Located just north of Greece in the Balkan Peninsula, the landlocked nation of Macedonia – much like the other surrounding nations birthed from the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the early 90s – rarely receives the travel recognition it deserves. Despite the country’s lack of tourism clout, Macedonia is home to a wide breadth of stunning natural landscapes, and an incredible convergence of history and culture.
Current-day Macedonia sits on what roughly corresponds to the land of Paeonia, originally an ancient Greek kingdom mentioned in Homer’s Iliad, and subsequently the location of a multi-century battleground as rival empires wrestled for control of the area. Macedonia’s historic provenance, and centuries of multi-cultural influence make the country one of the most travel-worthy destinations in the world.
Unmatched Beauty in Rural Macedonia
Nearly half the country is dominated by snowcapped peaks, crystal-clear glacial lakes, and rolling verdant foothills, making it a perfect travel destination for outdoor enthusiasts, or those looking to relax away from the busy energy of traditional tourist hotspots. Outside of Macedonia’s capital city of Skopje, the majority of the country is rural agricultural villages where traditional architecture and cultural values can still be felt to this day. Set to backdrops of unmatched natural beauty and old-world architecture, Macedonia’s rural villages provide visitors a rare glimpse into the idyllic traditional lifestyle of this ancient land, and all of its magnificence. In a country without large-scale transportation infrastructure, driving a rental car from Skopje to the surrounding countryside is one of the best ways to experience Macedonia to the fullest.
Heritage and History in Skopje
In Skopje, the intersection of rural traditional culture, breathtaking ancient architecture, and scenic natural beauty comes to life, affording travelers a nearly unparalleled level of interesting attractions and sites to explore. Bisected by the country’s largest river, the Vardar, the city of Skopje is effectively divided in half with one side considered the “old city,” and the other, the “new city.” In old town you will find a number of attractive and interesting examples of architecture, from a litany of historic eras, ranging from prehistory to 20th century.
One of the most prominent examples of historic architecture in old town Skopje is the Kale Fortress, a medieval walled fortress overlooking the river Vardar from the highest point in the city. As a testament to the Fortress’ continued historical relevance, the site is still excavated in various locations by archaeologists to this day, and the largest stash of byzantine era coins ever discovered in Macedonia was found in Kale Fortress in 2010.
Elsewhere in old town, numerous mosques, churches, museums, and bazaars can be found, ranging from hundreds to thousands of years old – living examples of Macedonia’s wide breadth of historic provenance and far-reaching cultural timeline. Though lesser known than it probably deserves, Skopje is the hometown of Mother Teresa, and in honor of one of the greatest humanitarians and Nobel Peace Prize winners, the city constructed a Mother Teresa Memorial House – on the same ground where she was baptized – where visitors and residents alike can view various relics of her life, including lifelike sculptures of Mother Teresa and her family in the Memorial House museum.
Ohrid – Jerusalem on the Balkans
Just two hours southwest of Skopje is the town of Ohrid, one of the oldest human settlements in all of Europe, and designated as both a UNESCO natural heritage site and a cultural heritage site. Ohrid’s denomination as “Jerusalem on the Balkans” stems from the fact that the town is home to an astonishing 365 churches, an incredible amount for a town with a population of 40,000 people.
Nestled against a backdrop of stunning natural beauty, Ohrid is adjacent to the Galicica National Park – home to over 1000 species of flora and fauna dating to the tertiary period- and Lake Ohrid, one of the deepest, and oldest continually existing lakes in the world, dated at 2-3 million years old. The lake itself is home to a unique aquatic ecosystem, home to over 200 endemic species of fauna covering the entire food chain.
Throughout Ohrid and its surrounding wilderness, there is much to be explored and admired, from the tranquil blue waters of Lake Ohrid, and the many incredible feats of architecture found in the town, to epic snow-capped mountains and restaurants serving locally sourced traditional Macedonian cuisines.
It’s time to pin for your next road trip!
Start planning your trip to Macedonia with the help of the Macedonia Tourism Board.
Tour Macedonia with Auto Europe
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