Ancient Macedonia tour

“Follow in the footsteps of Alexander the Great on this 15-day small group trip. Along the way, see beautiful monasteries around Lake Ohrid, and discover gorgeous mountain scenery in the Matka Gorge.”


Sofia | Kratovo | Skopje | Matka Gorge | Mavrovo National Park | Lake Ohrid | Pelister National Park | Heraclea | Thessaloniki | Pella Vergina | Halkidiki Peninsula | Kavala | Thassos Island | Philippi | Bansko | Rila Monastery | Option to visit Albania | Overnight stay in Macedonian monastery

Description of Ancient Macedonia tour

Explore North Macedonia, northern Greece and Bulgaria as you uncover the stories of ancient Macedonia – and follow in the footsteps of Alexander the Great along the way. Feed your inner Classicist on ancient sites like Vergina and Philippi. Discover the archaeological museum at Sofia and see the birthplace of Alexander the Great at Pella, with its famous mosaics of mythological scenes.

Travelling by bus, boat and ferry, with a group of no more than 18, you’ll complete a loop of the region in 15 days. You’ll start with Sofia in Bulgaria. From here you’ll head to Skopje, North Macedonia’s capital, before spending a few days at scenic Lake Ohrid, where the small town’s mountain backdrop adds high drama. You’ll head on into northern Greece, then travel back into Bulgaria, stopping at Bansko and the Rila Monastery, before returning to Sofia.

There’s a great variety of culture to see between three countries (four if you also opt for a day trip to Albania). Among the many monasteries, churches and mosques, you’ll be able to visit the UNESCO-listed Rila Monastery in Bulgaria, and spend a night in a Macedonian monastery dating back to the 12th century. There are plenty of national parks to explore along the way, plus the healthy and varied Macedonian cuisine.

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05 Sep 2021
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12 Sep 2021
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26 Sep 2021
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01 May 2022
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08 May 2022
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05 Jun 2022
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24 Jul 2022
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04 Sep 2022
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11 Sep 2022
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18 Sep 2022
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25 Sep 2022
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Holiday type
Small group holidays
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.

Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Meet a local guide
No matter how experienced your group leader, they can never make up for the knowledge gained from a lifetime in the destination. That’s why many of our trips work with local guides around the world – who invite you into their homeland with pleasure.

Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your holiday will help support conservation and local people.

On this trip we stay in the 12th century Monastery of Saint Joakim Osogovski for a night of tranquillity nestled amongst the forest covered hills. By staying here we’re helping to contribute to the cost of preserving this beautiful monument, as well as giving us a fascinating place to stay. We also stay overnight in the Pelister National Park, which helps to fund the conservation of this place of outstanding natural beauty.

To help reduce the level of pollution within the urban centres, the sightseeing tours we operate are mostly done on foot, which is also a great way of seeing all they have to offer first hand. When coaches are being used for these small group trips we keep the size of the coach to a minimum, so rather than using gas guzzling 40-50 seaters we opt for more environmental friendly 15-25 seat coaches that use less fuel and therefore admit less carbon.

We will take a trip across to Thassos Island by local ferry, which gives us the chance to meet the local people and to utilise public transport. Once on the island we have the option to explore on foot, travel on the local buses and visit a number of small archaeological sites that don’t get anywhere near as many tourists as those that are located on the mainland. Another lesser-visited archaeological site that we include on this trip is Vergina – the ancient capital of the Macedonian Kings. Our entrance fee helps to conserve this important historical location for future generations.

In addition to the above, we are continually looking for ways to improve and are proud to be ‘Responsible in everything we do’. Education is key and so all staff, Tour leaders and partnering suppliers are trained in responsible and sustainable tourism. At our UK Head Office, we continually strive towards a sustainable and planet-friendly working environment, including having solar panels installed and a company commitment to reducing our plastic usage. As well as this, we have valuable and longstanding partnerships with UK charities Toilet Twinning and Send a Cow, plus many smaller initiatives and projects around the world. We’re members of UK travel industry bodies Tourism Concern and AITO because we believe it’s important to share our knowledge and experience, as well as learn from other operators.

As a company we support Cool Earth. Protecting rainforest is one of the most effective actions to tackle climate breakdown. CoolEarth work with indigenous communities empowering them to conserve their forest; keeping CO2 locked in.

The Impacts of this Trip

This trip takes us away from the tourist trail to discover some of the most fascinating parts of Europe. Tourism is still relatively new in the Balkans, but it is a significant part of the economy. Our trip takes in the highlights of Macedonia, Bulgaria and Greece, but also gives us time to explore less visited areas. Getting off the beaten track has great benefits; by spending money in rural areas we are able to benefit communities who have fewer income generating opportunities. Our hotels are generally small family-run hotels. We mix our meals between various local restaurants to spread the business and taste the wonderful regional cuisine.

More great local food is available for our picnics purchased at local shops, so we can really see that we benefit not only our hosts at the hotels but the wider community as well. We will visit the typical Macedonian village of Vevchani where we have the opportunity to have lunch and this isn’t a location that normally receives many tourists. Also in Kratovo we have the chance to enjoy a homemade lunch, which is often accompanied by traditional bagpipe music, which is played by a gentleman in his 80’s who wants to ensure that visitors get to experience the folk music that is unique to Macedonia and so dear to his heart.

In Podmochani Village we will visit a small ethno museum, which is owned by a local farmer to showcase his impressive collection of jewellery, weaponry, coins and over 140 national costumes, some of which date back over 300 years. Running the museum helps to subsidise his income from farming the land.

We use a Macedonian Tour Leader and local guides on this trip who know the region very well. Learning about the places we are travelling through and their people is very important to us. Our Tour Leader will be able to explain aspects of the history, wildlife and culture of all three countries visited. Our Tour Leaders are trained in responsible tourism matters and work to our detailed Responsible Tourism Policy.


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