So much so that although my 3-day Balkan Tour ended in Skopje, I did not go back to Turkey, but came back to the beautiful city of Ohrid after a long journey.
The small, quaint and peaceful city of Ohrid, built on the shore of Lake Ohrid, is arguably Macedonia’s most popular destination. About 3.5 hours from Skopje, in the south, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Macedonia is the apple of the eye. Before I set foot here, I heard his name often.
I’ve always loved cities that can be explored on foot. The streets of Ohrid, which have beautiful historical streets decorated with geraniums on their balconies, can be visited with pleasure. There is a pleasant tranquility in the city. Perhaps, after wandering around the crowded cities of Asia for a long time, this tranquility was good for me. This is a place to be discovered with its bazaar, market places, narrow streets, castle surroundings and churches.
Saint Naum Monastery , St. Kaneo , St. Sofia Church and Sveti Kliment Ohridski Church and Tsar Samuel’s Castle are the most important places to visit in Ohrid.
In Ohrid, the birthplace of the Cyrillic alphabet, Saint Sophia is one of the important places of Ohrid, which draws attention with its Byzantine frescoes. It is enough to spare a few hours on foot to visit the historical place on the UNESCO List.
Its cafes scattered all over the city are inviting. The cafes, which overlook the millennial church, the UNESCO Heritage Lake Ohrid, or the street where you can watch the passers-by, are all delightful. One day I want to go to this charming city just to taste the peace and serenity in its cafes and of course to photograph those legendary sunsets again.
Struga is a new and touristic city built on the shore of Lake Ohrid. Struga is known for its art nights and poetry festivals. On the Ohrid coast, the wooden bridge over the point where the Dirim River emerges and the two sides connected by the bridge are used as a poetry festival center.
You can see many moored boats on opposite sides of the bridge. Cafes by Lake Ohrid are peaceful. Although the city is small, it has a clean bazaar and streets. Since Struga is a university city, you often see young people in the streets and cafes. There are bus services between Struga and Ohrid and the journey takes about 20 minutes.
5. Mavrovo for skiing
Mavrovo Ski Center is a region that is only 1.5 hours away from Macedonia’s capital Skopje and has attracted many ski lovers from our country in recent years. Mavrovo Region dazzles with its impressive nature. Forests, mountains and lake under the snow… A beautiful ambiance indeed!
Established in a valley on the edge of Lake Mavrovo, which was created by the accumulation of rain water in the Mavrovo Valley, the town consists of small villages and houses spread around the lake. Winter tourism is getting popular in our country every year. Ski lovers should take note of Mavrovo Ski Center.
Macedonian Town of Mavrovo has been a standout destination for a ski holiday in recent years. Zare Lazareski Ski Center, located in the country’s largest national park, Mavrovo National Park, is one of the favorite ski centers of the Balkans with its magnificent scenery and nature, hospitable and smiling people, advanced skiing opportunities.
The Ski Center is located in the country’s largest national park, Mavrovo National Park, which stretches along the western borders of Macedonia. There are 52 peaks higher than 2000 meters in the national park area, where the Shara Mountain and Pind Mountains, covered with pine forests, stand out. You will understand a wonderful nature. I would like to go to this region just for trekking in the national park.
Macedonia Mavrovo Ski Center, the favorite address of those looking for visa-free economic skiing opportunities, provides service throughout the winter season with a team of Turkish-speaking assistants. For those who want to spend the weekend skiing in a different place outside of Turkey, let me remind you that both THY and Pegasus have scheduled flights to Skopje.
Tetova is one of the cities you can see in the south if you have more time to discover the richness of history in Macedonia. There is Alaca Mosque , one of the most beautiful examples of Islamic architecture, in Tetovo, where a significant part of its population is Muslim . The holy place, also known as Isa Bey Mosque, is also called the Colorful Mosque with its colorful embroideries on the outside.
