North Macedonia travel guide

North Macedonia's journey to international recognition has not been easy. Firstly, its very name was long disputed by Greece. Second, France blocked its accession to the EU. And third, it's former PM, Nikola Gruevski, spent practically the entire economy on a neoclassical nationalist vanity project in the country's capital, Skopje. What is easy, however, is your decision to visit North Macedonia. It's a small country, the same size as Sicily, and, thanks to its landlocked position, influences by neighbours and occupiers, including the Ottomans, Romans and Greeks, have created a fascinating blend of Balkan brilliance.
North Macedonia was not just a token stop on a Balkan road trip. It was a place that simply stopped us in our tracks. We could have spent a month in Matka and Mavrovo alone.
Its Communist era means that the mountain ranges were untouched by tourism, ancient villages unspoiled by second home ownership, and lake lands undisturbed by jet skis and jet setters. And it is so small, you can hike in the mountains in the morning, saunter around Byzantine beauty in the afternoon, and swim at one of its fine lake beaches at sunset.
Read our North Macedonia travel guide for more details.
North Macedonia is/isn't...

North Macedonia is...

small. But a big player when it comes to ancient beauty, sacred history and natural abundancy. Not only in landscape, but in the people’s inherent largesse.

North Macedonia isn't...

Greece. The name is still hotly disputed by Greek nationalists but as of February 2019 it officially became the Republic of North Macedonia.

Things to do in North Macedonia

Things to do in North Macedonia...

Monasteries, mosques and market places are just some of North Macedonia’s marvels. Culture vultures will be flying high in North Macedonia, with Byzantine, Ottoman and Roman influences not just tucked into remote corners, but omnipresent. Visit the bazaar in Skopje or stroll amongst the cacophony of churches and their bells in Ohrid; make time to see the monasteries clinging to the cliffs of Matka Canyon or just listen to the gentle lapping of Lake Prespa. In fact, just lap up the country's culture full stop. With three national parks, boasting peaks and plateaus, canyons and caves, hiking in North Macedonia has to be one of Europe’s greatest secrets. Remote villages host homestayers, boast traditional tavernas and, with plenty of local wine and cheese en route, toast visitors. And with waymarked ways and not too many vertiginous peaks, self-guided trekking is a great way to go here. In such a small country, cycling takes you into varied terrain quickly and easily, Pedal from the rocky plateaus above Lake Ohrid, and the shores of Lake Prespa, up to traditional mountain villages, where you'll be served mezze style meals with that inimitable mountain/Mediterranean/Middle Eastern mix to fill those hollow legs.

Things not to do in North Macedonia...

Just look at the number of countries it borders and you'll quickly realise that there are a lot of ethnic minorities and issues here. Formerly part of Yugoslavia, North Macedonia has a complicated history. Be sensitive, particularly on the subject of Albanians versus North Macedonians and let local people lead the conversation. In fact, staying clear of making blithe statements about relations with Greeks and Bulgarians is advised too.
Underestimate the heat in summer. Just because it isn’t coastal doesn’t mean you won’t overheat. Make sure that you stay hydrated, especially in the mountains, and always wear a hat. Water is safe to drink, and there are plenty of old drinking fountains in town squares as well as opportunities to refill bottles from fresh water springs – your guide will know where.
Look for booze in the shops after 7pm. It is illegal to sell alcohol after that. There is plenty of opportunity to stock up on wine beforehand, however, with Tikvesh winery in Kavadarci the largest in the Balkan region. The Vranec grape is also a popular local variety.
Order Ohrid trout. You will see this on many menus, and think it is the perfect local dish. It’s not. It was once highly endangered, and only just making a recovery. If you have to buy trout then make sure it comes from a sustainable fish farm.

Our top North Macedonia Holiday

Ancient Macedonia tour

Ancient Macedonia tour

Explore eastern Bulgaria, northern Greece and Macedonia.

From £1599 to £1739 15 days inc UK flights
Small group travel:
2020: 3 May, 10 May, 7 Jun, 21 Jun, 26 Jul, 9 Aug, 6 Sep, 13 Sep, 20 Sep, 27 Sep
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about North Macedonia or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Marjan Lazarevski] [Is/isn't: Roy Duffield] [Things to do/not to do: Jakub Frys]
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