The work, which has Baroque and neoclassical Ottoman style architecture, is quite impressive and colorful with its colorful decorations on its walls and ceilings. Another one of the works from the Ottoman period in Tetovo is the Harabati Baba Lodge , which was built in the 16th century . It has a quiet and big garden.
Galichnik (Galičnik) is located in the heart of Miyak region, on the outskirts of Bistra, 17 km from Mavrovo. The historical village architecture has been preserved, and at an altitude of 1400 meters, Galiçnik is known for its traditional weddings in traditional clothes.
The traditional Galichnik Wedding , which is held every year in mid-July, may attract the attention of those who want to get to know the local culture closely.
Gostivar is located in Upper Polog in Western Macedonia. It lies on the left side of the Vardar river and is close to the Skopje-Tetovodelen-Gostivar-Ohrid road. It is connected to Skopje, Tetovo and Kircova by the railroad passing through the city.
the source of Macedonia’s largest river Vrutok ; Gönovitsa Cave (Beautiful) is among the places to visit. Also, the small bronze statue Menada (Bacus Fairy) should be seen.
Resne is a Macedonian city famous for its apples. I bought some of their delicious apples while I was passing by. In the 14th century, between 1385 and 1913, it was subordinate to the Ottoman Empire. Resne bazaar, built in the 12th century in Kurbinovo, Sv. George Monastery and Ahmet Niyazi Bey Palace are some of the places to see.
Resne Ceramic Colony, one of the 10 largest ceramic colonies in the world under the auspices of UNESCO, should be seen. Tirana-Ohrid-Manastir-Gradsko road passes through Resne, located in the southwest of Macedonia.
What to eat in Macedonia
Macedonian cuisine is literally a synthesis of Balkan, Mediterranean and Ottoman. Fertile lands and different cultures have made Macedonia a rich culinary owner. Meat is the leading role of Macedonian cuisine. Meat is the main product of many dishes, from meatballs to boiled meat.
Börek, meatballs and dessert varieties draw attention with their similarity to Turkish cuisine. Natural fruits and vegetables, delicious meats, and different kinds of fish obtained from rich water sources are among the indispensable tastes of Macedonian cuisine.
Where is Macedonia 📍
The Republic of North Macedonia is located on the European continent, on the Balkan Peninsula, and is bordered by Greece in the south, Bulgaria in the east, Albania in the west, Serbia and Kosovo in the north. Macedonia is also a Balkan country.
How to get to Macedonia ✈️
How to reach Macedonia by air : Turkish Airlines has direct flights from Istanbul Airport to Macedonia’s capital Skopje, and Pegasus Airlines has direct flights from Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen Airport 7 days a week. The flight from Istanbul to Skopje takes 1 hour and 40 minutes.
How to reach the city center from Alexander the Great Airport : Skopje Alexander the Great Airport is 23 kilometers away from the city center. There are bus services from the airport to the city center. You can go to Skopje in 30 minutes by these buses. Taxi, car rental and transfer vehicles are among other options.
How to reach Macedonia by land : It is possible to go to Macedonia by private car from Turkey. By using Edirne Kapıkule Border Gate, you can reach Skopje via Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Since Bulgaria requires a visa from Turkish citizens, it is necessary to obtain a Bulgarian or Schengen visa.
The distance between Istanbul and Skopje is 802 km. When the waits at the border gates and the waits at the passport and customs controls are not taken into account, it is possible to go from Istanbul to Skopje in 9 hours.
How to go to Macedonia by bus : There are reciprocal bus services to Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, from Istanbul Bayrampasa Bus Station. Alpar Turizm has a direct flight from Istanbul every day at 19.00. Macedonian bus ticket is 40 euro one way, 60 euro round trip. The bus departs from Istanbul at 19.00 and arrives in Skopje at 06.00 and Ohrid at 10.00 the next day.
Macedonia is a cheap, safe, small Balkan country to see and surprises with the warmth of its people. Make a travel plan to visit this stunningly beautiful country, which is among the visa-free countries . Worth it.